The highlight of the last month was when my roommate walked in from grocery shopping with a 10kg bag of flour. At the time, it was a commodity rarer than gold.
Losing yourself in baking is meditative, relaxing, and best of all, the end result is delicious and soul soothing. When I found out that my grandparents had eaten an entire loaf of warm homemade bread for dinner a few nights back, I felt proud and relieved. I can all too easily do the same thing. It’s in my DNA.
Rice noodle bowls
Cooking is how I show my loved ones that I cherish them. Sola I eat a lot of pasta, lentil soup, and oven fries. Serving a meal that’s designed to be customizable is a great way of accounting for a variety of food preferences. My favorite kind of meal has lots of little dishes where you have an idea of what the final product is meant to be, but you and your dining companions are essentially building your own dinner (BYOD). Perhaps I love this so much because I lived with my parents for many years, and since each of us preferred a different ratio of carbs to veg to protein, it became easier to make several different (easy) components and then let each person assemble their own meal.
Passover is drawing to a close and I am so excited to celebrate the end (and my successful adherence to its particular dietary laws) with carbs and cocktails. Tomato sauce simmers on the stove, the 72hr pizza dough I started Monday is on the counter coming to room temperature, and I have a plethora of toppings ready to go. Food normally takes center stage at gatherings as we celebrate momentous events and bring people together, exactly what we’re told to avoid at the moment. I don’t want to give up those special feelings that come about when you’re eating a good meal in good company. And now it’s easy for the days to blur together, especially since many people are either eating solo or sitting down with the same people over and over again.
There’s a lot of talk about improving your cooking skills right now, taking the time to tackle big projects (sourdough, I’m looking at you). Stay tuned for an installment on deliciously fun activities that you can do, either by yourself (stuffing dumplings is very meditative, especially if you do it while rewatching a favorite tv show) or as a group activity. However, many of these are white flour based, and as it’s Passover, I decided not to torture myself and to instead take it back to basics. Whether you’re just getting started in the kitchen or looking to up your culinary game, I think you’ll find some tips in this list that’ll help you out or at least get those creative juices flowing. And if you master them now, by the time you can have people over again, you’ll be such a pro that you can use your cooking skills to seduce someone (not that you’ll need to since we’ll all be so dessssperate for human contact…)
My roommate (Marianne) and I are good friends, we have a beautiful apartment, and Montreal isn’t under quarantine (yet) so we can still go out for walks. But we spend the majority of the day doing our own thing, and I’m struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation. I’m so grateful for the meals and activities that Marianne and I do together, but I’m aware that a lot of people are solo (literally) in their social distancing and they have to feed themselves thrice a day.
I was in the ancient land of pharaohs and mummies for nearly two weeks before venturing north to Cairo. Coming from India where vegetarian food is bountiful, spicy, and vibrant, I knew that eating in Egypt would require an adjustment period. What I didn’t expect was how much of a gamble the tastiness of a meal would prove. I’d tried koshari from a popular spot in Luxor, a wonderful mix of large and small noodles, brown lentils, an oily tomato sauce, crispy fried onions, and a thin vinegary hot sauce. A few days later in Aswan, the same dish was lackluster at best; undercooked noodles, mushy lentils, and minimal seasoning. Same thing with fuul (fava bean strew) and tameya (fava bean fritters, Egyptian falafel). The slow cooked beans could be creamy and delicious, with fritters crispy and hot. But more often than not the fuul was bland and the tameya was dry.
I had a Hinge (the dating app) boy over for dinner. We ate a delicious Indian-Thai hybrid of a curry: red curry paste, coconut milk, and a medley of Indian spices formed the broth which held asparagus, red peppers, mushrooms, and cauliflower. Served over thick rice noodles with lime and cilantro, I can only assume he liked it since he devoured three bowlfuls. I had baked this banana bread earlier that day, and we were just finishing a piece as my roommate Marianne) and her girlfriend walked in. Greetings were exchanged with much enthusiasm, and as he watched Marianne cut herself a slice he proclaimed how incredible it is, how he would have eaten more had he any room left in his belly, and that she was going to love it, LOOOOOVEEE IT.
I landed in Singapore to stifling heat and humidity and coincidentally, a hostel bunkmate from my hometown. There’s nothing like making a friend on the other side of the world who shares your accent and area code. As Roxanne and I journeyed North to Malaysia, she told me about her plans to head to the Perenthian Islands for inexpensive PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certifications. My prior experience diving was in Hurgada, Egypt, towards the start of my seven month voyage. I shouldn’t have gone as I was fighting an oncoming cold, but my couch surfing host had organized the excursion and I didn’t want him to think me uncool. Inevitably, the high-pressured chilly water kicked my sickness into high gear, and I was only able to complete one dive before spending the rest of the boat ride throwing up and sleeping. I spent the following two weeks wickedly ill, needing three doses of antibiotic butt injections to shake the infection. Now three months later I was ready to redeem myself and venture under the sea anew.
I went on a first date with this guy I met on Hinge, let’s call him Kevin, after weeks of rain checking due to stomach and life complications. I was grateful for his patience. We had originally planned to go for falafel in Saint-Henri, at a very good restaurant, Sumac. But you order at the counter before sitting down, and the idea of having to figure out what I was having/if we were sharing/how we were dividing payment, before any proper interaction, gave me low key anxiety. Instead, I proposed Il Focolaio, a pizzeria I’d heard of years ago in a Youtube video and had yet to try. Their menu intrigued me, 77 pizzas, with topping combinations ranging from tofu and vegetables, to classic medleys of cured meats and cheeses. They have the options of wholegrain or cauliflower crust, vegan cheese, and fake meats, in addition to all the traditional toppings you can think of. What a woke pizzeria. Suffice to say, I wanted to go.
I ate some seriously incredible curries on my travels around Asia. Creamy sag (spinach) paneer in Northern India, green bean curry with black mustard seeds in Sri Lanka, and of course, a dahl-cious amount of lentil soups and stews, eaten with rice, chapati, or roti. One of my favorites curries was eaten in the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, a thick spicy coconut broth, rich with the spices I’ve always associated with Indian cuisine, and filled with fat rice noodles and vegetables. It was a heady blend of flavours.