The first time Amitha cooked a meal to feed her family of six was the day the Saint made the mistake of eating too many Dairy Milk bars. The Saint laid on the hospital bed like a vegetable and the five remaining Marus stared at him for hours and hours, never blinking, waiting for him to wake up and ask for a Coke. The only Maru that could bring herself to blink was Amitha, who didn’t see the point in staring at the vegetable forever. Instead, as she would soon do every day, she went home to cook. She warmed the onions until they turned translucent and caressed the spinach until it wilted and smoothed the folds from the atta until it ballooned. When the rest of the Maru s found themselves sitting at the dining table, their eyes still staring at the vegetable, they also found Amitha’s food. After a few bites, they closed their eyes to blink. After a few more, they asked for seconds. At the end of that meal, they helped Amitha purge the house of all the Dairy Milk bars and all the Coke bottles.

For every meal following the first one, Amitha’s food would continue to affect her family. Steaming strawberry oatmeal would erase fatigue. Diamond patterned plain lolis with thick yogurt would bring deep slumber. Salty green fish curry would end arguments while sweet coconut chicken curry inspired debate. The only time anyone in Amitha’s family ever came close to harnessing her gift was when Anisha made pizza on the first Mahar family movie night.

Anisha, after spending days preparing, reading about the most minute details of yeast baking, and finding the perfect foolproof recipe, was going to cook a meal for her family. Amitha, already in the kitchen, asked Anisha what she should make for dinner. “Nothing,” Anisha cut her off. “I’m cooking.”

In that kitchen, Anisha Mahar stood alone, just as Amitha Maru had the first time she cooked a meal for her family. Consulting her recipe, Anisha flicked a switch and flour, salt, yeast, and olive oil combined to form a pliable pizza dough. All she could think of was how her family would react to tasting a bite of her pizza. Would they all complain about their long weeks at work? Recall their most nostalgic memories? Organize the office files alphabetically? Lost in daydreams of infinite future successes, she ticked steps one through twenty-nine off her recipe and set the dough by itself on the countertop in a glass bowl. She left the kitchen in too much of a hurry to hear the yeast awaken. However, Amitha, sitting in the tearoom, did hear that sharp inhale. Sensing that her daughter would need her help soon, she waited.

The wrinkled ball of dough gasped for air, rose higher and higher, struggled against its smooth glass confines. With a mighty crack, the glass shattered, coating the floor with shards as fine as sand—and the dough wasn’t done yet. It continued rising, and with that increased size came increased impatience. Bored with the granite counter whose length it now spanned, the engorged mass slid off, landing on the varnished hardwood floor with a slap. It slowly crossed the threshold of the kitchen, turned right at the breakfast table, climbed up the stairs, not caring that pieces of itself remained stuck to the carpeting, not caring that it left a faint sheen of olive oil on the walls, and squeezed through the gap between the floor and the door to Anisha’s bedroom. A wheezing escaped it at the effort, the same wheezing that had escaped the Saint after his fifth Dairy Milk bar.

Anisha consulted her recipe.

A quick reference to step 30 indicated that the dough was almost ready for step 31, the oven. There was only one thing left for her to do: she stuck her hand straight into the Soon-to-be-Pizza and punched. Pop. Then she did it again. Pop. All the way down the stairs back to the kitchen, she marched through the dough, fists out, firing in rapid succession. Pop, pop, pop. Back at the kitchen, she emerged, sticky from head to toe and slick with oil. Now deflated, a fifth the size of the granite counter, the dough cowered at her feet. She smiled, glad to see that it was finally behaving itself, and contorted the remains into a vague circle to fit the prepared tray. More steps ticked off the recipe until Anisha reached the last one, the simplest instruction of all: bake.

The Soon-to-be-Pizza sat in the feverish oven. Bubbling, crisping, oozing, for sure, Anisha reassured herself. But when she opened the oven, thick, dirty, sulfurous smoke burst out with enough force to push her backwards. The kitchen was becoming increasingly toxic and the pizza was cold, so bitter that a thin layer of frost formed on Anisha’s oven mitts. The dough had not cooked. At all. It was frozen solid, paler than before it had gone into the oven, and because she thought that she would not be serving a meal to her family, she opened the trash can to put the Never-to-be-Pizza where it belonged. Amitha knew that this was the moment she had waited for and arrived before Amitha could. Walking across the beach of glass as if it really were sand, ignoring the tiny cuts blooming across her bare feet, breathing in the smoke like fresh mountain air, Amitha rested her hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Are you ready to cook dinner?”

“Don’t you have eyes?”

Amitha squeezed Anisha’s shoulder once, for she understood from her lifetime of experience what Anisha would only understand after her own lifetime of experience. Ovens do not cook meals, cooks do. So Amitha reached her hands into the frozen dough, fingertips rhythmically massaging up and down, left to right, over and over and over again. The Maybe-Soon-to-be-Pizza resisted at first, unmoving at the persistent coaxing. Only after some time did it begin to thaw, just enough to where Amitha’s fingertips sunk slightly into the dough. “See?” Amitha asked, extracting her fingers. “Now you do it.” Anisha tried to walk away, but Amitha grabbed her hands and shoved them into the pan before she could. “Do it,” Amitha repeated, “now.” So Anisha did. Up and down, left to right, over and over and over again. After some more time, the dough, finally soothed, steamed softly. The fleshy, undercooked sides cracked into a golden crust, the char on top of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese evaporated into ash, the kitchen filled with the scents of freshly baked bread and oregano, the warmth on Anisha’s fingertips began to burn. Amitha squeezed Anisha’s shoulder again. No longer the Maybe-Soon-to-be-Pizza—now just Pizza.

That movie night, the Mahar family ate Pizza. After a few bites, they began smiling. After a few more, they asked for thirds. And at the end of that meal, Amitha taught them all how to make dessert.