May 5, 2016

Day 930 – Dinner partying

I spent nearly five months in Townsville before I hosted a mini dinner for my friends. I didn’t have a house warming party which in hindsight would have been great. I also didn’t cook for either of my house mates, something else I would have liked to do. I finally managed to cook an Indian meal for three of my friends which was good. Two of them had spent some time in India and so were familiar with the explosion of flavour and spices. I’m not a great cook but I like to think I cook a good curry, good enough to make my mum proud. I decided to cook a chick pea and coriander curry and then a potato and aubergine curry. I’m still a vegetarian so no chicken tikka korma.

Prior to this, I cooked for friends and my students before I left Encarnacion, Paraguay. Bless, most of them had never had Indian food and so had no idea what to expect. It was also interesting for me as I struggled to find the spices and masalas to cook the curries. I did the best I could and rolled some chapattis’. With a limited Indian population, Paraguay holds plenty of opportunities and in my eyes, is a chef’s paradise. I didn’t stay but I certainly thought about moving over and opening some Indian deli. The closest thing I did, to this, was selling aloo paratas at a indoor festival. This was interesting and I did manage to sell a fair few. I would have loved to sell pav bhaji or puri.  Indian food varies depending on what part of India your in so again there are endless options. I come to learn of some Indians residing and working in Asuncion and Ciudad del Este.

Paraguay was some what similar to Brazil, which again had limited if not no Indian food. I spent three months in Brazil and whilst I didn’t go everywhere, from the cities I explored, I found opportunities to open a Indian food stall. I managed to cook Indian food whilst at the volunteer house in Rio. I had limited spices but I managed to create some good curries. I didn’t host a dinner party but I did cook a leaving dinner for one of my friend’s which resulted in a dinner for around fifteen people. So yeh, I was pretty stoked. I had never cooked for that many people so it was a good challenge. Food brings people together and it was just great to all sit and share a meal together. We didn’t all know each other that well but we knew each other enough to create a volunteer family. We may never sit and share another meal together but that day we will have forever. We shared some great times at that house and many involved sharing a meal and/or a drink.

Back in London, I don’t remember cooking for my flatmate which I will remedy. I cooked for two of my good friends who enjoyed my curry. I cooked for my parents one time too and my mum was impressed, looking back at it, it was nothing special but it was good enough. I was a slow and careful cook. I didn’t experiment or improvise. I was worried I would burn something or add to much salt. For the most part, I didn’t enjoy cooking, rather I saw it is as a time consuming chore. Whilst living in London, I had Sunday as my cooking day. I typically cooked everything I may wish to eat in one go so I wouldn’t have to cook during the week. The idea of having to cook after work wasn’t appealing especially as I was studying part time. I also didn’t care enough about food, what I ate was a bore at times and I had little appetite. I was stuck and my appreciation for food had vanished. I couldn’t shake this feeling off but I knew I had do something. Quitting my job and going half way around the world to Vietnam, helped.  Surrounding myself with new flavours and food bought back the importance of food. It was the start of a long road which resulted in me both loving and appreciating food again.

I had resisted how to cook for a long time. I moved out the first time not knowing how to cook which in hindsight wasn’t great. I survived on frozen meals and my mum’s care packages. I didn’t last long, just over half year, but it wasn’t great food wise. I had been told I needed to learn how to cook for as long as I can remember and for this reason, I never learnt. I never understood or accepted that a woman needed to learn how to cook so she could be a good wife and feed her husband. That to me, quite frankly, was outrageous. Why couldn’t a man learn how to cook? I mean, what if I married a chef? So I did everything I could to ensure I could cook nothing more than a omelette. I failed to appreciate that whilst I didn’t want to cook for this future husband of mine, I may wish to cook for me. I may just want to eat my favourite curry whilst living by myself. So I caved and learnt how to cook for me whilst on the road. I did miss my mum’s cooking and Indian food in general and the only way to overcome this craving was to learn how to cook.

I didn’t learn overnight and I had a lot of experimenting but it was good. I learnt to have fun and make the most of the ingredients I had. I didn’t have to worry anymore if I burnt something or if my attempt was an disaster because I was cooking for no one else but me. I took as much time as I needed or wanted and substituted items. The more I cooked, the more I learnt and with it my confidence grew. I could survive, more I could enjoy food and not have to rely on frozen meal’s or someone else.

I have met endless backpackers who live off pasta or pot noodles. And I get it, they either can’t cook or are saving money. I was fortunate enough to meet my sister last year, who bought bags of spices and masalas for me which I have carried around and treasured. This makes cooking all the more easier. Travelling around South East Asia, street food is cheap and many of hostels don’t have cooking facilities. South America is different, most hostels have a well equipped kitchen and given meat is a big part of their diet, as a vegetarian, options were limited at times. Africa is not a backpacking continent, there are limited hostel’s and it is not possible to cook in hotels. Australia has some good hostel’s and good kitchens. My spices continue to shape my cooking and whilst I can cook other things, I love cooking and enjoying a good curry. My appreciation and love for food is back, I enjoy food again and I actually enjoy cooking.