September was a nice and steady climb on the progress ladder. I kept meditating and yoga-bearing, I was sleeping well and generally feeling like a well adjusted individual that could handle shit or even take on more shit. That’s why I added “learning Italian” to my board. Usually, I'm so overwhelmed by all I wanna do that I feel paralyzed and end up doing nothing and freaking out at the same time. Now, oddly and wonderfully - it felt like there was room and there was time.
I spent half of September dreaming about our vacation in Palma de Mallorca. I desperately wanted to lay on a beach, to have the sun warm my skin, my flesh and my bones even!
You know that moment, when you’ve been lying there soaking up all the sun and you start to sweat and you feel like you can’t take it no more? I always stay past that moment, just a bit, to tease myself, to make myself want the water even more. I fantasized about that moment. I played it in my head. I’d imagine my skin get all red, feel all sizzly and impatient, craving for some water to quench the fire that I so willingly created. The water seems so cold against my now feverish skin, that for a second I doubt that I want to move forward, all the while knowing that I can’t go back. The final step is made swiftly - I dip into the water like you’d dip a nacho in cheese sauce - except I stay there. I shiver, I feel alive and relieved. Then comes bliss. Aaaah, the best feeling.
That. I wanted that.
I also wanted to read a book, to eat, eat, eat and to enjoy. Lazy, still, dazed.
When the moment was finally there, I found myself unable to relax because I wanted it so much! Apparently, that’s not how it works. It seemed that my “chill” was constantly interrupted by stupid things like having to pee, getting thirsty, looking for a place to eat. I did not feel the bliss. I wanted too much. I wanted to relax but at the same time, I wanted to see things and do things because time was limited. Five days were just not enough and I began to feel anxious. After a freak out session and a long discussion I decided to take things slowly, try to make the most of it and choose my battles.
The land of deliciously fat avocados, goat cheese and incredibly fragrant mangoes was generous. I could’ve happily gone on a avocado, goat cheese and mango diet. I never knew avocados like this. All they needed was a pinch a salt and a willing mouth. Nothing more. Everytime I eat an avocado now, I only taste disappointment, every time I eat a mango I am reminded that there are far superior mangoes out there and that they’re out of my reach. But let’s go back to the good times.
Since the yoga/meditation combo was so beneficial, I obviously wanted that to be a part of vacation life too, to make it even clearer that I do it because I like it and I choose it not because I have to check it off a list. The first morning I tried to do it in the apartment and it was quite unsuccessful, mainly because the floors were covered in tiles and dirt.
On the second morning, I woke up, made myself a sandwich with smashed avocado, goat cheese and fuet (dried cured meat-sausage), grabbed my backpack and headed to the beach. I looked for a place that my back could lean against, that wasn’t overly populated and that faced the sea. I sat my ass down in the sand, applied sunscreen, put my headphones on and closed my eyes. Meditation by the sea? 10/10. Next, I hid in the back corner of the beach and did some yoga. It was not easy, because the sand kept moving in a very sneaky yet obvious way.
My next yoga attempt came naturally. We were on the beach, the sun started to set, it was getting cold and people started to pack up and leave. I went by the sea shore to check the water temperature and one thing led to another… I ended up having a very peaceful yoga session without caring that I was now front stage and not hidden in a corner. It was liberating. From time to time, the waves got closer, wet my feet, my hands, my knees. I took my dress off, I threw my bra into the air and I allowed my touched-by-gravity boobs to hang wild and free, while slowly entering the sea. Palma was made out of moments and this was one of the best ones.
Our last full day in Palma was a rainy one, so all sorts of plans changed and all sorts of feelings emerged. Here we were, sitting in a pub, eating empanadas and trying to make a plan. Another plan. I gradually got jittery and impatient, started huffing and puffing and generally feeling like a ticking bomb. I told the Nuc that I couldn’t sit there anymore, that I wanted to be somewhere else, I felt like I was wasting precious time! Dramatic, I know. I had a large glass of Sangria, blame it on that. So, I took the laptop and headed towards the chiringuito on the beach, hoping that it would be open on a rainy day so that I can make the picture in my head a reality.
I clearly haven’t gotten to that place of no anxiousness but I am in a place that allows me to trace the sources quite successfully . The voice in charge of what I need (me, me meeeee) is growing stronger and louder. When I go against it I get the feeling of a boiling pot bubbling inside, a sort of clock that tick-tocks in my whole being and makes me jittery and impatient until my pot runneth over. Sitting in that bar, I realized how un-relaxed I was, to put it mildly. You see, I had this image in my head. I was at the chiringuito on the beach, reading or writing, sipping tea and watching the waves hit the shore. Instead, I was spending a lot more time than expected in this pub thing that was fine, just not where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. It became clear that aligning my needs to someone else’s was no longer an option. It was causing me unhappiness. I realized that most of the unhappiness in my life (that depends on myself) is caused by:
not listening to my gut feeling
fear of missing out
lack of a “core’’ = an inner barometer that knows what my strengths and weaknesses are, independently of what others think or say.
Sometimes, you just feel like a whale - heavy and massive, like your weight is dragging you down, and you believe that it would take something even larger than you to pull you out of it. I'm here to tell you that's not necessarily true. You may just need many tiny birds to rally up and lift you to the sky. My point is: don't wait for something big to come along and change your trajectory! Start gathering tiny things that make tiny changes and eventually you'll have an army of flying ducks on your side ;). That's my new life approach.
Now sitting where I’ve wanted to sit all along, I understand it was calling me, I was late, I needed this.
I ask for a hot tea, I sit and i watch. My tea arrives, I get my book out. It was one of those perfect moments. One of those moments that are nowadays the subject of instagram pics and facebook posts. I felt like I “had to” photograph it, even though I wanted to enjoy it more that I wanted to have a proof that it happened. I caved. I took a picture. I actually took two, because I always take two, just in case one is blurry. The “pics or it didn’t happen” may have started out as a joke but it grew into a very real pissy little monster that seems to show its ugly head more than I like to admit. It’s like we need others to acknowledge our ‘’perfect” moment or it doesn’t feel complete or real. That, my friends, is fucked up. As I said, I took that picture but I am not gonna share it. Instead, I will use the power of words and you shall use the gift of imagination and together we will meet in the middle where we might make beautiful music.
Foreground: My open book on a cream-colored wooden table. A multicolored tea bag was tinting the water a deep burgundy inside a pistachio-green tin mug with a royal-blue rim.
It was a cloudy day in Palma de Mallorca. The clouds were sitting low and still. Some were light blue and some washed-up blue. Both sloppy and careful strokes of a brush made this appear as a crafted image - not at all accidental. The sea was a mild turquoise marbled with grey notes, to keep your senses on their toes. The sand had just the right shade to compliment all those blues. Not white, not yellow, not cream, but something resembling light brown sugar. The city was divided: On one side, the sky and the sea stretching broad, on the other, cliffs, green trees and tiered buildings growing tall.
I was seeing all this from the inside of the chiringuito, framed by a big door that opened on the deck making the line between the outside and the inside small and insignificant. The wooden floor was made out of both light and dark brown sugar, some bits wetter than others, with a dusting of sand thrown here and there. Old/vintage tin chairs painted in the most azul of blues and matching tables stood there empty and well behaved. Pigeons were roaming the sand and sparrows were flying about and sneaking around. The waves hit against the rocks playfully, not violently and then threw themselves at the shore, like one does after a good tickling session.
By now the old clouds made room for new clouds. The sky remained the same foggy, dense-yet-light, inexplicable blue while the clouds had begun travelling freely. It was quite a show, if you dared to stop and stare. Funky chill music occupied the ears.
Like dusting sugar rains on pastry, a drizzle starts to fall.
In the end, it was everything I needed it to be.
The next day, I woke up and headed to the beach for one last swim. I did my usual morning routine, the meditation, the yoga, the reading. All while basking in a beautiful sun. I swam with the fishes and finally felt blissful.
I felt like I belonged. I enjoyed every bit of sand that I touched, every splash of water that touched me and every ray of sun that was kind enough to feel me up.
I find it so hard to convey how dreamy that all felt. I keep feeling the need to explain and over complicate things when really, it was the simplest, most natural thing: I sat in silence with myself and my surroundings and I loved them both. Peace with lingering effects. As nature intended. It was hard to let go. Every now and again I close my eyes and I imagine myself back in that moment and it fills me up with light.
Yes, oddly enough, it starts with Barry White. Equally odd, it continues with John Cage. After getting the gift of Barry White on his birthday, he feels infused with moxy and 90’s swag; he’s confident and smooth. He decides to go for it and put his newfound moves on Nelle. He calls this “the change”. Nelle, unfortunately does not notice the change, so John ends up knee pit-ing Renee. If none of these things make sense to you, you have 2 options: either watch Ally Mcbeal season 2, episodes 8 and 9 or ignore everything and accept my apologies.
Anyway, the “change” line kept rolling in my head one day, cause I’m partly insane and that’s why I brought stuff from the 90’s into your attention. Dear friends (cause mainly you’re the ones reading this), I have felt the change. One day, after a long period of thinking and adjusting and postponing, I felt it was time to start doing things. Good things. For myself.
First, a list began writing itself in my mind. It was made out of things I wanted/desperately needed to try (meditation), things I wanted to start doing daily instead of once in a blue moon (yoga), then, my current priority that needed support and very conscious effort (writing) and something food related that I wanted to try out. Thus, my very own Life Management Board came to be and slowly but surely, I’ve been watching it grow and I’ve been watching my life improve dramatically.
I decided that this is the year that I lay the foundation for what I want my life to be. I will take care of myself and start doing what I need to do so that I will be able to do what I want to do and be fulfilled. I want to really mean the #noregrets
Seeing my dad die the way he did and how life changes when you grow old made me really see into the future and check my present. I became aware of the fact that my decisions now have a direct impact on how my life is going to be later. Health, attitude, going for the things I want - all took the spotlight. I don’t wanna be a bitter old lady that can hardly move and can’t enjoy anything because she is constantly in pain and her attitude sucks.
Chapter 1 - Meditation/How I stopped pussyfootin’ around and started to meditate.
I’ve been waiting in the meditation station for a while but I just couldn’t bring myself to “find time” (bullshit) or the “right time” (another type of bullshit) to pick a train and just get on it. Until one day, that is, when it became imperative. Not because something happened, but just because it felt like hammer time. I was absolutely sure my chaotic mind needed guided meditation so I downloaded the Headspace app for their 10 days free trial. I decided to start the very next day, in the morning, after brushing my teeth. I got a pillow and a blanket, I opened the window slightly to let some of that frisky Dublin air inside. I sat crossed-legged on the blanket with the pillow supporting my back, facing the blue skies I could see out the window. Then I pushed the magic button and was greeted by a voice and an introductory animation. Firstly, it won me over with the animation (I’m a sucker for that) and secondly, the voice. It’s a warm, calming voice with very soothing tones but it sounds like a “real” person”. It doesn’t get trapped in that monotone, half-asleep, robotic sort of narration. I don’t feel like someone is trying to hypnotise me and trick me into becoming “peaceful”. He simply speaks naturally - you know, like a regular person would. He even softly chuckles at times, and I’m the kind of girl that responds to a chuckle or two.
First, you begin by breathing deeply, which I’ve been historically bad at. You know you don’t have a real grip on life when you’re having trouble with its no. 1 requirement. But hey, I guess for some people everything is a skill they need to work on. So, there I was breathing deeply and feeling unusual. Next step is closing the eyes and breathing normally. Here, in the dark, it’s just you and your thoughts and the attempt to “silence the mind”. If you ever heard anything about meditation you probably heard that phrase. Sorry to burst your hope bubble, but silencing the mind might actually be as impossible as Ryan Gosling ironing your favorite knickers while making banana pancakes and singing that song from “Blue Valentine”. It’s unlikely, that’s all I’m trying to say.
Thoughts are almost always occupying our minds, especially when you’re trying really hard to do the exact opposite! “The point of meditation is to learn to detach yourself from the passing thoughts”. Again, not my strong point. I tend to hold onto things until I milk the life out of them, they dry out and die, and even then, instead of releasing my grip, I clench my teeth and hold onto their corpse forever and always! Now that I’ve put disturbing images of potentially dead cows in your mind, let us move on.
I sat and listened and “went with it” as the kids say these days. I’m not going to describe everything step by step, cause I don’t wanna ruin it for potential new-comers. Not knowing exactly how it would go made me curious and excited, even. So, I wouldn’t wanna take that away. When I opened my eyes I had the weirdest sensation. I felt like I’ve just woken from a dream. As I was trying to put impressions into words, I had the magical realization that what I felt was the sensation of space. Pennies kept dropping in my piggy bank mind. Ding! Space! Ding ding! In my head! Ding ding ding! Headspace?! Omg, that’s the name of the app! Unbelievable, ladies and gentlemen - how it all makes sense! Isn’t life just a bloody miracle?
Hold your horses and don’t jump to conclusions just yet. I haven’t magically transformed into the Disney’s version of Mary Poppins. I am not all of a sudden seeing the world in shades of pink and marshmallow. I don’t think I’ll ever be, nor do I want to; though this post is definitely the equivalent of steamed broccoli and I’m used to filthy chocolate cake slathered with frosting and dripping with caramel sweat while it falls apart in your hand. Hmm, I think I miss cake. What was I talking about? Oh, yes - my life. Back to that.
I was determined to make it till the end of the 10 days free trail and I did. Session by session, day by day I learned something new about myself, a new way I could look at things to make, well - life - lighter. I began to recognise patterns of thinking. I will say this even if it sounds a lot more know-it-all that it actually is: we are more ourselves in meditation that anywhere else. It’s like having a magnifying glass placed over your mind and you get to see what you do and how “do you do, do you do the things you do” as Roxette would say. For example: “bring the mind/attention GENTLY back” - realised I do not know how, or “notice your breath, don’t judge it just notice it”- un-freakin’-able to not be a judgmental biatch to myself, or “ask yourself this and just listen, don’t try to find an immediate answer” - impossible, boo. Next!
As a direct result, I discovered the voices in my head - because they tend to become very obvious when you close your eyes and sit in silence, so I decided to make a list of these voices, separate the good from the bad and deal with the ugly. I also named each and every one of them, cause I’m silly but also because it becomes much easier to deal with them once you know “who” you’re talking to/ who’s whispering sweet bullshit into your ears.
