This post is dedicated to a dear friend I’ve known for years now! Someone who never fails to amaze me with her grit, grace and goofiness, even to this day. Speaking with her is like getting a warm hug, and it takes me back to the days we spent in the wilderness of our college lives; doing assignments, chasing dreams but mostly sealing our friendship over late night movies and plates of maggi!
In the busy lives that we manage to bury ourselves in these days, it is often the littlest amount of unconditional time that a friend makes for you goes to make all the difference in the world. And, she is surely the one who is never short of it – no matter the distance, the timezones, the jobs, the families, and everything else that is Life.
I hope we all have at least one friend like that. And if you do, tag them in the comments and send them a hug 🙂
It has been over a year now but the memories are as fresh as though I was there just yesterday! San Sebastián holds a very special place in my heart. Every time I talk about it I feel a tingling sensation on my back, for, that’s how I felt when we drove into the city for the first time that summer afternoon…
Race back to July 2015: The stars had aligned perfectly – five of my friends flew down from different corners of the world to spend a couple of weeks in Spain together. For those familiar with Indian cinema, yes, we went there with every intention of recreating ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara‘ moments for us! Driving through various cities across the country, we filled our bags with souvenirs, and our cameras with mushy to marvellous photographs. But, it wasn’t until we all arrived in San Sebastián that we truly felt our Spanish holiday come alive.
Every nook and corner of this gorgeous town is picturesque, to say the least. Be it sunrise (of which I saw very little!) or sunset, enveloped in those natural hues the town lit up so beautifully it left us speechless many a time. What made San Sebastián unique was the fact that it wasn’t just a beach town, or just a hill station, or just touristy, historic, full of narrow-alleyways-cobblestoned-streets kind of a town – it was ALL three rolled into one! I was overjoyed to see hills looming large on the beautiful beaches, that stretched out to the colourful city on the other side – it was truly captivating!
And of course, among the six of us, there were six million heart warming moments that we shared with one another. Great laughs, passionate debates, group hugs, overlapping chatter, random photographs, and then some more group hugs – you get the drift! These experiences and moments of togetherness – while soaking up the sun on sandy beaches, or while walking up to the funicular station, or cracking into giggles while looking for restaurants open around midnight – are hard to come by, especially in a world where Whatsapp groups and Facebook updates have become the norm to stay in touch with your world. And so, we pocketed as many of these brilliant moments as possible and held in our hearts a promise that we wouldn’t give in to the temptations of technological laziness, so easily.
Ah, before I get more sentimental about this, I must tell you the real reason why this town became so special for me.
Having never been a beach lover, I avoided going onto the sandy land the first few times. Then, I began to loosen up a little looking at everyone else’s enthusiasm. And, after toasting a margarita glass full of milk, I decided to go into the sea – slowly, but surely. It was a moment of personal discovery while standing neck deep in the sea, that I could actually be friends with the blue waters! I swam a little, played a lot more with these five mad people splashing water all around like kids, and had the best time in those cold but very welcoming, shiny waters, alongside some of my oldest friends. It was unadulterated joy, I tell you!
It taught me a simple fact of life: it is never too late to let go of your fears. As I lay afloat on my back for those few minutes, delicately supported by my friends, the blue sky stretched over me, sun rays glistened across my eyes, I felt a deep sense of calm come over me and in that moment, I fell in love with San Sebastián!
“If you push fear out, love will find its way in!” ~ wise words, not mine. My husband mumbled it one evening, and although I read more books on philosophy than he does, I give him credit for this one. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to join us on this leg of the trip. So, it is only befitting that I left behind a piece of my heart there, so we can take a trip together some time to leave a piece from his too!
In other words, it is time of the week that I spend in places and corners of our home that usually stay ignored. Like, sit on the floor by the window in our bedroom to show my feet some sun; or stand in front of the bookshelf to decide which parallel universe I want to step into; or just rest on the ottoman stool before pulling out the fashion magazines I keep stashed within it! It helps me internalise the idea of the break a weekend is really supposed to be.
So, on this particular weekend, sipping some green tea I stand by the sideboard in our dining area. I like to call it ‘the happy corner’ of our home. Top reasons being, on it is perched our Jar of Joy, some pretty pieces of art and all our nibbling temptations! I think of lighting the tea candles to beat the grey outside. And, my gaze pauses at the greeting cards lined against the wall. Lovely ones, all from friends & family! I smile and pick each one of them to read for the umpteenth time.
