I go through life often wistful about books I have piled up to read and have not gotten to, movies I have not watched, places in my local town I have not explored. I decided to change everything with an experience I had last Thursday.
I had two great gals over for dinner and decided to treat them to Indian fare at home. I made Masala dosa, Sambar, Idlis, Ragada patties and bought, Pakoras, Samosas and Rasmalai from the store. I had an array of chutneys and pickles to accompany said dishes. For the Iranian woman the experience was akin to one in the movie Babette’s feast. She had never tasted any of these dishes before, but loved the dance on her palate from this new culinary experience. The other woman, Jewish from Russia, was steeped in nostalgia given the time she had spent living and studying in India.
Over dinner, we discovered we were all foodies. I also learnt that I knew much less about the food experiences in the City than them, even though I have lived here 25 years and they, for a fraction of that time. I learnt two things from these venturesome women that relates to the theme of this blog. That you can live life, grabbing it in fistfuls, no matter the limitation of your surroundings. You can go a step further and actually use your lifestyle to explore the glories of what your surroundings have to offer.
These women walk or use public transit. On foot they have discovered hidden gems in the City’s nooks and crannies. Be it, Masala Chai at Kabul Express for a dollar, or Firni at Afghan Village. I learnt where you get the best Iranian dried fruits, halvas and baklava and the list just went on. I sat and listened in amazement, knowing how unimaginative I was when it came to eating out. My vegetarianism did not have to limit me I realised, there was so much out there to explore. Same went for the books I read and the movies I watched. While I yearned for many textured experiences, I took the path of least resistance with a bland approach, reading popular fiction, watching formulaic movies and eating at the same three places when we ventured out.
I realised that a little effort could go a long way to enhance my experiences. I have decided to make a ritual of exploring one new and different sensory experience every week. Yesterday, I watched an amazing Malayalam movie. I recalled the language from my days spent in Kerala and just revelled in the nostalgia of those wonderful experiences. It was artsy with a tragic end, but I realised I could take it, even though it was a departure from the Hollywood/Bollywood fare I had grown accustomed to watching.
This week I plan to explore Kensington Market and next week, South East Asian cuisines in the food court at Markham Village. I am also making a reading list of books from around the world and of world cinema, besides checking out literary events, book readings, film festivals and screenings.
At MCIS we are launching a book called Food for Language – on the theme of food and how people from diverse and multilingual backgrounds leverage its power to heal. Recognising the City’s diversity to explore cultural experiences may be the next logical step for an interesting project that would mean so much to people like me who live in their little silos?! And of course, this is true of any place in the world? That we just need a little effort and imagination to move outside our beaten paths...
Masala dosa – Indian savoury pancakes with potato filling
Sambar - lentil soup
Idlis - steamed rice savoury cakes
Ragada patties - Potato Patties with Chana (chick peas) masala
Pakoras – deep fried onion and flour savory
Rasmalai - milk sweet with cottage cheese