Without further ado, I give you:
Chapter 2 - The many voices in the head of Gog
The one that is never satisfied, nothing I do is good enough/ all I do is wrong - Stephanie
The one that always doubts herself - Mimi
The one that panics and worries frantically - Jenny
The one that believes that if you’re not good at something innately/immediately you’re not talented/meant to do that or will ever be good at it - Gwyneth
The impatient one - Suzie
The one that is always saying “Give up, what’s the point, you’re never gonna be good enough or better than xyz” - Milfred
The plain rude, insulting, cruel one “Fat, stupid, lazy, useless” - Gertrude
The afraid of conflict one, the people pleaser, doesn’t wanna trouble anyone or cause shit - Sally
The guilty one- always finds something to feel guilty about - Carrie
The “victim”, always feels like the one suffering the most, doing the most, feels unappreciated - Neil
The co-dependent one: afraid of doing things on her own cause she thinks she’ll fuck up - Laura
The plain afraid one - Penny
The one that never wins, the loser - Bernie
The overachiever - Gordon
The “ah, that’ll do for today” - Frankie
The “you can’t, you couldn’t, you won’t” - Sandra
The “I know better” voice (judgemental, sees the world through one lens and that’s it) - Gina
The “can’t let go voice” (obsesses over things over and over again, especially negative stuff) - Bob
The over-carer - Mary
The paranoid one - Ally
The “it’s ok, but it could be perfect” aka The “Great Expectations” one - Natalie
The self pity one/ “Oh, poor lil’ ol’ me! What ever shall I do? - Lottie
I know what you’re thinking, those are a lot of voices! Or maybe you’re thinking that I am seriously insane and need professional help. Don’t worry, one of the voices in my head is a psychologist, so I’m covered.
For each and every one of the bad ones above there is a voice encouraging the exact opposite, revolting against what they have to say. Imagine that, it’s never boring up in here, I’ll tell ya’ that.
The “you will not take any form of injustice” voice aka the warrior, the no bulshit, Sasha the fierce, almost insane-at-times voice.
The most important one of them all is by far the “self-love” voice because if you pay attention to her you will treat yourself gently and make the right choices that will eventually lead to a happier you/me/us...
It it not as strong yet, but I’m growing this baby bigger, bolder and fatter everyday!
The good ones mainly come from my loved ones and they are now living in my head, fighting everyday to convince me that I am “unique, talented, funny, worthy, able, loved and magical”. Yes, my friends are awesome.
In conclusion, meditation rocks my world in the best of ways! Because I take 10 min to check myself before I start the day, I am less anxious. Because I take a moment to assess how I feel (physically, mentally, emotionally) I know how to treat myself that day and what to expect. Translation: I’m less of a dick to myself when I’m down. Literally check yo’self before you wreck yo’self. One of Andy’s “tips” said something in the lines of “Imagine you were talking to your best friend the way you talk to yourself”. Most of us wouldn’t have friends anymore! Cause we’d say things like: “Great, you’re back hurts again! Another day to be useless!“ or “You look fat. Not just in that dress, but in jeans and skirts and pajamas. You’re also fat in every room of the house… and on the outside. Have you ever noticed that?”. We all know the list can go on and on and on. Bottom line is: treat yourself kindly. You fucking deserve it! We all do. I’ve learned that amazing things happen when you go gentle on yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s better to work on it than to just give up. Always.
Chapter 3 - Becoming Yogy Bear
I’ve decided to listen to the call of yoga and respond to it every day. No pressure, it didn’t have to be a certain type of yoga, it didn’t have to be a certain amount of time. All that mattered was that I do it daily and mindfully aka do it with meaning and intention, not just to check it off a list.
For a couple of years now, my guide in all things yoga has been Adriene from Yoga with Adriene. One day, I stumbled upon her on youtube and I was hooked. I can’t watch any other yoga videos. She is the best because she is so… herself. Unapologetically. “Find what feels good” she’s been saying for years and only now I truly understood what that means. For me, it meant asking myself what I need instead of what I want. It may sound easy, but it is not. My judgement is always clouded by what I want to do, so much so that it is hard to distinguish which one is a desire and which is a need. Everyday, I wake up, I listen to my body and I ask myself what I need and then I look for the practice that will cater to that. I’ve gone even further and taken this question in all areas of my life and boy, did I flip the pancake! New outlook, hello!
Chapter 4 - The itty bitty food committee
Me and the voices in my head decided that we need rhythm and rituals and that efficiency can be joy. So, I made granola bars and loaded on mangoes and berries to keep breakfast nice and simple. I loved not having to decide what to eat every morning, it made everything much easier. Also, those freaking granola bars are delicious because peanut butter rocks and honey is the key to everything. New mantra was to keep it simple during the week and go ham with tasty projects on the weekend. And I was happy ‘cause “nature loves rhythms” and decision-making is a bitch.
Introduced healthy eating habits without restricting anything else. I did not go on a diet, I did not make a list of “no-nos”. A lot of the food we emotional eaters love is on that list because we associate it with good times, comfort and care. Diets are never associated with good times, allow us to not bullshit each other. If it were healthy we’d eat cake for breakfast everyday and bathe in butter and syrup for the rest of our life. “Diet food” will always bring with it the bitter taste of restrictions and that’s how you end up despising lentils - and that, my friends, it’s just unfair to lentils everywhere.
I’ve always been ok with “exercise, structure and activities” part of trying to get fit. Because it feels like I’m just adding things and that’s ok. When it comes to food, the sentiment is that something precious it’s being taken away from me.That just don’t fly with us, southern belles with lofty hearts and appetites. I needed a change of strategy. The only way to love food is for it to be tasty and for the context to be a pleasant one. Otherwise, I know I won’t get back to it. Quite the opposite, it will end up on my “get the fuck out of my mouth” list. Yes, I know what I just did there.
Chapter 5 - Out of the seven dwarfs, you are my second favorite
My relationship with sleep has been a complicated one. I’m sure it wasn’t always like this. I was too the type of child to fall asleep on chairs at various never-ending parties. I somehow grew up to be a lot more nevrotic, thus I need darkness and silence to be able to fall asleep. Oh, and peace of mind, but that’s harder to achieve. One thing I did manage to change for the best was to fucking listen. Listen and go to sleep when all signs point to the fact that my body is ready and that my mind is willing. I always postponed it and ended up falling asleep in a bad mood because I’d missed my window of sleeportunity. Not anymore. Also, I left my laptop to avoid the screen strain and the distraction. All very good ideas.
As a result, I started going to bed around the same time every night and then waking up, naturally after about 8 hours of sleep. It was a magical time.
For the first time in a long time things were working out! Now my days looked organised and I was starting to feel calm and productive. I’d wake up between 8:30 - 9:30 am, I’d meditate and change out of my pajamas to go downstairs. I’d eat half a mango and a granola bar. Drink tea, open my laptop and plan my day. Then I would do yoga. That’s how my day began pretty much everyday.
Whoah, I think I’m finally getting my shit together! If you think this sounds in any way easy or victorious, I urge you to remember the list of voice above and reassess, cause that's a lotta' crazy.
Now I think I’m gonna have to get a tad cheesy on yo’ ass. This started as a food blog and it has become a girl’s journey to accept herself, love and better herself, to conquer and to overcome everything from basic fears and insecurities, everyday struggles, the loss of a loved one and the constant “trying to be enough” battle. I’m not there yet, but now I know I’m knocking at the right doors.
May y’all be nicer to yourselves and keep on tryin’! You’re gonna have to fall on your face a couple of times - I speak from experience.
It always feels a bit weird being back home after I’ve had a different life in a different place for a while.
I wake up in another bed, I wash my face in another bathroom, my towel is a different towel, the people I got used to seeing everyday are now suddenly “away”; I hear a different “miau”, I use bigger plates and smaller portions. The ceiling is taller, the weather is colder, I even wear different clothes. To some extent, I am different.
Leaving places is always hard for me because I always get attached to… well, everything, really. I missed being home but I also missed being home. No, that’s not a typo. Most of us have two homes: the one that we’ve called home forever and the one that became our home.
I was now home and everything seemed bigger. It felt like the kitchen was huge, the living-room - an open field! Oh and the smell - I couldn’t get over the smell! It was strange and familiar at the same time. You get so used to the smell of your house that you don’t even notice it after a while, but other people do; and so do you, after you’ve been away for a significant period of time.
I woke up in that first morning and I felt strange. It was cold and sort of empty. I got used to smaller spaces filled with people and now I have to deal with quite the opposite. I didn’t get to over analyze things too much, I had laundry to do and food to buy and friends to greet. My friend was coming to visit me and our other friend, Queen B. I mean, sure, since her career skyrocketed we haven’t been that close, but still. We were really hoping for a reunion!
The month of July can be broken down in two parts:
Part 1 - The Fun and Part 2 - The Misery. I don’t usually begin with the fun, but this is how it chronologically happened and I’m sticking with it.
We decided to meet our friend in the city centre where the bus that comes aaaall the way from the airport stops. I know it sounds perfectly dull and logical, but bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this. So, there we were, in the right bus station at the right time - wheeen the bus drove right by with our friend in it. Our 2 perplexed faces saw her perplexed face fading away into the Dublin mist (mid-July, yes) and there was nothing we could do. Apparently the driver, and I quote “must’ve missed it”. He was quite calm and nonchalant about it which leads me to believe this is not the first time he’s done or said that. Thanks to the magic of the interwebs and Whatsapp, mi amiga managed to find her way back to us.
We went to a Japanese restaurant, talked our ears off and stuffed our faces! I had a big fat bowl of udon soup with tempura prawns to help me deal with the 17 degrees of this crazy Irish summer.
The following days we combined more Japanese food with falafels and spicy fries, carrot cake, my first attempt at a clafotis aaaand a vegan dessert (‘cause my friend is into that and I’ll try anything once). The vegan tart had an oatmeal and coconut oil base, topped with peanut butter filling and a chocolate ganache (made with coconut milk). I am the first one to call bullshit on all replacements and all “delicious recipes that taste just as good as the original” bla bla. The beauty about this recipe is it didn’t pretend to be anything else, it didn’t aspire to be anything more than what it was and it was really delicious and decadent. Take a look for yo’ self:
We baked, we ate and we watched some documentaries. It was kind of perfect.
When finally the day of the concert arrived, we gently blasted some “Lemonade”, put on our “hot sauce in my bag” t-shirts, tight jeans and daring lip-sticks. Well, two of us did. The Nuc skipped all of that. Except the tight jeans. His presence at the concert was powered by: confusing circumstances, laziness and the Universe’s sense of humor (read as that voice in trailers, use suspense and unnecessary drama).
We got there late, as in right on time, which in the world of concerts and Golden Circles means “really fucking late”. As a direct result, we were in a mediocre spot, surrounded by both midgets and giants. The midgets (us included) were at a clear disadvantage; the giants were uncomfortable and despised by many. There were, of course the “somewhere in the middle” people too. They’re not tall, they’re not short, they’re just annoying and will poke you in the boob repeatedly. Then, we have the classic “drunk’n’lorrvee” group. They’re boozed up, ratchet and take 5 selfies per minute to show the world how much fun they’re having. They think they’re fabulous and unique. I guess the world is full of special snowflakes.
Then you have the people who spend half their concert time answering e-mails and telling their less fortunate friends how awesome this concert (that they’re currently missing because their eyes are plastered to their screens) IS!
In the middle of all this - some girl’s bag kicking me in the ribs, some guy’s elbow poking me in the boob, gremlin lookin’ girl rubbin’ her butt on my female parts while making eye contact and smiling creepily - Queen B is rocking it! She sounds amazing and if only all these people would put their fucking phones down for a moment, I might actually see her looking amazing too!
That concert made me feel thangs, man. Maybe it was Beyonce’s magical dragon breath that made us all look purty and feeeel purty. Except for the ugly people - they just felt purty. There was a sense of empowerment in the air. Beyonce was sending waves of confidence, sexiness and woman-nes all around and they are spreading like wildfire!
Overall, we left the concert feeling strong and sassy - but also, quite violent. I will never understand why people can’t enjoy an experience without filming it themselves, photographing it themselves, advertising the experience they are not really enjoying, themselves! I get doing it for a short memento but not 50%-90% of the time! It makes me angry and sad. They’re not really present anymore, they’re living their lives to prove shit on Facebook instead of really enjoying a fucking moment fully! They’re growing more and more pathetic. They must staaahp it! They’re giving the rest of us a bad name.
Another thing I’ve learned from this is that I am not a people person. Well, actually, I am not a crowd person. I need my personal space, badly. I wanted to be closer to the stage and all that, but at the end of the day I think I saw less and got annoyed more. It really affects an experience and nobody's doing anything about the “little” people that can’t see shit! You can’t enforce a “height rule” because as it turns out short people make friends and/or mate with tall people and vice versa. The hate is badly oriented, tall people have feelings too. The stage should be taller, the pavement they use to cover the stadion should do some miracle work and add some freakin’ inches. And don’t you dare suggest I wear high heels! You wear high heels!
I’m also afraid I’ll get trampled or worse, have to pee. Cause if I have to pee and I go alone, I am never finding my way back! I’ll get lost and nobody will be able to guide me back cause I’m not capable of following simple instructions in complicated settings. Welcome to my neurosis, the concert edition.
That being said, Beyonce is flawless and the concert was beautiful.
Two days later I was in the front seat of a rented car, blasting “Lemonade” and holding a box of donuts on my lap. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
We were happily heading towards the South of The Emerald Isle. We went from Wicklow & the East Coast to The South Coast - Ring of Kerry and on our way home, Blarney Castle.
Even though this started as a sunny day, the moment we got into the car it started to drizzle and drip. Ah, Irish weather, the ultimate practical joker. We picked up our people, talked strategy and got the show on the road. We waited for a green area with cows to make our first stop and eat our donuts. If you haven’t had donuts while watching cows, you are missing out. It is definitely one of my favorite ways to have donuts. I only wished I had some warm milk to dunk those babies with a splash. Oh, so close and yet so far away!
After lounging with the cows, a journey began. One that involved driving on the “wrong” side of the road for the first time, on extremely narrow and wavy roads, while stopping here and there for some kick-ass views.
Then we made a bigger stop at Glendalough, county Wicklow. Seen some medieval stuff and fell in love with a lake.
After visiting an abandoned old church, appropriately called “The Forgotten Church”, stepping on some graves and pushing our luck, we got back in the car and feasted our eyes on the pretty views the road had to offer. Eventually, we arrived at Courtown Harbour aka a city by the sea! After a moderate amount of frolicking we moved on, reached a town whose name I can’t remember, couldn't get seats at Tripadvisor-approved restaurants and settled for a Texas themed place. Food was OK and cheap, aaand I had me a beer with those chicken goujons and fries. On our way back to the car I stumbled upon a corgi! I have loved corgis for some time now but have never seen one face to nuzzle! I cuddled the shit out of it and declared this day an utter success. The sun was setting, a bed awaited somewhere.
Day one ended in a nice hotel, after a shower, in cosy pajamas, watching Family Guy in a big bed. Not too shabby.
Day two welcomed us with sunny skies, cold wind and decent nutella&banana waffles by the sea.
