NOT a food blog
There was a time when I was excited about boarding a plane on a long haul journey. I’d pack all my creams and toiletries neatly in my hand carry (pre 9/11) and a good paperback to read if the company wasn’t interesting. But invariably, I’d spend all my time watching movies and playing interactive games only to break for yet another delicious in-flight meal or a snack of sandwiches or comforting instant noodles. Friendships were easy. On one flight, I played interactive trivial pursuit in a rather lively session with fellow passengers. I won, and one of the participants walked up to my seat and congratulated me, sparking off a new discussion on how knowledgeable I was about American sports. (I had to eventually confess that I got a bit of help from Bald Eagle who is a treasure trove of useless facts.)
On another flight, I was travelling alone to the UK to surprise my parents who were holidaying there at my brother’s place, when I met a kindly gentleman who not only provided conversation and companionship but also helped me carry my bag to the train station after seeing me struggle with my load.
But hey, the times they are a changin’. On my recent flight on our national carrier, I was dumbfounded upon being served a bread roll, for breakfast, which tasted like cardboard. When I asked for snacks, I got peanuts instead of something more substantial. I said I was hungry, so they gave me more peanuts. A few seats away, I saw an adult passenger shove a kid rudely and the kid stumbled forward. For an entire sector, a passenger across the aisle thought it fit to talk loudly to his wife who was sitting several seats away. They are the new rich. Even the flight attendants seemed to have given up on the chaos.
For the past twenty years or so of knowing each other, we have made it a point to make at least one annual trip abroad together. In the early years, I used to cry after returning from a trip. My first night home was always the most difficult. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, think about my holiday, and then sob uncontrollably. There were times when even Bald Eagle felt helpless, and he’d hold me tight until I fell asleep. I think, in those days, I lived more in those moments abroad on holiday than I did in the remaining 300-odd days which were filled with work and little else. The yearning to travel became an addiction for us, and soon it became more than annual holidays. I made scrapbooks of our travels, wrote stories on bits of paper and made friends online with like-minded people.
The essential experience is not of seeing monuments and landmarks. It is about meeting people and learning that the world does not revolve around me alone. There are spiritual moments, and there are moments when I ask myself why the hell I’m standing stranded in the depths of a glacier with no one in sight for miles when I could be curled up in front of a fireplace drinking hot chocolate instead. When difficult situations, like the glacier incident, occur, I tell myself that one day…one day, I’ll look back and laugh.
If I could go back in time, I’d probably not do it again (the glacier bit), but that’s the beauty about the lack of foresight and the inability to time-travel – you live with the decisions you make and you crack stupid jokes about it later on your blog.
This year’s travel plans were a little different. Bald Eagle secretly planned the trip in February but didn’t tell me anything until June when I, in a control-freak moment, made him tell me something about our plans. “We’re going away in August, for your birthday,” he said. “It’s my birthday present to you.”
“Where to?” I asked.
“It’s a secret. Just take two weeks off from work,” he replied. “I’ll let you know in due course.”
And so I lived in delirious happiness for the next two months without the knowledge of the destination, but knowing that I was going somewhere with him. Friends started placing bets. But never in my wildest dreams did I guess that he was taking me to Argentina. ARGENTINA! We had travelled the world over, but Argentina (and greater South America) always seemed too far away, too expensive, too unattainable. It had always been on our agenda, but I had little faith of it ever materializing.
We are back from our holiday now.
I owe that sweet, sweet man a lifetime of gratitude.
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.