“I need a drink with baking soda … my throat is burning and I can hardly swallow.” This was my grandmother’s signature phrase. Her custom was to deliver it with urgency and pathos at the entrance to my parents’ living space in our family home in Plovdiv. She would lean forward through the half-opened door, her hand timidly resting on the door handle. My grandmother’s craving for the unassuming white powder hovered over the table in our dining area.
As I grew older, I learned to recognize the slight variations in tone and wording depending on the person who my grandmother addressed. I sensed that my grandmother’s need for baking soda revealed something crucial about her personality. It also had to do with her position in our family.