Goodbye, city whose name I can’t remember! I’d like to say you shall never be forgotten, but I try not make promises that I obviously can’t keep.
Next, we stopped somewhere we could gaze at the world from above.
We sat like cowies in the grass. Some of us fell asleep, some of us started picking flowers, some felt like doing a bit of impromptu yoga in their jeans. We each scratched an itch and it felt good.
Once back in the car we drove forever to get to the city of Cork where good food and rain awaited. We ended up at ORSO Kitchen & Bar and I do not regret a thing. For starters, we shared this pair of samosa lookin’ mofo’s right here called Sfeehas - lebanese mini pies filled with spiced lamb with fennel and thyme cream on pearl cous-cous.
They were delicious, I could’ve had 4 of them on my own if I had to. “Had to” - who am I kidding?! If they would’ve been in front of me and I had to share them with someone I didn’t love, I would’ve slapped the pie out that unfortunate fucker’s hand in no time! Don’t take it personal, it’s just a basic impulse. In my defense, I really love pies and meat and pies with meat! Stepping away from this ugly side of myself now and walking into main course land. I had the Moroccan Spiced Seafood Stew with monkfish served with fennel and honey loaf. Whaaaaaat? Did anybody say honey loaf?! Honey, that was love in a bun. Warm, sweet love, perfect for dipping into a pool of creamy, spicy and hearty sauce. Yum! I mean, dunk me baby one more time-yum!
The Nuc had the Lamb Chops with warm salad of millet, roast fennel, red onion, green sun dried tomatoes and chaat yogurt.
Looking back, I remember how delicious they were but I also realize I had forgotten they were quite pricey. I mean, the stew was 20 euros and the lamb was 23. That feels excessive. That is excessive. At the time, I was blinded by hunger and deliciousness, so I also ordered dessert. Lemongrass and ginger creme brulee with lime and basil shortbread. That was 6,50 - pretty regular price for a dessert. I won’t lie, I can’t lie, I loved it. Those fresh and fragrant notes go wonderfully with the creamy wonder that is creme brulee. I’ve enjoyed every bite of it. The biscuit was a nice touch, I ate it even though I was full. That’s how you know.
From Cork we headed to Tralee (yes, that is a funny name for a town), where we were going to spend the next two nights at Finnegan’s Hostel and B&B accommodation - “Situated in the heart of Tralee, county Kerry, it is the ideal location for anyone visiting the south west of Ireland”. Well, obviously, I am not anyone. Piece of advice? Don’t believe everything you read.
First night? No hot water. Lemme rephrase that: no warm water. I mean, I do have a mug that says “I like it a lot when it’s burning hot” but I would have happily settled for lukewarm that night. Went downstairs to ask why. Just why. Why my shower? Why me?! WHY GOD,WHY?! The woman acted as if this was the first time she’d ever heard this. Unfortunately for her, I can easily distinguish the bad acting from the good acting and this was superficial at best. She went as far as going to our room “to check it out”. She turned the shower on, cold water ran, she said “Yes, it is cold.” Thank you for that insightful observation. Yes, I know! That is why we are all gathered here today in this tiny bathroom, looking like fools! This is not a theme party, it’s real life.
Then she said it must be that the boiler ran out of water because it is the same one that the restaurant downstairs is using. Well, color me baffled and blank-faced. I looked at her with a look of utter confusion and complete lack of understanding. My face was covered in “why”-s and “how come”-s and “are you shittin’ me with this”? The kind of look you’d have on your face if you’d see, say, a deer mating with a squirrel. At first, you wouldn't even know what you’re looking at. Then it would become clear, you would be intrigued and appalled and unable to look away. All the while the question would echo in your head: Why? Why?! Why.
Disturbing analogy over, and long story short, I went to sleep dissatisfied but hopeful that the morning would bring with it a full boiler, or at least a bucket’s worth of warm water.
Rise and shine, ya’ poor hopeful fool! Wake up to disappointment and build up your day from there! As you probably guessed there was still no warm water. I went down to express my feelings. The woman downstairs said I should talk to the owner, because there is nothing she can do and lo and behold, I had just missed her.
At the ground floor of the hostel they have Mary Anne’s Tearooms and I dare say that for me, that was the only good thing. Can you blame me? I happen to believe that warm water in a non-tropical country is not negotiable. Anyway, let’s move away from the darkness and into the light. The Tearooms - they have a mouth-watering display of fresh cakes, good eggs and scrumptious scones. Plus the whole place looks like a combo between Alice in Wonderland and a grandma’s house - a certain type of grandma, that is. The soundtrack was oddly enough (or not?) Italian opera. That made for a confusing atmosphere but it kept me on my toes, so I’ll give them that!
The weather outside was pretty frightful. Your classic grey clouds with a generous side of rain, sprinkled with gloominess and topped with a cold breeze. Worry not, for I have the power of the polka dot! My mighty parka: blue - to match my mood, dotted (with white spots) to highlight my wackiness and of course, waterproof to describe my resistant-to-change personality.
Ain’t no weather baaaad enough to keep me from gettin’ to you, babe! That was my way of sayin’ we got back in the car and on the road once more. As we moved away from Tralee, the roads got narrower and the winds stronger. First stop was Rossbeigh beach, where the sea was grey and the wind was a bitch. I can’t rhyme and I can’t preach but I sure use my freedom of speech. I’m beginning to feel like a leech craving a peach on the beach - aaaaand we’ve gone full circle! Enough of that now.
Then we went up, up to the end of the world and as they say in Ireland “It was grand”.
Time to mix it up and confuse your body with some tropical forest. What? You were cold and now you’re hot? I won’t believe it!
On that day, I also re-learned how to pee in the forest! Different forest, though. Somewhere near the Blackwater Bridge. If you’re ever there, remember I peed somewhere and so did other people. When in the woods, act like a bear. Roar.
Next stop: “Angry Sea and The Worst Wind Ever” Village. I call it that cause it’s true and cause I can’t for the life of me, remember its true name.
Here we stopped for food and Charlie Chaplin memorabilia. Weird combo, I know. Apparently it was The Charlie Chaplin Annual Festival. Why there, in the town whose name I’ve forgotten? Because he used to vacation here and that explains everything. Waterville! The name of the town was Waterville!
After a simple lunch (in Waterville - wink wink) of vegetable soup and cheesy toast we moseyed along.
In chronological order: we met some horses at Looscaunagh Lough (well, one horse and one donkey posing as a horse), climbed on top of some rocks at Ladies' View in Killarney, climbed some more rocks at the Muckross Lake to get a good view of it and then took our time at the Killarney National Park where we saw a waterfall, climbed some more, wooo-ed and aaaaah-ed at some pretty awesome nature work and got a bit hungry, I ain’t gonna lie. What’s even better for working up an appetite, you ask? Visiting an old abandoned abbey (in our case the Muckross Abbey). Everything was so ancient and... well... dead. Really makes one feel happy to be alive, thus hungry.
We ended that day in Killarney. A vibrant town with plenty of food places to choose from. Hard to get a table, but not impossible. I decided to finish the day with steak, mashed potatoes and veggies. Classic comfort, hearty food. As we were going to the car, I heard the call of this ice cream place. It summoned me, so I went. I got the banana and the chocolate&chili.
The banana was good, nothing worth dropping your panties for. The chocolate, on the other hand, was panty-dropping but not in a good way. That thing was spicy! I mean, nasty spicy. It started off as chocolate and then out of nowhere it just punched you in the throat with fire. Could not, would not finish that. Turns out that voice that summoned me was evil. I really gotta learn how to distinguish right from wrong one of these days.
Got back to the hostel to find an empty fucking boiler, AGAIN! I went to my friends room and used their shower. They had slightly warmer water and anything warmer than ice cold is considered good news in such circumstances so that was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I went to sleep that night with wet hair and one or two violent thoughts. Who’s counting, right?
Morning came ringing her bell and honking her horn. Surprise, surprise! We’re covered in red itchy spots all over! Oh, joy! My skin was rather boring-looking! All white and no dots! It’s like Finnegan's Hostel heard my prayers and decided to help. Thank you for your bed bugs, your cold water and your sad room. It was everything I’ve ever imagined it would be.
We wanted to thank the owner personally for the unique experience but of course, she was nowhere to be found. We even went as far as getting her phone number hoping that we could at least whisper sweet little “thank you” notes into her ear. She did not answer and she did not return any of our calls. Classy and professional. #rolemodel
On our way back to Dublin we planned to stop at the Blarney Castle and take our sweet time. We bought sandwiches on the way so we could have lunch al fresco with our ass in the grass and our eyes towards the sky.
We did some things that I was comfortable with: like walking, visiting the garden and reading about Marijuana, talking to some cows, picking raspberries. You know, the usual.
We also did some things that made me very uncomfortable, like going up ALL the stairs, going up all the stairs surrounded by people, going up all the stairs in the tower where the space got narrower and darker and I felt stuck and terrified and forever lost. The thought that I was only going higher and higher did not help. Once I got to the bloody top I realized what they meant by “kissing the Blarney stone”. It was a part of the freaking wall, it wasn’t a stone you could just take in your hands and hide in your sleeves like a freakin’ adorable otter! At this point in the story you might be asking yourself “Why the fuck would I wanna kiss a stone that has the imprint of a thousands other lips on it?!” Well, dear reader, because you supposedly gain the gift of eloquence. I know, sounds shady.
In order to kiss it you had to lie on your back with your head hanging into pure nothingness while gripping to a bar for dear life. All of this while a stranger was paid to hold you and pictures were being taken. Needless to say, I found this unnecessary and scary as fuck, so I politely declined and shall remain devoid of eloquence forever and for always. Meah, who needs eloquence when you’ve got charm and curvy hips?! And that right there is one of the world’s biggest problems.
Here’s a link if you wanna know more about this: the ritual of my nightmares.
All in all, visiting a castle really made me realize that I wouldn’t wanna live in a castle - they are seriously not cosy and the lack of windows is disturbing. Yes, yes, I know the reasons, bla bla. I’m more afraid of living in the dark than being invaded. But hey, that’s just me. On the other hand, it must be great to own such land! Your forest, your lake, your big-ass garden, your witch’s lair in a cave under a mangled tree. That being said, we got into our rented car and went back to our rented home that comes with a rented back garden and lived happily ever after. For these are the days of our lives.
This 4-day trip had everything. I think it was the first time ever that I’ve been on such a packed journey. I mean, we went from lake to river, from sea to forest, from mountains to waterfalls, from hot and humid to cold and humid and then to windy and furious, from rain to sun and everything in between - in what seemed like moments!
Standing at the top of a mountain, looking down at the sea, hearing only the sounds of goats from the very remote houses that were around... boy, that was a great feeling. Far away from everything, like being at the end of the world where the wind and the sea are king and queen and you are a mere witness to their glory. It made me feel small, but in a good way. Made everything seem unimportant and passing. One thing I’m gonna try to remember: nature does me good. I’ve never felt better.
After about 3 days, when the damn bed bugs bites were almost fading away I got some red spots on my face, because I can’t catch a break! I traced it back to a cheese I ate for the first time, threw it away, swallowed some pills and played the waiting game. It eventually went away but so did my excitement for everything food. I was all of sudden very aware that everything I ate either made me sick, “because IBS is real and it affects the lives of 55 mil. people, mostly female” (like we don’t have enough bullshit to deal with) or fat or both.
Everything seemed out of control, I felt tired, overwhelmed and lost. I wanted to get back in the game (the wellness game) but I didn’t know where to begin.
After wallowing in some mandatory self pity, I re-started listening to Tim Ferris’s podcasts and they inspired me to get started once more. I took two decisions:
To cook and eat what I like, what I crave in order to bring back the love, but with limits as to not upset my stomach and feel lousy.
To write down everything I eat again with the clear purpose of finding out what makes me sick and in what way.
I then cleaned the house, scrubbed, re-organized, washed and polished. The chaos (in and out) was beginning to see the light of day. I started writing things down and cooking things that I craved. Take a look at the waaay too many pictures I took, to give you a visual.
The hardest thing I had to do in July was write about the month of June. Everytime I take a break, I doubt that I can write again. I keep expecting to “lose it”, to wake up and realize that it was a dream and that I actually can’t put two phrases together. That first post felt like I was in labour, giving birth to every word. Really put me off pregnancy and all that jazz.
This was the July episode - the one after the fall and before the rise. You’ll see what I mean...
The Dutch baby pancake is something that has been on my list for a looong time. All research pointed to the primordial need for a cast iron skillet (that can go in the oven) for this recipe to be successful. After trying it in a normal pan and kinda failing, I let go of that dream because I’m not very good at following through. I buried that dream deep where the light can’t reach! Until today, when I couldn’t resist the impulse and I prepared myself to fail once more. I wanted something that I can whip up in 10 min, drink my decaf latte with Bailey’s while I wait and then eat a delicious, warm, lush dessert that looks monstrous too. It was the perfect choice and this time, by the grace of the Hungry Gods, it did not fail. It kept rising ‘till it reached the sky! The oven “sky” that is.
Here’s the recipe. May it bring you joy.
Things and stuff:
1.A heavy glass baking dish (as in fat-bottomed not one that you necessarily have trouble lifting). Mine was square and 24 cm wide. It made for a very thick pancake, too thick for some people, so these quantities could make two smaller ones or you can use a slightly larger dish.
2. A whisk, a bowl.
For the pancake batter:
2 cups/480 ml milk (at room temperature!)
4 eggs (also at room temperature)
160 gr all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
For “pool of butter necessary to make the pancake”
115 gr butter
For “slather on top”
All to your heart’s desire, you decide the amounts of sweetness you need in your life today.
Step 1: Get your eggs and your milk outta the fridge and on your kitchen counter an hour before. They need to be room temperature. Both of them. Otherwise you will get a flat, sad dutch baby. If you forgot (and/or can’t wait) you can put the eggs in some hot water for a minute or so (not boiling!) and you can microwave the milk like 30 second. Make sure to stir it well if you do!
Step 2: Pre-heat your oven at 200 degrees Celsius/Gas mark 6
Step 3: Beat eggs.
Step 4: Add the flour and whisk it and whip it until you get a smooth consistency.
Step 5: Start adding the milk. First a small gulp, then when loose you can go crazy and pour it all in there.
Step 6: Lemon zest, vanilla, sugar.
I should mention I forgot to sugar mine, it was still fine. I am not a fan of overly sweet desserts and this way I got to drown it in maple syrup instead.
Step 7: Put your butter into the dish and get the dish in the oven. The purpose is to get the dish hot and the butter melted. Not brown, not burned, but proper melting and spitting fire.
Step 8: Take the dish out of the oven. Pour the batter mindfully in the middle. It’s gonna start forming a foundation. Don’t be afraid of the noise it will make. You’re adding something relatively cold to something burning hot, it’s normal.
