Gotta get me some gym


Two ice cream sandwiches, one banana ice cream bar (lovingly and locally called Banana Lolly) and a slice of super-indulgent double chocolate praline cake. Make that two slices.

It’s 3.20pm in the afternoon and that’s my dessert count so far. It may just be 38-degrees outside, but under the 20-degree air-conditioner chill, even my excuses seem to have their mouths frozen shut.

I feel the need…the need for high intensity cardio and weight training.

The funny (pathetic, if you want to be specific) part is that I’m not even a dessert person. I’m a memory eater. I eat because it reminds me of a time, a place or a person. And being back home with my family has brought back a lot of memories. Very, very tasty memories.

Sandwich ice cream from the ice cream cart outside school for a few coins. 2 soft chocolate biscuits tenderly holding together a cake of creamy vanilla ice cream. It would crumble and drip down my fingers and uniform before I got home, doing just what it was meant to do.

Banana ice cream on weekends after a big lunch. Mum, Dad, sister and me, huddled close together on the couch in front of the TV, slurping on the magical taste of togetherness.

(I have no personal bond with the cake I destroyed other than a carnal need to consume that rich, gooey chocolate. So I’m getting another slice. Don’t even.)

Then there’s mum’s dals, chicken curries, creamy chicken pies, pizzas, Kheema (mince meat curry) and many other dishes intrinsically linked to my happiness. Food that mama and I ate together after I got back from school while I filled her up on all the news, snacks that I scoffed down before rushing out the door in the evenings or weekend staples that always tasted the same and never disappointed.

Like mama’s grilled chicken. Every Friday morning (Weekends in the Mideast are on Friday/ Saturday), we had to clean our room plus an additional chore. Then we were free to go out and play. Growing up in an apartment meant no backyards or corner parks. There were buildings all around us with scorching hot concrete under our feet and blazing hot sun above our heads. Glorious. We played ball, we played house, we pretended to be detectives and thieves. We sweated and laughed and cried.

When I’d run past kitchen windows, my senses would be cushioned with the plethora of scents from different homes. Indian, Asian, Arabic, Continental. Love, affection, happiness and care.

It was time to surrender to the fragrance that was taking over our home.

That’s the thing about food. I savour that memory for time spent with my parents, cousins and friends, but I know that it was Mama’s Friday grilled chicken that holds it all together in my heart.

This was originally meant to be a post about hitting the gym. I think it’s pretty clear how well I’m doing with that.

Big name for a not-so-little girl: Figs – Part II

I confess, Figs got in there because it rhymes with the other two, but it doesn’t make the story any less personal. This third of my blog name is to profess my love for food.

Everyone is a foodie these days or a connoisseur or a food snob. I’ve called myself one or all of them at different times. After you live in Melbourne, the food capital of Australia, you begin to believe it. I’ve stumbled into many a quaint café and restaurant in the most intriguing laneways and had some of the best dishes in my life. There are some places you can’t stumble into, like MoVida. Oh my God, MoVida. After a 2-week advance booking, we got there 30 minutes early, as if we were there for an interview. If it were an interview, I would not have got the job because the only words that came out of my mouth were: Ohs, Mmms and Oh-My-Good-kind-and-ridiculous-Gods. But the dish that moved me to tears was the dessert.

Fig leaf ice cream served with fresh figs and broken grains and chocolate and all that is good in this world. That changed everything for me. That changed me. It was exciting like meeting someone new and reassuring like meeting an old friend. It was all work and all play. It was Ariel and Ursula, Fraulein Maria and the Von Trapp children, Ross and Rachel. It is said that the fig tree featured heavily in the Garden of Eden; that afternoon, the fig tree featured heavily at the beginning of my food journey.

From there on out, there was tuna tartare with crushed mint & peas and creamy goats cheese, grilled Saganaki with honey walnut dressing, fried chicken with a chilli mayo foam, hand-rolled gnocchi in a creamy pumpkin & parmesan sauce, all those secret-sauce gourmet burgers…you get where I’m going with this.

I was part of a very active food club, my husband and I dined out every chance we got and I pigged out with friends a lot, but some of my most experimental dining was by myself. Back in Melbourne, I used to catch a tram into the city or out of it, and get lost. I’d stumble upon a magical food heaven, grab a seat in the middle of the crowd, pull out my book or notebook and order whatever caught my fancy. By the end of the meal, I’d be far too high to ever remember how I got there. Then there were times I was so disappointed that I’d sulk and Google the best dessert places around me to go restore my faith in good food. I’m dedicated, if nothing else.

Wherever my new journey takes me, I know it’ll be a path laden with scrumptious dishes and dreams of my next meal. All thanks to the fig leaf ice cream with fresh figs and broken grains and chocolate and all that is good in this world.