Friday, 22 June 2012

One red suitcase

We had two suitcases between us, D and I. That was all we moved here with nearly six years ago. Our lives stuffed into two boxes on wheels - one red, one black.

Now, those two suitcases lie deep inside a dark shed, cowering under a pile of things we've collected over the six years. Collected as unthinkingly as Chotto-ma collects things. Things by the roadside that catch her eye - twigs and dry leaves and shiny paper and shells from a beach. The Essential Superfluous.

But I tell you, there's something about packing your life into a box - it makes you think hard. When you have to squeeze all you own into a suitcase that can hold no more than 30 kgs, you weigh things very differently. You choose, and change your mind, then choose again. Till all you have is all you really want.

I still have the things I stuffed into that red suitcase. Apart from a thermal vest and a pair of long johns, which my mother-in-law felt were my only chances of surviving the wicked winter of the west. She'd laughed off central heating.

Life has changed so much since. We've collected furniture and potsandpans and clothes and books and a little girl. What if I had to pack everything into a red suitcase again? Actually, you know what, I don't even know if I need a suitcase. All I really need is the little girl, the little girl's dad, and my garlic press.

The very garlicky cheeseless pesto

This pesto became a vegan by accident. Mid-way through the making, I realised I'd finished off all the parmesan in my kitchen. I also swapped the pine nuts for cashew and almonds which gave the pesto a very gently rounded flavour, a more eastern twang. It was very good pesto indeed.

3 cups fresh Greek basil
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup cashew nuts
2-3 tbs almond, soaked overnight, then peeled
3-4 tablespoons minced garlic (depending on how garlicky you want it to be)
Half a red pepper
1-2 green chillies
Sea salt

Place the basil and green chillies in a blender. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of the oil, and blend into a paste. Then add the half pepper, and blend again. Very coarsely pound the nuts in a mortar and pestle (resist the urge to put them in the blender - the pestle-pounding really will make a difference). When the nuts are nicely broken up, add them to the blender, and give it a quick whiz. Stir in the minced garlic and the remaining olive oil.  Add salt.

(A little tip: save some of the pesto as a marinade for chicken thighs. Grill or pan-fry thighs after it's been sitting in the pesto for an hour.)



  1. What a lovely piece Pia....made me all nostalgic about our first move out of Bombay so many years ago! And how we carried pretty much ourselves, and a few cartons of books. And now, we're on the verge of another move with so much more of life that we've acumulated on the way.

    1. A move always sounds exciting! A whole new start :) waiting to see where you're headed to, heetal!

  2. Lovely post Pia... I have already book marked that recipe as well. I think it might go nicely with a piece of fish... Looks delish! :)

    1. Ooh, I think you're right. I might have some more left for a couple of fillets of fish!

  3. Wow! love home-made pesto but never tried a cheese-less one!! will do now... ;)

  4. What a beautiful post. My partner and I moved from the UK to Spain 6 years ago and we had our son here two and a half years ago. Am in total agreement with you on the truly essential items to bring on any subsequent move. Must try the pesto too!

    1. I've been missing the sun. Maybe I need to take my essentials and head to Spain too! :)
      Thank you for leaving such a lovely comment. There's something connecting people who've experienced leaving home and building it from scratch somewhere far away.


Your comments make this blog worth writing. Thank you.