Step 9: Carefully, place it back in the oven until the middle is custardy but set (like a pudding) and the edges are golden brown and puffed up out of control!
Mine was, as I mentioned, a very heavy, giant Dutch baby, so it needed about 40 min in the oven. If you are the mother of a regular sized one, it will need 25-30 min.
Step 10: Get it out, squeeze some lemon juice on it, make it rain with sugar, berries and maple sugar.
! If you get a puddle of butter in the middle of it, as I did (because I did not pour it calmly) do not worry. Just carefully drain it, being careful to hold the pancake a bit by the sides. You don’t want all of it to end up in the sink ;). It's way to purty for that!
! As I mentioned, the "proper" way asks that this pancake be less thick bottomed. I, on the other hand, enjoy fat butts and I cannot be persuaded to lie :D
! It may rise up higher than you expect it to. Mine looked like it was growing another one on top! Worry not (if that sort of thing worries you), it will slowly deflate.
That’s all, folks! I wish you happiness in the mouth (wink wink), the belly and your different-sized hearts. Muah!
That pretty much sums up everything, but I’m a “long story” kind of gal, so I’m gonna elaborate a bit.
There comes a time in one’s life when we start to observe what our mothers and us have in common. Then what our grandmothers, mothers and us have in common. Some are good things. The good skin, the nice hair, the short legs. Well, not all good. Then, behaviour-wise, you start to understand “where you got that from”. It is a frustrating process, I’ll tell ya’ that. It’s like looking in a fucked-up mirror.
I’m battling the exact same things I’m trying to change about myself and there they are, coming at me full blast straight from the source. Call it genetic, call it behaviour pattern, whatever. It’s a glimpse into the future, ‘cause those bad patterns evolve into worse go-to reactions if you let them. Inhale awareness, exhale “let go of that shit”. I wanna fix those things for myself in order to live my life with peace-of-mind and less worry. Seeing the same shit you do on another person, multiplied by a bajillion is a really good spin on the “try and see yourself from the outside” exercise. Wake up and smell the similarities! No, they don’t smell like roses.
I made a list in my mind of what I think causes them unhappiness and worry. Then I made another list with what I find particularly disturbing. Then I put my lists together and there they were, staring me in the face: people-pleaser, indecisive to the point of exhaustion, obsessing over things, not letting go, caring too much about others and not enough about yourself, always feeling the need to justify yourself, anxious, chaotic, worry-er, sufferer/victim of the “I didn't do enough” disease.
You may think it’s bad, I used to think the same thing until I wrote them down. I can work on all of these. I actually felt overwhelmed by gratitude instead of [insert negative feelings here] because my people are good people. Sure, they have their flaws, but who doesn’t? Most of all, I wish they wouldn’t be tormented by their flaws, not for my occasional sake, but for themselves. I wish I could have the patience - and the whatever wise-bone it takes - to help; to really inflict some change. I guess that’s my regret.
Oh, who am I kidding?! I have bags full of regrets hidden in my closet. The thing is I kinda decided to throw them all in the river. When my dad died I made a list of all my regrets regarding him. After it was all laid down it felt like a cold fire was burning in my gut and there was nothing I could do. Nothing I would do would matter. Still, there they were, all written down… I wanted to say that it felt like I notched them on my skin with a blunt blade but that’s a bit overly dramatic and it would mean that it was hard. It wasn’t. It was easy, the easiest thing; and that is a different kind of pain altogether. Regrets poured out of me like water from the sky - a raging summer rain that hit the hot asphalt with a thud. I spit them out in a fury and then… then I was left empty but burdened.
Regret feels like you’ve got slime running through your veins instead of blood, and boy, does it run slow…
I could’ve choked on them and died right then and there or I could let them live in my flesh and poison me bit by bit. Ooor, I could come to terms with it. Because at the end of the day I did what I could do with what I had in that moment in my life. My capacity to accept, to give, to recognise, to face, to admit… Defence mechanisms make us act in silly, unfair ways sometimes because their only purpose is to “defend” us and that’s all they know. No point in blaming myself now, but I still do it either way. Every now and again a regret would a appear like a freckle after sunburn. I acknowledge it and I say to it what I said to you. “You did the best you could have done with what you had in that moment.” Then it goes away. Until the next sunburn. It’s ok, though, I live in Ireland, you don’t see many of those around here.
I always learn a lot about myself while back home. This time was no exception - in fact it was probably the most fruitful trip of them all. The biggest life lesson I’ve uncovered was due to Oscar, our forever flea-ridden, bat-eared cat. From the day he came into that house he had been covered in fleas from ear to claw and it was only getting worse. Because he was so small, we couldn’t apply the magic phial that promises to vanish all fleas from the land. He had to weigh 1 kg and he wasn’t there yet, so until we managed to get him fat we applied the old school disinfestation method. Special shampoo, regular water and you soap and you rinse ‘till you’re blue in the face and the cat hates you. Theeeen you use your hands to kill the ones that are still alive roaming the furry streets of that unfortunate lil’ cat. I did just that. Many, many times. Whenever I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the fleanfestation, the fuckers kept coming back stronger, faster and with extra baggage. They brought their flea cousins and their flea aunts and uncles, their flea friends and their flea pets! As a result, I was losing my mind. It deemed everything useless: my hardship and the poor cat’s suffering! It’s one of the five most frustrating feelings in the world!
This next chapter is called: What I learned about myself while de-fleeing my cat.
Lesson One. When chasing fleas I stumbled upon the “grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome more than once. If that is not clear enough try this: the flea equivalent to “A bird in the hand is worth three in the bush”. Almost every time I had a regular-sized flea in my hands ready to begin operation “off with his heeeeeaaaad!” a Mr. Big of the fleas would casually walk by mocking me! I felt like a fool, like a fool, I tell ya’! Here I am wasting time on this nobody when I could have the Bugsy Malone of Fleas! So I’d abandon the small one and go after the big one. I rarely caught the big one and almost always lost the small one. Don’t go chasin’ after bigger fleas, kids! It ruins your focus and you won’t like what it says about you as a person. Finish the flea you started and then move on. That’s integrity.
Also, there is no such thing as “one flea to rule them all”; it’s a myth. They’re all equal fleas in the eyes of the Lord.
The conclusion is I go through life the same way I de-flea cats. I’m confused, I hate making choices, when rushed I often make stupid ones, I get overwhelmed and I always think it’s not enough. There is also, that rare moment when everything seems to slow down; I’m waltzing through the fleas, I’m popping them like it’s hot, suddenly I’m Snoop Dog, cool and in control.
Lesson Two. Be more like Snoop.
Lesson Three. After a while, the cat got fat, the magic potion was applied by a vet and we got strict instructions to do nothing. All we could do was wait for the fleas to abandon the kitty-ship. It was out of my hands, I could be liberated, right? Wrong.
One night, while I was chilling in bed the cat came to do cat things. I started petting him, he started to purr, I started seeing fleas, he kept on purring, I wanted to ignore the fleas, he continued purring. Then a black fog clouded my judgement and the next thing I know I’m hunched over him, tense and weird, holding him still while I killed, killed, killed once more. My thirst for blood was even bigger than that of the fleas.
I realized I had turned a nice, cosy, very cat-like moment into torture. I looked at Oscar and I felt terrible. He was disappointed and he had every right to be.
The lesson here is to focus on the big picture not on the many tiny black spots that roam all over it. To see the cat beyond the fleas. Otherwise, you tend to completely miss a perfectly good cat because you can’t keep your focus on what’s really important. Fleas come and go, but the cat is always there. The way I looked at him was the way I look at life: I let the fleas ruin the cat. I allow the little things that bug me grow blacker and bigger until I forget there was even a cat in the first place. That was a real wake up call. Thank you, Oscar and thank you fleas.
My love for markets is well known among friends, people that accidentally read this and strangers whom I tell randomly. Luckily, I am not alone in this.
My friend and I have always discussed our mutual fondness but we never truly realized the extent of it. Well, until this one particular moment.
The set: a japanese restaurant in Dublin. The time: afternoon, hammer time, doesn’t matter. We were, as I recall, having a completely normal conversation that somehow led to a “Oh, the market!” (long sigh). We weren’t saying anything special, merely poking at a soft spot. Apparently, that soft spot was much softer than we thought it was because we had tears in our eyes! Our voices were trembling and there were definitely water works! On both fronts! We rapidly went from crying to laughing because it was ridiculous ! We had no idea what caused it, but it just seemed that we had an overflowing amount of love for the farmers market. Months passed and somewhere inside remained the question. Why? Why the excessive tenderness? A month in Bacau and I finally understood.
I was a market child and remain faithful to this day. I remember looking up at the stalls,just like being at the foot of a mountain gazing at the top and feeling very small and very far away. My tiny hand was in my dad’s big, puffy, soft hand. At times it was in granddad's big, puffy-but-not-soft hand. His felt different - it was as if a thin layer of fine sandpaper covered the surface of his skin, and he had deeper valleys and rougher mountain peaks. It gave me a different kind of grip. In my dad’s hand, my hand would get warm and pink and his flesh and my flesh would stick together the way melted cheese sticks to soft bread. With grandpa it was more like cream cheese hanging onto toasted bread.
They seemed to know everybody and everybody seemed to know them. We’d always stay for a talk and a taste even if we weren’t planning on buying what they were selling. I’d be “downstairs” surrounded by legs: legs in pants, legs in skirts, spaghetti-legs, sausage-legs, legs in motion, slow, fast, wobbly; legs, legs, legs as far as the eye could see! A whiff of freshly baked bread would make its way through the crowded leg parade, tickle my nose, warm the inside of my nostrils, making me impatient. Then I’d get a small bribe in the form of cheese or cherries or anything that could momentarily shut me up. All I could think of was “Mmm, this would go well with that bread I’m smelling!”
When we’d eventually get to the bakery, I’d be overwhelmed by all the choices but then my dad would ask the magic question: “What’s the hottest bread you have?” and just like that, all the others ceased to exist. May the steaming hot bread warm your hands and your guts and your heart.
On our way out of the market area, we’d enter one last place: “Agricola” - the meat place. Mostly known for its chicken but our bread demanded something else: good old-fashioned pork pastrami. All of that became a ritual that withstood the passing of time. It’s like a natural map that’s engraved within us, the ones that once held the same hands and walked the same roads.
You see, my hand grew in my father’s hand (though it never outgrew it), my grandpa’s hand disappeared, my dad stopped going to the market (or anywhere else for that matter). Seems like everything’s changed but the pastrami lady is still there, the bakery keeps baking the same breads, the watermelons are always sold in the stalls in front of the market and we never stopped asking “What’s the hottest bread you have?”
Now I look at the stalls from above: I’m on top of the mountain, baby! Who thought I’d miss the leg parade at the bottom when I can finally look the peaches right in the face?!
Little boys and girls should always take trips to the market, for the market is a magical land with tiny mountains of tomatoes, beans and other types of beans.
Every stall is like a new ride, with new smells and new joys. Lavender, linden flower, peppers, melons - you name it, they probably have it!
Apart from my own personal connection with the market and all the significance I find there, there’s another very simple explanation that came to me while I was talking to a farmer/vendor about the herbs she was selling and I asked about green beans (as one does). She said something about her crop being late this summer because it’s a slightly different type. It hit me then and there! It’s all about connection! This woman plants every carrot, every parsley, every potato! She gets on her hands and knees, she tends, she cares, she reaps what she sows and then she comes to the market with soil underneath her nails and she sells. It’s a labour of love! It’s a chain of care that gets broken in supermarkets where it becomes cold and impersonal. Not to mention the fact that most of the time they taste like nothingness with a hint of perfume. Markets are real jewels and we should treasure them and have them everywhere! It’s one of the things I miss the most from back home.
Plus, think about it: there is something profoundly moving in the whole act. Planting a seed, putting in the work and the patience and watching it grow into something. Isn’t that what we all do or what we strive for? It comes in a milion shapes but it’s ultimately the same thing. We forget that and it’s such a basic human trait. At the end of the day, it’s all love.
That’s that, I’ve now fully clarified my teary reaction. If you still think I’m a weirdo, that’s fine.
All that time spent in the outdoors in times of sizzling heat is enough to drive one into a delirious state. That’s why we went back to our one and only saviour: the mall. Well, that, plus I did have a bad case of “Girl interrupted” meets “Titanic”, if you would please remember; that needed to be re-addressed. One does not simply give up.
This time, I took my sister with me, I grabbed the biggest size H&M can provide in a boobholder and I went to the dressing-room to non-metaphorically try that on for size. It looked hot but I thought a bigger size would fit me better. A bigger size would be wiser, I wouldn’t risk the dreaded strap marks and the discomfort. I convinced myself that it was not a good idea. Sure, it looked good, but was it gonna feel good in the long run? I also thought that I may not be thinking clearly because I was obviously infatuated, I couldn’t distinguish right from wrong anymore. This was a fruity cocktail of high expectations, fear and self doubt topped with a crazy straw. I had to get out of there. I convinced myself that I did the right thing, I’ve grown, I’ve become a smarter shopper. I buy wisely now, I do not get swept away by beauty, I need functionality, dammit! Somewhere, far away you may hear “bullshit” echoing calmly and rolling down the hills all the way into the city.
What better way to take your mind off a crush then by going to a sausage fest? Literally.
Also known as “Hramul Bacaului”, a festival/fair/annual fete that we use as an excuse to stuff our faces with fried, grilled or sweet stuff in the name of Petru (aka Peter) and Pavel (aka...Pavel?). Yes, the apostles, they got this gig years ago and they’ve been our town’s patrons for as long as I can remember. Every summer we throw a party in their name, eat, get shit-faced and listen to traditional music.
We went there in the daytime, before the madness begins and everybody and their mother joins the fun. We went like ladies, ate like pigs. Look for yourself:
We washed that with a cheap beer, took some old-fashioned digestive pills to help with all the grease and the low quality meat. Then, we had this beauty:
Known as chimney cake to the english speaking world, this is a thing of joy.
“Kürtőskalács (Hungarian pronunciation: [kyrtøːʃkɒlaːtʃ]), sometimes transliterated kurtosh kalach) is a spit cake specific to Hungarian-speaking regions in Romania.” Thank you Wikipedia for your dry but useful input. Now let’s talk about what really matters. “What is it made of?” the choir of drooling children asks.
Well, children, it’s made of a sweet, yeast dough that’s left to raise. Then it’s rolled and cut into one big circular strip that is then wrapped around a cone-shaped baking spit. They rock&roll that in granulated sugar and then roast it over charcoal. I hear some defy all the rules of common sense and baste it with melted butter while it’s spinning round and round over the hot ashes! Now, those are the people I’d like to hang out with, because they know how to party!
