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Kitchen Burns

Written by Zoya Naaz Rehman: @kohl.lined.perspectives
Illustration by Natalie Candlish: @nataliecandlish, @nataliecandlish,

a brown man

expensive whiskey in one hand

cheap cigarette in the other

sits with his friends,

other brown men like him.

he says,

our food isn’t what it used to be.

what he means is that his wife

doesn’t cook the way his mother used to.

his mother, who spent all day cooking, with love.

while the man and his father went out

to work

to get an education

to laugh and live,

his mother, stayed in the kitchen, doing everything by hand

kneading the dough

chopping the vegetables

grinding the spices.

his mother, tossing whole peppercorns

into the mortar

with them, her dreams

grinding them all with the pestle.

the man never saw this,

his mother’s abandoned dreams everywhere,

her, grinding them, skinning them, boiling them

making them palatable

for the mouths of the men who want to swallow them whole.

once, the man’s mother sliced her skin

instead of onions.

blood oozed to the surface and tears pricked at her eyes, but the man and his father did not notice.

you see, the man’s mother comes from a culture of

women famous for the art of curry-making.

the onion is a key ingredient

in any curry, and we all know

that you can’t slice these brutal pastel pink aromatics without a few tears.

all the man cared was

that the onions got sliced

that the curry got made.

the man goes on and on and on

about how their food isn’t what it used to be

how it doesn’t take anything

to be a good cook anymore

how it’s all about shortcuts now.

the other men laugh.

the women roll their eyes. here, authenticity is the sixth

basic taste, after umami, only uglier than the rest,

characteristic of the maker rather than the food.

the women say to each other

pardon us if we leave it out.


Zoya Naaz Rehman (she/her) is an aspiring food scholar, archiving her exploration of all things food and health on Instagram.

Natalie Candlish (she/her) is an illustrator and zine maker from Scotland, now based in London. She likes to work with coloured pencil and is always exploring texture and light. She is interested in themes of food, relationships and pop culture, and in particular, stories from women's perspectives.

Zoya and Natalie's work was originally published in our Authenticity issue. Get your own copy of the magazine here:


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