The search for Indian spices and for a good friend

I am sitting on my bed at my parents’ house, feeling the warm breeze coming in from the open window. It is Sunday night, election night, and I can hear the TV from afar, along with voices of my parents and their friends who comment on the election results. I am holding a bowl of hot vindaloo, the first Indian curry I have ever made. As I smell the complex aromas, trying to separate the various spices which I previously included (and being unable to), I think of my Russian friend K. She is the one who chose this recipe for us, after we agreed to a bi-weekly cook-off: Every couple of weeks, one of us will select a new dish, which we will both cook from our respective kitchens in Athens and in London.

Finding a good friend is as complicated as finding love; or as complicated as sourcing all the ingredients for a vindaloo curry in Athens for that matter. It takes time and persistence and, just when you think you are ready to give up, (there are seriously no curry leaves sold in Athens), then magic happens and you end up with a good friend/lover/bag of curry leaves. By magic, in my case of sourcing ingredients, I mean calling my chef, who has an answer to everything cooking related-and more, and by bag of curry leaves I mean an overpriced bag of crushed dried leaves, but hey, one has to compromise at some point, right? Similarly, when it comes to friends (for I will not comment on finding love), there comes a time when a somewhat random encounter (no chef to guide us here), leads to a new friendship that somehow feels that it has been there forever. And it only takes a night of drinking, dancing and talking about nothing and everything to know that you have found someone who, by just being herself, brings out your true self and makes even your darkest sides seem, well, very, very normal. It is liberating.

Almost as much as dry-frying spices for the first time, making them powder on my grandmother’s pestle and mortal and creating a dish which seemed so complicated in the beginning, and was yet so easy to make -minus the one week search for ingredients that is.

I find myself unable to describe the taste of the vindaloo. It is too complex to put in words. Just like I was unable to describe to someone recently what chemistry between two people is (I’m open to suggestions from you, my eloquent dear reader). But tasting the vindaloo feels like having a warm, comforting blanket wrapped around your shoulders. One however which, unlike mama K’s food that has the same effect, is new and exciting, and which creates a new sense of home. It is also making me feel really hot, although I am sure I read somewhere that there is this philosophy in India about hot food or tea for hot weather? Clearly this doesn’t apply to Greece because I am sweating.

But I walk into the kitchen and serve some more curry in my bowl, extra coriander this time. It did after all take a failed trip to the farmers’ market, asking everyone if they have coriander (they didn’t) and another one to the central farmers’ market, under the scorching sun at four in the afternoon, to finally find the last bunch of coriander, the crooked seller had hidden underneath mint and parsley: success.

I taste the now warm curry. It is comforting to have a nice bowl of home cooked food instead of pizza (which is consumed in the living room), and to know that no matter how bad things may sometimes look, there is always someone on the other side of the world who not only cooks the same dish as you, but is…well, just like you.