After it’s achieved that coveted golden brown color and the sugar caramelized into a glossy, crispy crust, chopped walnuts rain all over it until it can bear no more! They also do cinnamon, coconut or plain, but for this gal walnuts hit the spot. You walk and eat, eat and walk and wish you could have access to this 24/7. Everyday would be a feast. As reality crudely wakes me up from my cake fantasy, I realize I’m craving these badly. I have to stop talking about them right now or I’ll die in a pool of my own drool. Not a pretty way to go.
Next on my list of “small town fair” gems are the roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Normally, you see these in stores, packed up and everything. Back when I was a kid, my grandma used to buy them from the market and roast them herself or we’d encounter such “establishments” that catered to our needs:
When I stumbled upon this, I almost lost my marbles ! This is my version of “like a kid in a candy store”! If you’re one of those people who are thinking about hygiene and other such irrelevant things, I can’t help you. This act is clearly performed and enjoyed by romantics only. To have those unknown chubby hands pour me some home-roasted seeds was a thing of joy. I’m a sucker for the simple things, can’t blame a girl for that. You can judge, but you can’t blame!
The one thing that tops this experience is eating the seeds directly from the majestic sunflower. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have sunflowers in my garden, so I’d get them right from the source at times. I ate a lot of unwashed carrots, raw grapes, green prunes and I must admit I ate cabbage with my face more than one time. If you can motorboat something, why wouldn’t you?
Seeds in our pockets, sausage in our bellies and kurtos kalac in our mouths we strolled down Bacau’s city centre and it was quite pleasurable.
The second day I was starting to suffer the consequences of my sausage party actions. Irritable bowel syndrome is like a monster that lays nice and latent in a cave until a bunch of stupid peasants with torches wake the beast and then all hell breaks loose. To top this off, this was shopping day for grandma, with grandma. Another latent monster that wakes up when poked.
Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be? I know, I’ll begin with the weather. Surprise: it was still as hot as Satan’s dorm-room, so we decided to get an early start, you know, to avoid the “Burnt by the sun” hours. This leads us to our next point. Time of the day: morning. State of mind: relatively grumpy, because it was relatively morning. State of bowels: irritated. Mission: get grandma some presentable, “classy lady” type summer clothes that lack the crazy prints that she’s used to hypnotize us for the last decade. Grandma state of mind: stubborn. Aunt’s state of mind: persistent. Sounds like a recipe for insanity-topped nachos. Mmmm… nachos.
In the course of 15 long minutes grandma has managed to dismiss anything my aunt suggested. I gave it a try, one almost made it but then it got thrown out of the competition at the last moment. We went to the next store that I’ll later remember as the “Who knew I could lose my patience so fast?” store. Other 4 or 5 other stores followed. Nothing could please the woman! It was either too short, too tight, only came in “dead people colours”, too simple, too revealing, too expensive! You name it, she probably used it as an excuse! It was like the geriatric version of Goldilocks and the 3 freakin’ bears!
After a while, (a half an hour or years) we admitted defeat and we let grams lead us to her usual place of business: “Piata Mare” aka The Big Market aka the bazaar. Here, the sun was loose and we had no place to hide! Suddenly “patience” seemed to be the hardest word. You might hope that changing the background of the story may change the course of the story or the main character’s behaviour. It did not. It changed mine, though. Add sun to injury and I’m done. I went looking for a pharmacy ‘cause I needed some outside help. Sometimes inner-power means shit when you’ve had too much cheese and questionable meat. Fortunately, I found the drugstore fairy and she hooked me up! Relaaaax, I had a prescription and everything, no funny business. Now that I had my bag full of goodies, all I had to do was eat, take the pills and repeat until the evil spirits are banished.
I return to the “shopping” area only to find my grandma basically in the same place having the same dilemma she had before I left. It’s like time stood still and I don’t mean that in a good way! We left empty-handed, grandma couldn’t decide. She said “never mind, I’ll come back another day”. That being said, we headed to the fruits and veggies part of the market where I got to be the weird one that stares at the produce and lingers. Then I bought all the honey I could carry and all the cherries I hoped to be able to eat without consequences. The light at the end of my tunnel was this pastry/bakery shop that I’ve always loved. I couldn’t wait to eat some of their stuff and risk some of those dreaded repercussions. Sometimes, a girl just has to give into temptation. After all, she’s leaving town soon and life’s for impulsive decisions and either immediate or long term regrets. I was sweating from the sun and drooling in anticipation! I was reaching the finish line - so close I could smell the cheese pies! - when my grandma stops and says “Maybe I should’ve gotten that skirt, you know, the white and black one. I mean, I do need a skirt…” My heart fell into my pelvis, freaked out and ran back up again! I felt dizzy and dangerous. I definitely shouldn’t be around when complex decisions are being made very slowly and painfully. No, I should be locked up in a place that’s out of the sun, filled with food to distract me and calm my murderous instincts. In this rare moment of lucidity I suggested they go, do what they had to do, I’ll be in the bakery, stuffing my face with pies and pills, my two best friends. I made such a good case for P&P, that they decided to join me for a quick bite and then go back with some new-found joie de vivre aka belly full of hot pockets.
Imma make this long story short and simple: I ate every kind of cheese pies/pillows/hot pockets they had. First the salty one known as The Merdenea.
Second, the sweet cheese pie with the yeasty soft dough, the star, the one and only : Poale-n brau. Branzoiace. If I had to translate it to English - and it appears I have to - I’d call it The Big Cheese, because it is!
Mot à mot it means “hem in waist”. If you would lift the very bottom part of your skirt (long skirt) to your waist line you would get something that resembles the shape of these pies. I like to imagine that country girls carried the pies in the fold of their skirt delivering them hot from the oven to the ones working the field. That way, the pies would stay nice and warm, the women’s thighs wouldn’t get burned and it would totally create a pie-ception. They wouldn’t think of that, though. They’d think the men must be fed. In my mind that sounds at least slightly heroic. Plus, I think it could be kind of hot.
I thought I was done but then they got some brand new beauties straight outta the oven. “Grab us while we’re hot” I heard them whisper, the dusty sugar on their surface jumping off in slow motion. They looked like puffed up pillows of joy and I cannot deny myself joy.
Flaky layered perfection with a sweet cheese core. Mamma, may I?! But I didn’t wait for permission, I followed my nose on this one. That was one cheesy day to remember!
A couple of days passed, my aunt flew back to Italy, my sister went to the seaside and basically “then they were three”. We went back to my grandma’s house, ate some leftovers and watched some hip turkish soap-opera that all moms and grandmas watch. Then one of us fell asleep and ruined the crazy party, so we called it a day.
Next day: what could a mother and daughter do on a “mother-daughter day”? Well, I’ll tell ya’! We ate some ice cream, visited some other grandmas, had some fried chicken and oh yeah! we bought some bras.
Oooh, but I did. We somehow ended up in the H&M because sale season is evil and we are weak of spirit. Once in there, I heard The Call Of The Bra even stronger. Like Frodo, I tried my best to resist it but it was much too powerful. There it was, the last one in my size. I realized in that moment that I’ve never tried so hard to buy something in my life. It feels like I went on dates with this bra, auditioning it for marriage or something. It was clear by this point that floods and logic will not keep us apart. It was meant to be. I tried it on and I finally gave in. It was mine. I can’t explain why it felt right now, and wrong before. Maybe it was just my ever-doubting nature that prevented me from seeing the truth or maybe sometimes it needs to feel wrong for us to recognize when it does feel right.
If it would be socially acceptable, I would wear this bra as a top or at least with a lot of opened buttons so that it can see the world. Unfortunately, I would be considered an attention-seeking slut. The world is simply not ready for a fairly bosomy girl and her bra to walk freely down the street. I’d like to say that it’s fine and I’ll wait patiently, but sadly, life has an expiration date and gravity is a bitch.
The day before the last day we ate at my grandma’s place. I had spoken to her on the phone and told her not worry about dessert because I wanted to get back to that pastry place and get me some goodies. She verbally nodded and we had ourselves a deal.
Later, we found ourselves waiting for her in front of the building ‘cause she hadn’t come home yet and we had no key. Silly grandma got distracted while running errands and forgot that time flies even if you’re not having impressive amounts of fun.
I can’t for the life of me remember what we had for dinner that time! I think we just had ciorba and we agreed that I would buy merdenele (the salty cheese pies) from the same place.
I do remember exactly what we had for dessert, though. Its name: Trigon cu nuca aka Walnut Triangle. Filo pastry, buttered and layered, generously filled with a mystery walnut mixture and then folded in a triangle shape. I’ve never been a fan of geometry but if they would’ve used tastier triangles, I bet I’d be a groupie.
When the time came to get these babies out of the bag, grandma inquired what what is that I got from “Gio” (the name of the bakery). I told, I showed, she laughed, I was intrigued. She gets out of the room and comes back with a bag of her own. She says “Look inside!” half guilty, half mischievous. It was as if I was looking in the same bag, because somehow she managed to replicate this! It was a very “Jesus turn water into wine” moment for me. “How did you do this?” I asked, bewildered. She then proceeds to tell me that she thought I might not make it there and she was in the city so she bought some herself. “I didn’t know what you wanted, but I picked these up and hoped for the best.” Either grandma is a mind reader or the Universe sometime does like me and rewards me with double the amount of walnut pastry treats. Well played, Universe, well played. I accept your offerings and stuff my face with them. Cheers!
On my last day, I packed my bag, then I went to the market and did something I’ve never done before. I bought green beans, cherries and sour cherries, apricots, urda, cas (romanian cheeses), lovage, tarragon.
I put them all in my luggage and hoped for the best. I didn’t have enough. Not enough time, not enough cherries and peaches and watermelons, not enough mom time and sister time, not enough friends fun, not enough and yet too much. It was time to go back to my home, my cat, my bed, my other struggles. The things I could cram in my luggage, I did. The others I’ll have to take with me in another way, but boy, how I wish they made luggages for that too.
As I was getting on the plane, the sun was setting. How poetic, how meaningful, how wonderfully freakin’ sad. Goodbye it is.
Landed in Dublin, the nippy air woke me up and brought me back to my senses (whatever that means). I was now really excited, wanted to get home as fast as I could!
The same Universe that made Walnut Triangle happen also made this happen(?)I Got back home after almost an hour cab ride because my driver was so old that he literally forgot where I was going, got confused twice. My phone was acting up, so I couldn’t call anyone and no one could call me and I couldn’t freaking access a map to guide the mole man in these dark,confusing times we were going through! We eventually made it and I guess that’s what really matters. I hope he made it too. As I closed the door and waved goodbye I got to thinking...What if he doesn’t remember where he’s supposed to go next? I’m not entirely sure he knew his own address,poor sweet ol’ muffin of a man! But hey, if he made it to a place he didn’t know, I trust his nose led him back to his molehill.
Me and my bra were doing great! We became inseparable, I couldn’t imagine a time when I thought we wouldn’t be a great fit. Now I had only one regret and that regret was that I only had one bra. See what I did there? With the “only” and the “one” and the “regret”? No? Let’s move on. Why didn’t I buy another one? I need a spare one! Wear and tear is real, people and it affects the lives of bras everywhere!
It turns out my obsession was not yet over, the fire of lunacy burns wild inside this one! What I did was hope with all my boobs and soul that they would have the same collection in Dublin, on stock, my size! After a couple of failed attempts at H&Ms that did not have a lenjerie departament (wtf?) I went to the H&M location that had the most floors, I climbed aaaaall the stairs and voila! There, closer to the skies I found them. Again! What’s that? Half price?!
It’s a regular day miracle! What happened next is most expected. Why buy one backup when you can buy two? If anyone is struggling to do the bra-math, that’s a total of 3. I have 3 bras and no regrets.
Lately I’ve really been craving some Romanian food, which doesn’t happen very often. I am overwhelmed by the desire to make my own zacusca and many other traditional gems. The mother land is caaalling and I must respond ! That train of thought got me to this episode because this one is mostly about the wonder of food and markets and seasonal love! It’s also about bras and silliness, so if you’re my kind of person this should excite you too! Boy, I am loose on the exclamation points today!
Listen, if The Red Bra Odyssey would only be about bras it would still make a decent story. But it’s about what the red bra represents; what I learned from the bra about myself. How I choose, why I choose what I choose and what does it all mean?! It’s all about growth and self-love. It’s about perception and how tricky it can be. It’s about the Universe and its mischievous comedic timing. Or maybe this is all a devious ploy to get you hooked. Who knows? You will, at the very end. In order to end something we must first begin. Here it goes, chronologically:
Bucharest, the second week. Yes, I am perfectly aware I talked about that week here, I still have most of my memory marbles, don’t worry. What I did not share is the classic girl-bra love story. It was love at first sight really, all it took was a glance and then a red, fiery spark lit up in my heart. There it was, this ruby red, lacey, balconette beauty in all her shapeliness. I tried to stay away but I couldn’t. Like a mermaid song it called out to me and bewitched I followed. I looked, I touched, I checked the price. “No, I’m not supposed to! I don’t have money to spend on bras that I like but don’t need! I have other bras! Yes, think of all the other bras waiting for you at home. You can’t do this to them, it’s the ultimate betrayal. Imagine the looks on their cups when they see you bringing home an intruder, a fierce, hot “other” that they won’t be able to compete with! It will destroy them and nothing will ever be the same again!”
So, I listened… to one of the craziest voices in my head so far, and I walked away knowing all the while that I will be haunted by her. Because ladies, bras like that are not easy to forget.
A couple of meals, Uber rides and sleepless nights later, fate pulled a sneaky on me and I ended up in another H&M facing the red menace once again. This time, I caved. I grabbed one and rushed to try it on. The line was so long I thought I had gained a “multiply” ability… My friend looked at me with that disapproving look that states the obvious. You know, that “you must be shitting me” look. How desperate are you? I looked at the bra, I looked at the line. Then I turned to my friend. Then back to the bra. Then a spiteful long gaze to the bloody long line. God dammit! Now I almost understand communism! I rolled my eyes, discarded the bra, got over the heartache and walked out of there. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.
The same day I got back to Bacau my aunt landed from Italy. Since that moment, it appears that what we mostly did was shop and eat then die of heat, resurrect, eat some more aaaand repeat.
I’ll start by sharing with you some of my personal favorites from back home. One of them is this lil’ piece of chocolatey ass right here:
Two regular biscuits dressed in chocolate united by marshmallow gooeyness. If that’s not the definition of love, I don’t know what is! I used to get boxes of this stuff when I was a kid! My drunk uncle used to send them from Turkey, one of the few really good things he ever did! Hey, I can’t speak for the other members of my family, but it was definitely easier for me to forgive and forget. You know, on account of being covered in biscuit-marshmallow treats. So, I’m a mallow whore! Well, I guess it’s never too late to learn something new about yourself.
