When I was five years old, I said to my mother, I want to be a frittata when I grow up.
No. she said. No, no baby. You can’t be a frittata. Why not? I asked. I love frittatas. I love cracking eggs, I love shredded cheese, and I love the little green bits that you mix into the bowl. Why can’t I be a frittata? Because you’re a Jew, baby. Jews can’t go in the oven, not ever again. Not a toaster oven? No. Not an easy bake oven? No. You can never think about being a frittata, nor write about being a frittata. If you dream about being a frittata, you must wake up and make yourself have new dreams. As Jews, we don’t use the oven. We don’t think about the oven. We can’t look at the oven. The oven is locked in a box, buried underground, and guarded by a man who swallowed the keys nearly a century ago. Those keys are never coming out. My mother put her arm around me and said, Just remember baby. The oven is buried so deep, no one can touch it again. You’ll never become a frittata.
I forgot about wanting to become a frittata. I thought about lots of things I could become instead. I was afraid of the oven, and I did not go near one for many years.
One day, I sat in my office and read that a man in a uniform rammed his truck into a protester’s leg and broke it. Before I could read it again, it was gone, his internal bleeding replaced with clickbait articles, the ambulance ride overridden by ten facts about a topic I could not remember. Four other protestors hit by the truck. An ad for a jacket to cover myself. Pepper spray to their eyes. An op-ed with comments that burned. The man’s uniform said: I-C-E. The protestor’s sign said: Never Again Para Nadie.
I opened my mouth, perched on the ledge of something I wanted to say. Before I could speak, eggs began pouring out. The yolk, wet and warm, dribbled down my lips. I collected them in my lap, and sat, waiting. I wanted an opening to grow in my computer screen, a hot gap I could crawl into. It just had to be large enough that someone else could climb into my body, sit swaying in my office chair, and I could become a frittata.
With each egg from my lips, I thought about a book I saw at my boyfriend’s house called Eggs and Cheese. It showed all the ways you could make eggs and cheese. An omelette, a souffle, a quiche, or a frittata.
My boyfriend did not have a book called Protesters and Cars, which showed all the ways protesters and cars could interact. A protester could ride in a car to a protest, or convince a car to honk in support. You could also hit a protester with a car, stop, then pump the gas pedal and drive through a line of protesters sitting cross-legged on the ground. These are all recipes in a book that has not yet been written.
There is no recipe for a protest. Just like my grandmother said, It’s all guesswork to decide which spices get simmered into the dish midway through. I have never read instructions about who gets to lock eyes with a Rhode Island license plate drawing close and fast.
My computer screen finally cracked open, and I found my grandmother sitting there like a settled stack of dishes. She said, Look up, there you are. She said,
If you want to use the oven then by the grace of God, use it. She said,
Before the existence of ovens, someone baked on hot stones outside and before there were hot stones, there was the sun on your back. She said,
When I bake, I don’t think about Jews and eggs and whether you’re allowed to crack open the ground and dig up boxes with keys in men’s stomachs. She said,
It runs down the back of your neck and trickles down your spine into new generations, then it spreads and sprouts on untouched ground. She said,
Your grandfather only eats cold cereal with milk because he is afraid of the oven. She said,
Breakfast is just news left unopened. She said, If you crawl in here with me you will find out that hiding from the oven is the same as hiding in the oven. The oven is made to be used.
I sat spitting eggs for three more hours, then I turned off my computer and made myself a frittata in my kitchen. I waited for my mother to get home.
Shoshana Lovett-Graff (she/her) is a white, Jewish queer writer originally from New Haven, Connecticut. Her work has been published in Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, The Flexible Persona (nominated for a Pushcart Prize), Atlas + Alice, Poetica, Blink-Ink, and more.