So I figure for everyone who writes / manages a blog, there are probably tens or hundreds who don’t! And I also know for certain everyone has thoughts & ideas, which at some point they want to express to the world. I know some of my friends do! And I felt what best than to invite them to this platform to share their thoughts.
This is the first in this new series of Guest Posts, and I have my bestie Shruti JP Mehta (follow her on twitter) with us who writes about her love for food and the lessons it’s taught her. Its not surprising she begins with ‘I love food.’ She also shares a leaf from her recipe book, I hope you will give it a try, and enjoy reading what she has to say!
I love food. And I love cooking. And I love sharing these two experiences with people I love. And these make up some of the most cherished memories of my life. Some of the earliest memories I have of cooking are of making cakes with my best friend, Ramya. Her cakes used to be perfect but my cakes would often come out looking like a burnt crater or a balloon filled with air. I would put a generous helping of chocolate sauce to hide the disaster and she would encouragingly devour them all. A decade since then, now we often share recipes and success stories from our kitchens. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I decided to write about cooking and food, a hobby she introduced me to.
Sometimes, when I stand alone in the kitchen, cooking and enjoying the warmth of the stove on a chilly morning, I realize that there are many life lessons that food itself teaches us. Like enjoy the journey. I love cooking leisurely as it gives me many moments to find joy…the aroma of garlic getting roasted on low heat, the delightful colors of fresh vegetables, the sizzling sound of some melted cheese escaping a cheese sandwich and falling on the hot pan.
Patience. There are some dishes that take 2-3 hours to prepare, and these are the some of the tastiest ones. Like gajar ka halwa (click here to know more about this delicious Indian dessert). It has to be simmered on low heat for a long time as the milk slowly thickens… the aroma of milk and carrots fills the house and makes the whole family wait in anticipation. Some of the best things in life too need to be patiently waited for.
Focus on the present moment. Many a time, I have had something very delicious while watching TV or playing on my mobile and then been disappointed that suddenly the food is over and I didn’t relish it enough. I feel that good food deserves undivided attention. At least the first few bites… the enticing aroma, the amusing crunchiness or the mushy melts-in-your-mouth softness, the wonderful combination of many spices…there is so much to experience if we just pay a little attention to it.
Make memories. Life is indeed about the good memories one can look back at and cherish. The more lovely memories we accumulate, the more enriched our life becomes. Food is an excellent way to store memories. Like every time I make toast and scrambled eggs, in my mind I am transported back to Goa. From the time we went there for a week last year and lived in a charming studio apartment with a great view. We used to go for a swim in the sea early morning and come back famished. And quickly wash off the salt in a hot water bath and make crunchy toast with a generous helping of butter and eggs with just salt and pepper. Oh it was so delicious!
And like food, life too is best enjoyed with loved ones!
If you haven’t tried your hand at cooking yet and would like to just see what the whole fuss is about, try this super easy recipe:
Cinnamon Hot Chocolate with Rum
Level – Beginner
Makes two tall mugs
Uses a thick bottomed vessel to boil milk, a big spoon to stir and a strainer
Takes 15-20 minutes
Full cream Milk: 1/2 litre
Dairy milk chocolate: 30 grams bar
Bournville Rich Cocoa Chocolate: 30 grams bar
Sugar to taste: 1 teaspoon approximately
Cinnamon (coarsely powdered) : 1 teaspoon
Dark Rum: 2 Tablespoons (Optional)
A magic ingredient
Method of Preparation
Bring the milk to boil (Give this part your full attention, as milk has a mischievous way of boiling and spilling over the moment you take your eyes off it :P)
Lower the heat and stir the milk with a big spoon for a minute to make sure it does not spill over.
Break the chocolate bars into 4-5 pieces each and add to the milk.
Add cinnamon and keep stirring.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the aroma of chocolate and cinnamon.
Once the chocolate has melted completely, taste the mixture and add sugar as per your taste.
Now it is time for the magic ingredient….wait for it….a pinch of salt! Yes, salt! I call it the magic invisible ingredient because it brings out the flavor of every dish and in most preparations, you don’t realize it is there unless there is too much or too little of it.
Add a pinch of salt and stir well. Let it simmer on low flame for two minutes more.
Take the mixture off the stove and use a strainer while pouring into mugs to filter out the cinnamon powder.
Add a tablespoon of rum to each mug. (Optional)
Your hot chocolate is now ready! Best enjoyed slowly in chilly weather, in the company of loved ones or in solitude beside a big window.
We welcome your comments about the post and add any more lessons you think food teaches us! And yes, would also love to hear if you tried/enjoyed the recipe & have any more to share with my readers.