Next on the list is something I know you’re gonna severely judge me for but I choose to put it out there anyway because I’m stayin’ true to sins, bitches!
Yup, you guessed it right. It’s the the infamous “Pizza de la Inter” which is basically the pizza from a place called Intermeridian. We abbreviate because it’s cool and we’re lazy. I’ve talked about this creature before. It’s probably the worst pizza out there if I were to be objective, but I’m not. I’m a nostalgique being that modifies reality in order to re-live moments that were happy in the past (when young, foolish and carefree).
This is the cheapest and the oldest pizza in town and a lot of us used to go there hence the memories. It has a bready soft dough, the most ordinary ketchup sauce(no real tomatoes were harmed in the process), the cheapest salami on the market and a basic bitch type of cheese. I know, it sounds heavenly and I’m the best sales girl for the job! Nevertheless, every time I’m home I crave, eat and enjoy it. It’s one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
Something else I like to stuff my face with is KFC. Because the KFC in Dublin sucks ass. Not only do they completely lack the precious garlic sauce but the chicken is simply bad and not at all trustworthy.
Now let’s get back to the turks! And by that I mean the Turkish Company that makes the best chocolate filled biscuits out there, the marshmallow treat of my childhood aaand a puff pastry concoction resembling mille-feuille filled with chocolate love! I am of course talking about Ulker. Is it weird that I go to Romania to binge on Turkish treats? Might be but it’s a sweet sweet deal! Look at this baby:
And it really tastes better that it looks, the turks know where it’s at!
One of the greatest loves of my life is salata de vinete aka aubergine spread. It all begins with a lovely black and soft-to-the-touch aubergine. You roast that black baby on a hot grill, open fire or if you have to, in the oven. You twist and turn it until its skin is all burned and nasty lookin’. Don’t you worry, the nastier the outside the sweeter the inside. After they’ve been peeled and spruced you’re gonna let them weep some aubergine tears for their fallen compadres. Then, when they’re all cried out start mincing. You mince and you mince and you mince until creamy and spreadable. Move to a bowl and bring Captain Sunflower Oil into action. Gulp by gulp you’re gonna incorporate and stir and work that in there with sturdy love. You’re done when it’s light in colour, shiny and full of herself. Season with salt and pepper. Chop onion, rub with salt and squeeze. Add it to your bowl of voluptuousness and mix well. You may add mayo. Eat on crusty bread with fresh, summer tomatoes. This is a midsummer’s night dream. Suck it, Shakespeare!
Now, what you see in the back there are merely cheese balls though they do look like an army of well organized golden puffs. See what you wanna see. I’m talking gooey cheese interior with a crispy outside. Need I say more? No, I needn’t.
Last but that least, I give you The Almighty Papanas:
This is basically a giant cheese donut topped with a small cheese donut. Donutception! Cheese on the inside, sour cream and jam of choice on the outside. It’s fluffy, it’s moist, it’s smothered in sweet and sour love that’s hastily dripping everywhere. Borderline cheeky, is what it is!
Time for some of Grandma’s Treats. First, Compot De Visine aka sour cherry compote.
This, my darlings, is the nectar of the gods. Homemade and cold to save your ass in those hot summer days that I’ve been complaining about. This was a tradition ever since I can remember and good traditions stick with you for a reason.
Second, my grandma’s scrambled eggs with loads of onion and dill. I have never had better eggs. Ever. I am of course subjective. Food experiences always are, read A Cook’s Tour and listen to Anthony Bourdain, the man speaks the truth.
When I got back to Dublin, I craved this and I tried to recreate it. It was good, but not as good. It was too “thought out”. The beauty of these eggs is that my grandma doesn’t know that she knows what she’s doing. You know what I mean? It’s a bit of a head scratcher but bear with me. She’s not exceedingly careful to avoid overcooking it or undercooking it or stirring too much or not enough. She does this organically, the only way she knows how and it comes out perfect every time. Me, I over think (as I do in life) and I ruin the spirit of these scrambled eggs. It’s too deliberate, so it just won’t be the same. It can’t be, because I am trying to replicate something that she does organically. I just have to learn to live with it.
Next, we have the humble summer ciorba. The summer version of a ciorba replaces the meat with green stuff. It’s light, nourishing and this one has a hard boiled egg in it! Countryside style, babeh!
After quite a few afternoons spent eating in our bras and undies while sweating away, we decided to search for refuge in one of those man built places that worship the devil called the mall. Oh, boy! Air conditioning AND Kentucky Fried Chicken? What more can a girl with really low expectations ask for?!
After a long day of mostly shopping for other people - because in truth I had no “need” to shop, just a burning desire. My desire was a red-coloured, lacey boob-holder. So, finally, at the end of it all, we headed on over to H&M. After browsing for quite a while, I decided it was high time to try that bad boy. As every good girl that’s about to do something slightly wicked, I had to have my mom with me. I get in, try on a pair of jeans and a top in the idea that I’m saving the best for last. As I finally start putting on the bra an alarm goes off and an agitated voice starts announcing that there is an emergency situation and that the store is closing. I’m thinking “Ok… weird but you know, lemme put this on properly for a second, then take it off, put clothes on and THEN get out”. The voice (as if knowing what my view on the situation was) got back on the horse, more annoyed and with an even more obvious sense of urgency in her nasally voice. I was standing there in my undies, boobs hanging about, desperately trying to either get that bra on or off. You might be thinking “how hard is it to get a bra on? Or off for that matter?”. Hey, no boobs, no opinion! And for those of you with boobs and opinions that still have no sympathy for the naked damsel in distress, I’ll say this: This was no ordinary bra. It had a thicker band, so 5 instead of 3 hooks and eyes to match! Let’s not forget the addition of the stupid security lump! Who designed those bitchy, poke-you-in-the-ribs things anyway? “Oh, I know! Let’s make them in the shape of the world’s smallest boob! That’s cold and perky!” It even has a nipple! Perverts! So there I was, in my undies, with my 3 boobs, some hanging, some poking me viciosly, trapped in a bra!
Cause that’s just exactly what I needed, an extra hump to deal with while a panicked woman screams at me to get out on the soundtrack of an on and off alarm!
My mum kept pulling the curtain open to ask if I needed help, essentially letting the world see my boobs, ass, soft but charming stomach and of course, the last smidgen of my self respect. All in all, a very proud moment for me. Don’t you worry there honey-child, I’ve had worse.
After I’ve managed to put clothes on, we finally did what the bloody voice kept telling us to do: we got out. Ok, where’s the fire? What’s causing this frenzy?
Apparently, while we were obliviously shopping, the skies turned black and the Gods got angry so they sent us that crazy water from the sky that we call rain. They did a very good job, they sent a lot of it in a very short time. Good job, guys! Now the villagers can panic and run around like headless chickens. Everybody got their mops and their buckets out because the mall was kinda’ flooding. We, the villagers that were not employed by the mall, were banned from the mall and condemned to spend eternity outside the mall, desperately hailing for cabs in the pouring rain or waiting for loved ones with vehicles on wheels to come pick us up. We were fortunate enough to be in the second category. My sister and her boyfriend were bravely surfing the waters, by car, to come get us. The time spent under the tarp mall thingie was like being in a bucket of sardines. Too many stranger sardines all huddled up together against their will, stinky, bothered and confused. Some sardines had to smoke, of course. So, all of us ended up smoking. You know, cause we just insisted on breathing and that was the only air available. It felt like being at the circus and at the pound at the same time. You would see cars pulling over and families wagging their tails, happy that they’ve been chosen and they get to prance out of there and have a home again. The rest of us would be sad but hopeful that the next car that pulls over will be our car and we’ll be free at last!
Then the circus came to the mall with classic numbers that we all know and love. The first one was a comedic bit also known as ”How to troll your child in the rain”. This car started to pull over and a mother and her daughter ventured into the rain, eager to get inside the car. Got there, the car moved a little further. They moved forward too. But then, out of the blue, the car moved back again. And then forward again and then back a again. This guy was going for the full-blown-anal parking while his wife and daughter were getting soaking wet. The kid was so frustrated she started crying and I could see murder in the mom’s eyes. I don’t blame her. I would’ve drowned the bastard. See? Classic comedy.
By the time our ride got there the rain had stopped, so we were far less ridiculous than all the other villagers. Typical small town smugness. Worry not, we joined the masses in suffering once we got the boat on the road. Yeah, I know what I said. It was something like this:
It’s a miracle no water got in the car. I wonder if that’s how Noah felt when his ark made it out alright. It wasn’t all that easy. After an hour of going around in circles, we had to stop somewhere cause you know, good luck is bound to run out. The only place we found was a spot that was… how do I say this? Uhm, not devoid of water. The ladies got out in the middle of the street, where no puddles reign, so we managed to stay dry. The driver, unfortunately had to get down and dirty. After contemplating our options, we decided to leave the car there, go eat someplace until the situation calms the fuck down and we can safely return home. Of course leaving the car there was risky. Trees might fall on it (cause, yeah, that happened to some cars), the water could claim it or, at the very least, glue sniffers might steal the license plate for their crazy license plate collection. Let’s just say a plethora of things could go wrong - and let’s say it in that fancy way, cause I’ve always wanted to used that word.
We promised tribute to the Gods of rain and left. We found shelter in an Italian-Chinese restaurant. No, no you didn’t read it wrong though that doesn’t make it right, now does it? - but hey, it was close to the car, it was nice looking and we had low expectations. We ordered from both the Italian menu and the Chinese one and to our surprise, they were actually decent! Well smack my ass and call me Melman! (phrase used to express disbelief, you may replace the name to suit your needs)
After two hours we left the Italian-Chinese hybrid restaurant and we sheepishly headed towards the car. The town was in disarray, stray dogs were roaming the streets (even more than usual), the water uprooted some things, brought along some junk that no one asked for, killed some mice/rats and just left them there, etc. Fortunately, the car was safe and sound and so were we.
This is long overdo but I couldn’t bear to do it sooner. I had a dream about you last night. You were dying, then you were dead, then you were alive again, then I was saying goodbye to you while another you interrupted me from the other corner of the room and I screamed at you to let me finish saying goodbye to you. You were wearing that burgundy sweatshirt that I took from home after you died. In the coffin you were dressed like Pavarotti. Black suit, white shirt and you had a red carnation pinned in your chest. You looked like you were ready to perform but you were ready to die.
I don’t miss you everyday cause I don’t let myself think about you. When you pop into my thoughts, I do my best to not sink into it. I banish you and I’m sorry but I can’t seem to have it any other way. If I remember you then I have to think about you and if I think about you I draw your face in my mind, your hands, the way you walked, the things you used to say. The past week I’m haunted by two moments, two goodbyes. The first one is when I moved to Bucharest and the second is when I left for Ireland. You remember.
I packed my bags and said goodbye to everyone back home. You were playing at the restaurant in the park that day. I got in the cab and I stopped by before going to the train station to say goodbye to you. You were waiting in the back, smoking. I got out and I hugged you and kissed you and you were doing your best to hold back your tears, as was I. I don’t know if you know, but it was hard for me too. I didn’t cry in front of it but I did cry. I always cried when saying goodbye to you but I never let you see me.
When I left for Ireland you were sitting at the edge of the bed, your belly overflowing, your head down, your eyes more green than their usual brown. I saw the top of your head, your hair gray and thinning, your big hands holding each other and your lip. That lower, pink lip that seemed bigger than usual, was quivering despite all your efforts of stopping it. Tears were pouring down your soft cheeks and you looked like a tree - all your branches were heavy with sadness. I hugged you and kissed your wet cheeks and pretended everything was gonna be ok and that it’s not a big deal. You were too sick to get out of the house those days, you were getting dizzy and it was hard for you to walk so you didn’t take me to the airport. I remember the dogs being outside, all 6 of them and before we left you asked mom to at least let one of them in. It broke my heart. I felt how lonely you felt and it broke my heart. It stays broken to this day, it’s ripped to pieces right there in the left corner and I can’t fix it cause I’m a lousy sower.
I don’t know what hurts the most. The image of you on your dying bed, helpless and hurting, just like you never wanted to be or you at your best, your most loving, your most cheerful and knowing that I will never be in the presence of that again. Ever. Choosing has never been my strong point.
I anticipated that coming home for the one year requiem would be a nightmare. I expected every day to be reminded by what happened a year ago on the same day. I expected to crumble like pastry but I didn’t. I didn’t feel much, because I always put my shield up when I come home. I feel people around me suffer enough and there is no room for my suffering. I put on my clown suit, make jokes and juggle.
As I’m struggling to write this, it finally happens. It caught up with me. All the painful memories from one year ago come flying in without warning. Maybe now I’m ready to talk about them. Maybe I should.
Thinking back, I realize I knew you were dying. I knew it when I saw you the first time because it felt like big chunks of you were already floating away. Death is a palpable thing, you know. Death is in the probability of death, it’s that chill that goes through you at 30 degrees, it’s that smell that just won’t go away, it’s fear in its purest form. And it was with you in the room at all times. We all saw it and yet we all pretended it wasn’t there. You knew, you knew it a long time ago and you tried to tell me, but I couldn’t accept that.
I remember the first time that I was alone with you in the hospital and one of your friends came by. He brought you this tea he had made, he mixed every good herb he could find to make this magical potion that would make you feel better. He made you drink out of it obsessively and he kept saying that it will put you back on your feet in no time. He was so lively and so high-spirited, he was fighting the fight but his eyes gave him away. He knew nothing could save you. The looks you shared pierce through my heart even today. You were drinking the tea, to please him and your eyes were full of compassion for him and his hopes because you knew that it was pointless too. A part of you wanted to believe but couldn’t. You were getting bigger on the outside and smaller on the inside everyday. Your eyes were the eyes of a child that doesn’t quite understand what’s happening: afraid and hopeful. There was such tenderness and so much love in that lie you both build for each other! I swear, it’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed. He was massaging you so hard I wanted to stop him because it looked like he was hurting you but I understood what he was doing. He wanted to pour some life into you because you were fading away. I got out of your room and I cried. Then I came back and we lied to each other too.
That week, before the requiem, none of these memories occupied my mind. Instead I found myself dealing with lawyers and banks, survival in the heat, choosing what flowers to buy, what food caterers to hire, how to make mum lift less, stress less, wear less black. I think the high pressure point of all the preparation came the day before the requiem.
We were in the market, me, my mum and my aunt. We were deciding what to shop for while shopping, which is always a bad idea but becomes unbearable when heat is involved. As a result I felt like I was losing my mind. My mum’s decision-making process is not the most efficient out there and I am not the most patient person I know so things were a little bumpy. After buying almost everything, my mum was still hung up on what flowers to get. We smartly decided for the most tortured person - aka: me - to stay with the bags somewhere in the shade and wait, while my mum and the more patient person - aka: my aunt - helped her pick the darn flowers.
