Hybrid: “A Girl Shares Her Recipe for Summoning Dead Mothers” by Ruth Joffre

A Girl Shares Her Recipe for Summoning Dead Mothers

This recipe is adapted from a common cookie recipe available online. It has no set ingredients. It requires no baking. When your mother appears, spirit rising like a genie’s from the mixing bowl, she will be fully aware that she is dead and you are not. Be prepared for that.

Only you know why you want to summon your mother from the dead. I cannot promise anything other than that it will be messy and difficult and will require commitment on your part. One does not casually decide to summon one’s mother back from the dead; at least, not the first time. Your subsequent attempts may be more frivolous, fueled by curiosity or the desire to ask questions that would otherwise be unanswerable, such as, “What was the name of that one cousin we visited on his deathbed when I was five?” or “Did you use shortening or lard in the empanada dough?” One time, I was so homesick for my mother’s cooking, I summoned her at 8 PM on a Wednesday and asked her to help me make silpancho. With her spirit hovering beside my shoulder, I learned how to beat the steaks until they were thin and tender, how to bread them and fry them in the same oil I would use to fry thick slices of potato and, later, a single egg to top the steak and bring this dish together; but this is not that recipe and you’re probably not Bolivian. You will have to bring your own spices and experiences to this “no-bake cookie.” That is what makes this recipe so unique—everyone makes it with different ingredients, but the result is always one dead mother summoned from the other side. If you’re sure that’s what you want, keep reading.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sweetener — If your mother was sweet, pick the sweetener that best represents her (for reference, I use sweetened condensed milk). If your mother was embittered by a long life of sacrifice, abuse, or deferred dreams, use the sweetener least offensive to her (often, white granulated sugar works for this). 
  • ½ cup liquid — Any kind of milk will work (oat, almond, breast, et cetera). One friend of mine hated her mother so much she used urine. Whatever works for you.
  • ½ cup fat — Butter always works but you can substitute any fat, such as avocado, peanut oil, the tallow of a candle you only burn once a year, on the anniversary of your mother’s death. I’ve heard tell of a surgeon who used the leftover human fat from a liposuction, but that seems extreme.
  • ¼ cup powder — Any kind. Cocoa powder. Face powder. Gunpowder. Even ash from an urn if your psyche can bear it.
  • 1 cup binder — If you use condensed milk as your sweetener, like I did, this is not strictly necessary (same goes for the candle tallow), but if you need a binder here, feel free to use just about anything sticky: peanut butter, chewing gum, Silly Putty, jam.
  • 3 cups filler — You could go the traditional, tasteless route and use oatmeal. I usually use masa, which makes for a smoother dough. My mother appreciates it, anyway.
  • Seasoning — Please season your food. Use whatever spices you want—I don’t care—just season it. I’m begging you.
  • Salt — Not to taste but to ring around the bowl as protection. Never trust the dead not to spill over into the land of the living.

Instructions:

You may have guessed by now that there are no instructions—at least, not what we have come to think of as instructions—with precise measurements and occasional flairs of personality. Nothing born of grief is precise. It takes shape in darkness. It smokes in the saucepan and burns when you accidentally splash it on your fingers. You should expect this to hurt a little—to break you down, make you ask out loud, “Am I doing this right?” Just know the answer is: there is no wrong way. You’re making it up as you go.

That said, there are generally two ways you could go about mixing your ingredients:

  1. If you have fairly standard ingredients that are reasonably unlikely to explode if subjected to heat, you can simply melt what needs to be melted in a non-stick saucepan, add the rest of the wet ingredients, dump in the dry, and mix it all up. Voilà.
  2. If using non-standard ingredients (such as gunpowder or human hair), just be prepared for things to get a bit messy. Wear an apron. Don protective goggles where appropriate. Then use your best judgement. In the end, if your dough seems lumpy or stiff, that’s okay. Like your mother, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember that.

Once you’ve combined your ingredients, prepare the salt ring.

Now all you can do is wait. It takes time to cross over to the land of the living. Often, the process takes about thirty minutes to an hour. In particularly warm environments, where ingredients can’t set easily, this process may take days. Don’t surprised if you walk into your kitchen one morning to find her spirit hovering over the counter, arms crossed, like my mother’s as she wondered why I even bothered to summon her from the dead if I was just going to leave her alone for hours with nothing to do but stare out the window and count bricks on the building next door. (This recipe is not without its hazards.)

NOTES:

  • Never summon two or more mothers in one bowl! Trust me on this one!!
  • One cannot eat grief. If you do produce an edible no-bake cookie, be aware that there’s a 50% chance that eating the “dough” will result in you becoming more like your mother. Do with that knowledge what you will.
  • Exact times will vary, but usually you’ll have about twelve hours from when your mother appears to when she returns to the land of the dead. Use your time together wisely.

About Ruth Joffre

Ruth Joffre author photo

Ruth Joffre’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon ReviewLightspeed, The Masters Review, Pleiades, The Florida Review OnlineFlash Fiction OnlineWigleafBaffling Magazine, and the anthologies Best Microfiction 2021 and Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness. She is the author of the story collection Night Beast.