On food, friendship, and friendship with food.

I’d never been very good at shutting my mind down, and these days, more than ever, I find myself drowning in muddled thoughts. Too often I get sucked in the abyss of incoherent thought, and sleep offers little respite, because even when sleeping I see weird dreams that leave me all confused when I wake up. Sometimes, when I am least expecting it, an idea or a thought would spark, and like a flash in the pan, disappear before I can even put my finger on it. I think part of it has to do with the physical exertion of packing. Stripping a house down to its barest and packing our nearly four years of married life in boxes and suitcases is exhausting to say the least. The toddler has her molars coming in (mommies would know what I am talking about) so hell has broken loose. Bedtime is a nightmare, mealtimes are a joke and patience is in short supply.

The only way I am keeping sane is by cooking meal after meal of soul food (read laced with butter and all sorts of stuff detrimental for my mid section and weight loss agenda in general) and washing it down with copious amounts of tea and baked goodies. In my defence, best friend Audrey is home and well, don’t we have to use up all of the ingredients in my kitchen? We’ve taken up the bad habit of having afternoon tea, a while after (and sometimes embarrassingly right after) lunch, specially if breakfast gets transformed into brunch because we’d taken so much time preparing it.

Like the steamy onion paranthas that we had for brunch today. Honestly, note to self and anyone else who’s not yet mastered cooking them to perfection yet: Do not, I repeat, do not use juicy onions if you don’t want a sticky wet dough that’s a pain to roll out. We both agree that had it not been a two person job, it would have been an increasingly frustrating ordeal, instead of the fun project that it ended up being. We ended up having to scoop the flattened dough off my board with a spatula. For the last one I completely gave up and just flattened it on the pan itself (turned out amazingly good actually) We kept putting them in a hot case as we cooked them and the steam turned them all soft, so when you took off the lid of the hot case you’re greeted by this warm hug of a smell, of ghee and softened onions and spiced cilantro. Mmmmmm….. Served with lightly spiced (and sweetened in my case) yogurt, it was the perfect brunch for the rainy morning today. Cooking generally is cathartic, but when done in the company of someone you love, with free flowing conversation and lots of laughter, it transcends into so much more.

We’ve had quite a lot of fun making puffed lusis as well. I can never forget the look on Audrey’s face the first time she saw a fully puffed lusi in the pan, and since then it has become “our” thing. She rolls them out and I fry them; we make a pretty good team. Served with paneer anything, because that’s her favourite, and aloo bhaji, because after all I am a khati Oxomiya, it’s become a sort of ritual for us; to have lusis when she’s home. We’re now adding paranthas to the list of must-haves whenever we are together. Sometimes we skip the Indian and let her take over for an all American meal. Like cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven and banana French toast washed down with lots of coffee for breakfast. Or the amazingly simple egg-tomato sandwich she made for me right before we set off on my first ever post-baby girls’ day out. Or the plain scones she made for tea the other day that we had with strawberry jam and miss munchkin absolutely loved. We shamelessly wolfed down deep fried banana fritters one day for tea, with the chocolate sprinkle doughnuts Audrey had picked from the neighbourhood bakery lying forgotten (we wolfed them down the next day with tea anyway) Sometimes for dinner, we throw in the towel and go the mashed potato route but that works just as fine because it is after all about comfort.

I had forgotten just how much fun cooking can be, and I desperately needed to be reminded that the kitchen is a wonderfully happy place. With a needy toddler around, cooking never really gets top priory unless it is for said toddler, and I admit my enthusiasm had slackened off, with tiredness taking over. That, and the desire to do nothing but slump on the couch after the little one’s bedtime. I think I have an on and off love-hate relationship with food. I am a foodie who’s trying to lose weight forever, and it’s just not something that seems to work.

However, there was something else that never seemed to work for the most part of my adult life, and that was friendship. Audrey and I often talk about how our friendship sparked over food and how it is the best way to bond with anyone. When I think of all the firsts I have experienced with her, one of them is my first Thanksgiving experience; cooking a stuffed turkey and baking buns, all from scratch. She relates everything Indian with me, and we both are immensely proud of how she now knows her spices and can actually make rotis and curries and pakoras and what not all on her own. I have mentioned this before, how I had always been unlucky when it came to friends, but finding a good one this late into the game (or so I thought) redeemed my faith in it. That this comes with a side of food love is quite the perfect thing. Who am I kidding? Food is never “on the side”. Food is love, just as food is happiness.

To food then. And to the friend who makes cooking more fun and food taste so much better. To firsts and lasts, and celebrating each equally. To paranthas and lusis and buttered scones and double chocolate chip cookies and khichdis and the smell of ghee. To ice wine and indulging in its deliciousness while sitting in a near empty living room listing the things I would miss about Singapore. And finally, to tea. Lots and lots of tea. Thank you for keeping me sane.

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