I sat on the steps in front of a rundown apartment building drinking water and gazing at my surroundings. On my left, on a high cement platform, sat this teddy bear. I could hear the ProTv news from the apartment on the ground floor and the bickering of two not-so-young spouses. As if they were meant to contrast that, birds were singing a mellow tune. The smell of ciorbă was in the air and all I could think of was my childhood. A grandfather and his granddaughter passed by holding hands. I was reminded of my grandpa and how things used to be. I concluded that for me the smell of summer is truly the smell of ciorbăand that the feel of summer used to be of ease and fun. Picking cherries, playing SuperMario, water fights, grandpa telling stories, barbeques underneath the starry sky, lazy days with dad at the pool, eating watermelon and spitting out the seeds, falling asleep outside. Oh, the joys of summer. There’s a big dark cloud on the summer sky now, the 26th of june is the day that summer, as I knew it, ceased to exist. I sat there thinking of how all I feel is melancholy but not pain. I never thought I’d be so good at bottling up feelings, but I guess it becomes a worthy skill when needed. I looked up to my left and to my surprise, the bear had company. La abuelita encontro el orso.
Funny thing is we were all lonely in some way and so close to each other.
The day of your wake was long but slow at the same time. Mum had the hardest time, Rox put on her usual brave face and I was the cruelest: I did not allow myself feelings. I hate going to your grave, I can’t stand looking at that big picture of you cemented in a place that feels wrong. I can’t associate you with the place that holds your body. I don’t find you there because I don’t look for you there because I’m afraid that that is where you are. And that can’t be it. I don’t know if there’s a heaven, if you’re in the sky, if you’re visiting la Cote D’Azur or hanging around our house. I do know that all that energy that was you had to go somewhere and I think I find tiny bits of it everywhere, especially in myself. I found a video from what will now be referred to as your last Christmas. I didn’t know what it was, it had the dogs in it. I opened it and out of the blue I heard your voice. It was such a surprise to hear you again but it also felt so normal, like you haven’t gone at all. It’s so natural for you to be alive that I still do not understand that you’re dead. It’s been one year and you have died so many times. You have died every morning in which I woke up and realized that you’re gone. When my brain got used to that, you stopped dying in the morning. You died in my dreams. For months and months you died in my dreams. You still die, every time I have a thought about you it has to be followed by your death. Please, stop dying.
I remained cold-hearted until I got on the plane to go back to Dublin. My neck hurt so my first thought was that I’d like a massage. I remembered how I always had to tell you to squeeze harder because your big hands that looked so sturdy and powerful were soft like pillows and they couldn’t even pretend to hurt me. That’s when I cried my tears. That’s when I started to think of the pieces of you that made you who you were and now I can’t stop. So, I love you and I miss you. If I ever hurt you (and I know I must have) please know that it wasn’t for lack of love or because I wanted to. I just didn’t know better. I won’t ask you to forgive me because I know you did. You could never hold a grudge on the people you loved.
I hope that wherever you are, in whatever shape or form you are, you can now eat the food you wanna eat, drink as much as you wanna drink and play your violin. I want to believe you’re free.
To my main bear, my hungry hungry hippo, my dog lover, Tom and Jerry watcher, wine drinker, family lover, beautiful story teller, mountain of a man. With all my love.
“A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me”
Yes, ladies, the inspiration for today’s episode has been generously provided by the lyrics above. As in (drum-roll) Irma try to keep this short cause I’d hate for y’all to get bored!
Bucharest was the place to eat, die of heat, meet friends and either rejoice or get horrified. Don’t get stuck on the sensationalist factor, OK? I’ll get to it when I get to it. Chronological order is much needed if I want to maintain that tiny ounce of sanity in ma bod-ay.
It all began with “mâncărică de vinete cu pui” aka aubergine and chicken concoction that is to die for! As I understand it, it takes a lot of onions and a lot of love to get this dish started. Then you continue with bits of chicken, chopped aubergines and tomatoes. This was made my friend’s mom and she talked about it all the way from Bacău to Bucharest, so by the time we got home I was very much excited to put that thing in my mouth.
We dipped some crusty bread in it and it was divine! My taste buds have an elephant’s memory and I’m currently salivating like Pavlov’s dog! This is my bell, baby! Right here!
The first day in Bucharest was so hot that I finally understood how a loaf of bread feels in an oven with the fan mode on! Burning-freakin-hot with waves of yes, you got it right: more heat! Getting a cab seemed like something from the mission impossible series. I was already having trouble thinking, I couldn’t see anything, I was blind and hot and quite frankly, desperate. I wanna thank the Lord for the cab he sent our way, one in a million that actually used their air conditioning so that we may live to complain another day. Amen!
I was dropped off at The Fab Squad Studio, my friend’s place where she conducts her fab business of turning everything into awesomeness. You’re thirsty? They turn water into Proseco! Hot? They have air conditioning! Blue? Did I not mention the Proseco? Feeling fugly? Head on there! Ioana will turn that frown upside down in no time! I’m not just saying that cause she’s my friend, I mean it.
We didn’t have much time because we were hungry and mici were waiting buuuut we still managed to squeeze in some girly fun. Here’s some proof for you non-believers out there.
If you are not familiar with “mici” or “mititei” I’m gonna try to enlighten you. First, semantically. One mic = one small. Two mici = two smalls. I know, it makes little sense but bear with me. That’s their name, OK?! They are The Smalls family and they are all small, tiny, puny, petite!
Second: what are they? They are lovely meaty lumps (hello, euphemism) belonging to the meatball family. They’re on the wild side, though, they don’t even speak to their meatball relatives. Oh, it’s an art form, trust me! It all begins with the meat - doesn’t it always?! Am I right? (wink wink). Ground beef, spices (as secret as Colonel’s Sanders secret blend of herbs and spices) and lots of garlic, baby doll! You shape them into fat fingers and lay them gently on a hot barbecue. You eat them with mustard and a white, basic-bitch of a bun. Add a cold brewsky to that, and you have what we call The Romanian Experience - The totally non-sexual edition.
It is everything! Though it is not for the faint-hearted! Especially not on days when you feel the concrete melting underneath your sandals. We did i, cause we’re pros and have little regard for our own safety. We went on a hot, sweat-dripping-underneath-your-dress and be-prepared-for-a-coronary adventure!
Connoisseur’s tip: you always seem to get the best ones in the most ratchet of places.
The food confession list continues with a Caramel McSundae (cause it was 150 degrees outside and I deserved it, goddammit), some very forgettable Chinese food that I didn’t even photograph, a croque-madame interpretation, some banana pancakes with blueberry syrup and a green smoothie whose name implied that I was old or a grandma or something. I can’t remember anymore. Hey, I *AM* old! :O The smoothie was right!
What else? Oh! Meeting friends over various potato dishes because I love potatoes in the summer. Hell, I love potatoes anytime; and I’m not just saying that in case my adopting country accidentally reads this!
One of my favorite days is up next. This is the day that we had big plans of going to the market and cooking and all sort of ambitious things like that. Instead, we stayed home watching this show on the Travel channel making fun of people that were moving abroad and had to find a home. Wait, that makes us look bad. Like we’re insensitive people or something! It wasn’t like that at all - it’s a show, not real life - lighten up!
When we got hungry and it finally became clear that none of us was gonna go anywhere, we ordered some good old Romanian food! Ciorbă, varză cu cârnați, ciulama de ciuperci cu mămăliguță! None of that means anything to you if you don’t speak the language! (read this last phrase with the exact same tone that you used to read the food enumeration, otherwise it’s not as good). I know, I should just read it to you myself - the audio-book is coming, guys, just let me write it first! Either that, or come October, you can see me in any 2 dime comedy club that will have me! But that’s a whoooole other story!
Anyway, the food: sour soup, cabbage and sausages, chicken and mushrooms cooked in white sauce with polenta. I don’t know what would be the natural course of events for regular people, but what we did was watch Muneca Brava.
I’ll just leave this here pretending that you got confused and don’t remember exactly what I’m talking about because I can’t bear to think of the alternative.
I’ll try to avoid the usual “Omg, Ivo was so hot and they had such amazing chemistry, and the way he kisses and those hands!” rant. It’s not easy, trust and believe!
That day was the best because it was the easiest. No effort of any sort required, no pressure, no heat, no awkwardness, just chill. Plus, I’ll tell you, sitting in an air-conditioned room when there’s 38 degrees outside, watching TV in a comfy chair with fun people while judging strangers is the most fun a girl can have without being drunk, rich or naked.
Now I’m gonna say something and it’s gonna sound like I’m casting a spell - and I am, in some ways. “Cușma lui Guguță”. Repeat after me in a concupiscent manner ([kän'-kyo͞o-pi-sənt] = Toderiță’s favorite word - adj. Lustful or sensuos, [Tow-de-ri-tsah] = my friend). OK, so repeat: [kush'-mah loo goo-goo'-tzah]. Got it? Good.
“Cușma lui Guguță” is a dessert, a legend, a life-changing experience.“Guguță” is a fictional character from Spiridon Vangheli’s books, a writer from The Moldovan Republic. That is his name - Guguță. No need to laugh! Well, maybe a little. “Cușmă” is a regional term for “căciulă” - which means winter hat. In the story, Guguță and the whole village are facing a particularly cold winter so Guguță, good boy that he is, wishes for a huge, warm hat that the entire village could fit under and not be cold anymore. So sweet and so never-gonna-happen. But let’s get back to the sweet part. Hmm, what is in the shape of a winter hat, has something resembling snow on top and is sweet? Cușma lui Guguță! (and the crowd goes wild)
Imagine a pyramid made out of crepes.These crepes are filled with sour cherries that (at least in my opinion) are better if they’ve lived in booze for awhile - you know, shared some life experiences. Then you glue them together with cream; sour cream that’s been mixed with sugar and whipped with serenity into something cosy and unpretentious. Cover the pyramid with it, like a thick layer of snow and then make it rain with chocolate shavings. Now that is a mountain of joy that demands solemnity before you eat it, and gratitude after.
That night, we had the house filled with Cușma lui Guguță and everything seemed right in the world. Then we watched a strange Woody Allen movie that made everything feel fucked up. So, I guess the truth is somewhere in the middle. Wow, I just realized I’m implying that the truth lies between Cușma lui Guguță and Woody Allen. Take everything with a grain a salt, people!
My last day in Bucharest was a crazy one. It began with the very bad decision of going to the market when the sun was at its hottest. I underestimated the power of the sun. I was naive, hopeful, stupid. I also had a time limit, because a friend was coming over for lunch. So, go on, chop chop, decide already and get out of the heat. You know what happened: I got dazzled, then confused then a bit angry at myself for NOT KNOWING WHEN TO STOP! But hey, I have pretty pictures:
I left the market late and I also got lost because by this time the sun had fried my brains and I have, in effect, turned stupid. I made it there eventually, spilled some strawberries on the concrete because... did I not mention the sun and the stupid? We get into the air-conditioned space - let’s call it heaven - and on my way to get ice from the fridge I start seeing black spots. Then the spots got bigger, then everything was black spots and and I was blind, nauseous and rude! Cause I was in the middle of a conversation with my friend when I abruptly had to lay down on the floor and die. I couldn’t even be the good listener I usually am, because my ears were ringing! My hearing was impaired!
I lived, we had lunch. Hunger prevailed. We had a lovely, crusty bread with pate and cheese and a salad. Simple but tasty stuff from the market. For dessert we had ice cream and berries.
The Day Of Noms continues with this beauty right here.
This picture cannot convey how good that stuff was! Aubergine salad and zacuscă. If you do not know what zacuscă is, you must track me down and make me introduce you to it!
Zacuscă is a vegetable spread popular in Romania, says Wikipedia. The main ingredients are roasted aubergine, sauteed onions, tomato paste and roasted red peppers; not just any peppers - Romanian peppers known as the mighty gogoșar (similar to Guguță but not really). Zacuscă is like our national treasure; forget anything you think you know, this is the truth. Our lives revolve around zacuscă - the making of zacuscă, the giving of zacuscă, the sharing, the eating, the longing even!
On our way to J’ai Bistrot (aka "look up") Vlad, the only friend that I seem to mention by name in this post, jumped out of the car in a very courageous, almost superhero-like manner, risking his life for the greater good:
And on the last day, they had eclairs and it was gooooood.
It’s not that I was hungry, but I knew I had to eat Dristor Kebab. When I lived in Bucharest, Dristor Kebab was 5 min away so that was a staple go-to fast-food meal and sometimes I miss it. Let’s eat for nostalgia’s sake! One chicken kebab with fries on the side and a frothy ayran!
I only managed to eat half of it and put the other half in my bag 'cause I’m a lady. This will become relevant later.
At the very late hours of that night I met someone I haven’t seen in 3 years. We had a very pleasant conversation up to the point where I mentioned something about people that judge gay marriage. About 10 min later our conversation took a turn for the insane. You know how I know that was the exact point? Because it started with a question: “But, you do know what the real deal with the gays is, right?”
And that right there is the death of everything to me. Because that implies that you know what the “deal with the gays is”. You know without a doubt in your mind and now you’re gonna tell me everything you know. It’s very difficult for me to write about it, to summarize, to not focus on the “arguments” that I’ve been given, on the rain of logical fallacies that were thrown at me, on the cruelty, the blindness and the insane calm with which they were all delivered. I wanted to stand up and leave. I tried but I couldn’t. Something in me had to stay there and fight and try to change an opinion that I know (and knew at the time) cannot be changed. But at that moment, that person in front of me was the voice of a mass of individuals that hate on another mass of individuals and that have such strong opinions and “research” that they are unmovable. The thing with people in that stage is that they do not want to form an opinion. They have an opinion and all their research goes into validating that opinion. That’s how they get to say they’ve read books written by psychiatrists that “studied” this and who know that being gay is a choice. That’s how I end up face to face with someone that tells me with mad conviction that a lot of men become gay because they are sick of women! Because apparently any heterosexual man can be persuaded to take it up the ass and like it just by clicking your red ruby slippers like fucking Dorothy!
“There’s no place like home” they’ll be repeating, like a mantra! Can you believe that people actually think this is how it works? It makes my skin crawl. Ignorance, the plague, same thing.
You see, it’s not homosexuals as individuals that she’s against, as a group is when they become dangerous. “What do they want? What’s with the parades? Oh, but the children! Let’s think about the children!” It’s not what they say, it’s how they say it! With a pathetic desperation that not only seems fake but it’s a fucking excuse to fuck other people over! And they act as if all the children of the world are waiting to be saved by them! Saved from the claws of the gays that want to adopt them and give them a better life than the one that they currently have! How dare they go through the long (and particularly strict for gay couples) adopting procedures in order to love and protect another human being? How dare they fight the good fight and wait the long wait hoping that they will get a child? Why not do what half of the population does? Have irresponsible sex and accidental pregnancies and toilet babies?! No one is revolting against those parents! No, the gays are the evil ones! The gay mafia is out to ruin the traditional family! It’s all a big plan to take over the world! Oh my God, I just got it! Pinky and the Brain were actually a gay couple!!! Oh, the conspiracy!
