The Third Most Valuable Spice

by Phoebe Yeoh

“Did you know,” my grandmother quipped, “that cardamom is one of the most expensive spices in the world?” We were baking in her big yellow kitchen, our annual tradition on Christmas Eve. Snow fell softly outside the big bay window, glass steamed up with the scent of her famous Pebernødder. “Saffron and vanilla are the only ones that cost more.” She kissed me on the cheek and leaned down to pop a little cookie dough ball into my mouth, just as she always had for the past twenty-three years.

That night I dreamt I was a baby again in my birth parents’ house. The air was hot and faintly smoky. My father lifted me off the cool concrete floor, enveloped me in his chest musk. With one arm he jiggled my limbs, short and stocky, back and forth. “Not as delicate as saffron.” He passed me to my mother, who sniffed my hair. “Not as sweet as vanilla.” She shook her head and wrinkled her nose at my pudgy baby face. Together they held me at arm’s length. I rocked back and forth, feeling the swell of the ocean and then I saw them, waving goodbye from a crowded beach in Mumbai, as I floated away to my new family.

Salt sprayed my face and I started to cry. I tried to wrestle my arms back towards the shore, but I was swaddled too tight.



Phoebe Yeoh is an engineer who writes fiction to generate empathy for people living a different reality. She has previously been published in Exposition Review (Vol. II: Surface) and the Bookends Review. This is her first published flash piece.

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