If you know what I mean ;)
Watch out, Elton john, they’re on to you! Will and Grace, Season 5, Episode 10 - enjoy!
“I’m not a homophobe, but...”Or “I’m not a homophobe”. 30 sec pass. “It’s just that I’ve seen them and they’re all so selfish”
Wait a minute! You’ve seen all the homos of the world? Whoooooaaaaah, that’s one sick magic stick you’ve got there! How the fuck did you do that?! So, let’s recap, shall we? You’ve seen all of them, particularly all of the gay couples that are in that point in their life when they are prepared and willing to become parents aaaaaand they’re all selfish?! Well, that remark might just be good enough for "The Great Book Of Homophobic Sayings - The Super-homophobic Edition".
After approximately 2 hours of torture I end the madness by saying “You know what? At the end of the day people like you are harming others for potential / imaginary future damage they might cause - while they are not really hurting you with anything”.
I tried to get an Uber with the last nugget of battery that my phone had, the bastard stood me up at the last moment. There were no cabs around. There was a film crew of one, maybe two people filming a manele video in front of Bucharest’s National Theater with us in the background because, when life gives you lemons, sometimes they’re weird lemons that make reality seem like a joke.
Then we walked to find a cab. We found two. The first one said that he wouldn’t take us because I asked if his meter was on and apparently hurt his feelings. The second one was using the meter, so we got in, but something about the driver was off. What was it? Oh, yeah, he hated us. I don’t know way, but he did. Tried to cheat us by taking the longer route - we didn’t let him - so he then pretended he knew none of the addresses we told him and drove like a madman. I was staying at my friend’s place so I didn’t know all the alleys and stuff and night makes things confusing. I had no idea where I was but my gut said “Stop. Get off here. Right here.” So I did. Turns out I was just where I was supposed to be, the exact corner where I needed to make a right on. I was relieved and felt slightly magical. The street was dark and full of terrors. I felt misplaced and alone and not entirely sane. Then a cat appeared and made things better, 'cause that’s what cats do. I gave her the kebab from my bag, as a "thank you", and walked away. Inside the apartment there was another
ball of fur waiting. The one and only Pomelosso, or Biscuit, if you wanna call him by his original name.
I petted him and thanked him for being there. Not because he could have been out drinking or anything but just because I felt lonely and I appreciated his company. I turned on the TV - long live Comedy Central. I took my clothes off, lingered, had a shower, shower head fell on my head, cat got scared, put clothes on, ate cherries and watched South Park for two hours. I couldn’t sleep. I was too shaken up. I’ve always been known as an aggressive speaker because, if I care - and most of the time I do - my emotions pour into my “speech” and sometimes I come across as a mad woman. The feeling that I couldn’t shake was the regret that I had done something that I don’t like doing. I went to an extreme. In order to battle those ludicrous ideas I went to the other extreme because I didn’t want to fuel that feeling of security that the “knowing” gives them. They see doubt as a weakness. That’s why they know what’s right and wrong for the children, who's gonna burn in hell and why, what the gay Illuminati are up too, why gay people like cock and so on and so forth. They think “knowing” gives them control. They need that to ease their mind, because being "in the know" makes them feel special and secure and not alone.
I doubt. I almost always doubt, especially myself. Because the only thing that I know is that if you’re on one extreme or the other, you are wrong. The only thing I trust is my common sense - because I have plenty of it and because it keeps me asking questions and revising behaviors (especially my own). So, I was also wrong. Not because of what I believed to be common sense or justice but because of the delivery of my message. Truth is, my initial gut reaction was right. Perhaps I should have left. But if I did, I wouldn’t have had a story to tell.
The next morning I packed my bags, ate Paula’s delicious homemade strawberry jam and said goodbye to the fluffiest cat I know. It wasn’t easy.
The last thing I ate in Bucharest was a sweet pretzel soaked in sweet honey syrup. We call it Covrig Polonez, which means the Polish pretzel. This one had walnuts sprinkled on it and that’s always a good thing in my book. It was all soft and mushy, just how I felt inside. The perfect woman-pretzel symbiosis.
P.S. I lied, I mention other friends by name, too.
I woke up in the middle of night to pee, of course, cause I’m 126 years old and I pee every 5 minutes. After I emptied the world’s tiniest bladder, I got back to bed and started blabbering about this dream I just had: “I was saving kittens, lions were eating kittens, no one helped me, I was trying to save the kittens!“
My middle of night story-telling skills are not the best. In case you didn’t get the importance and deep significance of this dream here is the extended version:
I was in a forest-like area surrounded by lionesses and tiny kittens. I was trying to protect the kittens from the lionesses and that is not an easy task. I was grabbing as many kittens as I could but they kept appearing out of nowhere and were heading right to the lion’s den. The lionesses were slowly approaching, with menacing intentions and scary teeth. I remember asking for help. No one came. I remember growing desperate and screaming “Come, on! I need help! I can’t do it alone! I need someone! I NEED A HAND!”
I know, right?
My significant otter and I immediately cracked this case and established that the kittens represent my hopes and dreams, plans, projects, ideas. They come out of nowhere, they are cute and tiny (most of them), confused, helpless and they come in packs. The lionesses… I don’t know who they are. I don’t even know why they’re all females. I mean, wtf is up with that? Are only women swallowing my hopes and dreams?! Was there a “No males allowed in this dream” sign that I was unaware of? The last part of the dream is pretty clear. I feel overwhelmed. I cannot do everything, at once, on my own! I need help!
I remember finishing this conversation by saying, half asleep: “Man, my mind is awesome!”
I know, that sounds egotistical as fuck but hear me out. I was merely in awe at the metaphors my brain generates to describe what I’m going through. It’s a very clever and entertaining “system” I got myself here. Wait, that didn’t really help the whole self-applauding business I had going on there, did it?
Later edit: I found out who the lionesses are. It was me all along! I’m killing my own babies! *Insert flabbergasted british person here to gasp for you in a melodramatic fashion.* Who knew I was such a bad mother?! I didn’t even know I was a mother!\
Of course, it also hints at my inability to express myself lately. You know, the whole “I stopped writing for two months now and I think I’ve forgotten how to do it” latent panic attack.
There you have it! The mystery case was solved! I’m like a modern Miss Marple. Without the hats and the knitting and the “real cases” and the grey hair. Hmm, I’m actually nothing like Miss Marple. Now I’m sad. I liked Miss Marple.
As I hope someone, somewhere has noticed, It’s been awhile since I narrated my life. Almost two months without confessing my emotional eater sins. I feel backed up. My thoughts haven’t been expressed, a lot of things have happened, a lot more need to happen and I need to clear my mind by writing shit down. So, it begins.
Weeks 19,20,21 and 22. Also known as the month of June or the Bacau Month.
The Bacau Month had everything, people! Unpredictable bank citations, dealing with lawyers for the first time, partly lying and manipulating grandmas so that they wouldn’t freak out because of said bank issues, making money by walking random old ladies to their destination (well, almost), floods, repressed feelings, fleas, new cat to fill the hole left by the old cat, unbearable heat, amazing Romanian markets filled with awesome fruits and veggies, heat, heat, mosquitoes, heat, Pambac strudels, friends, Muneca brava and sausages, Cusma lui Guguta, sour cherry body scrub, Carpal tunnel syndrome, frustration, memories, love, too little, too much, too hard, too heavy. Lazy writing, I know.
Episode 1: The Unpredictables
Episode 2: The Bucharest trip
Episode 3: Abuelita y el orso
Episode 4: The Red Bra Odyssey
Episode 5: Do you have wegwets?
As you can see from the above, I have tried to organize my thoughts. What you cannot see from above is how much I tried or how long it took. The fact is, it was all a roller-coaster of events and feelings and people. All of which I find very hard to talk about now. Because it’s passee (fancy french word alert), because I’d have to re-live it, because it seems long and meaningful to me and me only. I had a lot of expectations concerning this post and as always, expectations ruin life. Inspiration was on vacation, discipline decided to fuck off and didn’t even let me know! All I had left was guilt and the “come on, we gotta try and do this” guy. I’m grateful to that guy. Where would I be without him?!
Long story short, whiny-guy-in-my-head + “Lovefool” by The Cardigans = I tried and I prayed and I begged! If you did not sing that in your head, it fails. You fail! It’s a classic, man! Stop embarrassing yourself and sing it! Jeez.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it took a lot of trying! That’s what happens when you suffer from Scattered Brain Syndrome. Feel free to feel sorry for us, there’s a whole community out there. Write to me, boys! Lately I’ve felt all alone in the world.
Rant over! Here’s what happened:
Episode One: The Unpredictables
It was only my third day in Bacau when it started raining bank citations. It seemed like a perfectly nice day. My sister and I were handling the big clean-the-fridge project, taking the time to prep some fruits for later eating and of course, take pics. Like this:
Then mum dropped the bomb that the banks were ganging up on us. Why? Cause over the years my people didn’t quite manage to pay off their debts and apparently there are consequences to that. Who would have thought? Long story short, I felt angry and helpless and confused ‘cause who the fuck understands anything with the bullshit legal language?! Not me, that’s for sure.
That night, I read some stuff, partially understood some other stuff and decided to get a lawyer. We were still down in the gutters but hey, as my friend Oscar says, at least we were looking at the stars.
The next morning, I was in a cab, late, impatient, worried, all the good stuff. At the very peak of my shortness-of-breath state, I get a forwarded message from my mum. It was the bank, letting her know that they’ve decided to deduct half of her already measly salary because of reasons! Even though they were already doing that to my grandmother's pension for the last 3 years. Hello, abuse center?! Yeah, don’t send any more shit this way, we’re covered for the next 5 years! Thanks, bye.
I was on my way to meet a friend and stuff our faces with strudels and nice-to-see-you-again conversation. We did all that too, just after she made a few calls to get me a lawyer (cause they’re not really in my circle of friends). At that exact moment we passed this:
For those of you that do not understand Romanian aka the language of overflowing love, that means “It goes away with kisses”. Seeing this at that precise moment felt like a bigger joke than the phrase “Trump for president”. Yeah, Universe, thanks, I’m sure kisses would make all my problems go away! I feel so much better now! I stared at the thing dumbfounded and all I could utter was “Goes away with kisses, my ass!”. Yeah, I guess you had to be there...
We got to the house of strudels, got a bag of those, some tea and started the “maybe it goes away with food if not kisses” approach.
It didn’t, though. I was on and off the phone with my mum in our attempt to find a way to fix this without having to tell my grandma about it cause she would freak out. When she freaks out she becomes irrational, then my mum gets annoyed and dealing with conflict is not her strong point, so everything tends to take a turn for the insane quite fast in our family. You might be thinking that it’s simple - just don’t tell her, it’s not even lying, it’s just omitting certain parts of the reality we all share. Yeah, thanks, genius! Didn’t cross my mind!
We needed to tell her because she was the gatekeeper to the proof of payment documents. It’s a real fairy tale we got going on here. There’s the big bad ogre portrayed magnificently by the bank, then the peasants who are just trying to live their lives but are the money-sucking demon just won’t let it happen cause he always wants more and more and MORE! Let’s see, who else? Oh, yeah, the witch in the forest that needs to be slightly manipulated so she won’t freak out and spread toxic green fumes all over instead of just doing what the warrior princess asks her to do, hand over those damn papers and chill the fuck out! There are of course, a lot of supporting characters in the story, like the far away prince who sends gold to the warrior princess so she could afford hiring the knight in legal armor, the wise owl that you run things by, the loyal and efficient friend that recommends the services of the civil-law knight, the flying carpet that drives the warrior princess everywhere in her attempt to fix the shit, and many others.
I finished my strudel and decided to be sneaky. Cause that’s the natural effect that strudels have on people. They should have it written on the back “Caution, strudels may cause sneakiness”. I went with my gut: told mum to stay put, I’ll go deliver the news to grandma , I’ll get the stuff and then I’ll call the lawyer.
Before I go on with my story you must know this about me: I do not lie. I hate lying! It’s a lot of bullshit to remember, it over-complicates things and it makes me feel shady, so I stopped doing a long time ago. Somehow, though, every-time I come home I find myself having to lie. Let the selective truth games begin!
I bought extra strudels, I gave my gram a call asking if she’s home, making everything seem casual, pulling the old “Well, I was just in the neighborhood” with a clever twist and headed her way. As I was walking I kept thinking about which parts to keep for myself and which ones to share, what questions to duck and what others to milk, when to nod and contain, my very own grandma-handling handbook for dummies.
All of a sudden I hear a voice. No, not the “call is coming from inside the house” kind but the “hey, you there! “ kind of cat call. It was an old lady, dressed in black, supported by a walking cane. She proceeds to ask if I’m going to the Post Office. I said “not quite but almost”. Keeping it vague, baby!
“Could you walk me there?” I said: “How exactly would I be doing that?” Because, carrying old people on my bad back is not on my list of my skills or hobbies. She says something in the lines of “You know, just let me hold your arm, you seem to walk quite fast”. Why be a dick about it? I said “Yeah, sure!”
Half way through what felt like a rehearsal for the last walk down the aisle, I realized the woman had a very distinct smell that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Until it hit me hard in the left nostril and sent a signal to my brain letting it know that the sophisticated perfume that I smelled, that sweet, intoxicating aroma that acted like her aura was booze. Good ol’ cheap booze breath! Awww, my grandfather’s odor, how I missed it! Oh, the memories! Most of them bad but hey, nostalgia is a magical memory eraser (eyes winking, tongue clicking).
Then I thought: “Man, I am judgemental or what?! I mean the woman’s husband died last year, she can barely walk and she ain’t gonna get better, let’s face it, it’s downhill from there (literally, we were going down the hill), she’s lonely, sick, gravity betrayed her (as it does with all of us) and she has nothing to look forward too! I’d drink! I’d drink my brains into oblivion in no time!”
We continued walking and I continued to listen, because what she really needed was a kind ear more than a fluffy arm. When we reached our destination she insisted to pay me for the effort: “Here’s a little something, so you can buy stockings”. If that seems random, remember the woman lived in communism and also, she drank. I said no, thank you, it’s not necessary. She then proceeded to emotionally manipulate me by using her husband’s memory. So, I caved. Not because I needed stockings, no. I used the money to buy bread and beer. The bread was for lunch, the beer was for grandma - I needed her in a good mood. Truly a great day for good deeds. Hey, don’t judge me! I did what I had to do and I was pretty darn good at it. Apparently it’s true, when you put your mind to something you can really accomplish anything!