For me, holidays paired with Vancouver’s cruel winter weather have always provided a chance to hole up in my kitchen. I love the contrast of the grey and the rain while I’m inside, warm and enjoying that slack-bodied comfort of too many days off. How sweet is it to while away the hours while concentrating on a new recipe, interacting with whole ingredients and creating nourishment for myself and the people around me. Cooking also seems to provide a way to busy your hands while letting your mind wander and rest. I get most of my best thinking done in the kitchen.
I recently bought a slow cooker from the Salvation Army and this morning, christened it with its first recipe in my home. I adapted this squash recipe by nixing the cheese, substituting half of the butter for olive oil, and adding rosemary and sage. The aroma swelled and filled all the rooms in my little house.
1 whole kabocha squash, chopped into 1 inch pieces
Half an onion, chopped
A splash of olive oil, a stick of butter
A teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, dried rosemary and sage.
Throw everything into the slow cooker and cook on low for three hours. It’s done when the squash is soft. The squash comes out sweet and the rosemary is fragrant: a perfect winter squash dish.
What different can a landscape make? Last year in Mumbai, my Christmas was dry and bright. The buildings in the lanes off of Altamount road were draped in cosmopolitan India’s signature thick haze. The sunshine shone, filtered through the graduated layers of cloud and smoke. Crows fell out of the sky like pieces of charred paper.
In Vancouver, the mist is altogether different: not the result of smog, pollution, heat and dust, but of their opposites. Every time I return to Vancouver, I can’t help but marvel at the crisp and clean air; the cool water.
Christmas morning in Vancouver was also steeped in cloud of a different quality. Wreck beach was nearly naked except for trees with skeleton figures, logs returning into the earth, and urban treasures in the sand. The colours were cold instead of warm, and wetness and fog covered the ground like a wool blanket.
I spent last Christmas in the most luxurious apartment I’ve ever been inside; overlooking countless tin and cardboard homes and the cresting edge of the Arabian sea. I was taking care of a pomeranian for a friend in Mumbai, and was engulfed by the beauty of her home, the contrast of the space around it, and my own aloneness swallowing me like a rain cloud.
Over the past years, I’ve spent Christmas and New Years Eve in Mumbai, and before that in Quebec and Montreal. We have all been the Christmas orphan who others welcome to their dinners, their brunches and holiday celebrations, and I’d been becoming that orphan too often: far from family for too long.
It’s because of those orphan instances and because of time away that a Christmas at home can feel even sweeter. We all hate to work right up to Christmas day, but if we’d been on holiday for a week already, the celebrations wouldn’t be as blissful and serene. It’s well known that the December holidays are one of the most anxiety-inducing times of the year. Without all of the preparation required though, we couldn’t sink so deeply into our couches, couldn’t gaze at the beauty around us, and couldn’t be so grateful for our rich and blessed lives.
Being together at Christmas reminds us of the common things we’re grateful for, and our shared challenges. We all take comfort in beautiful meals prepared with care. Everyone is missing someone, or carrying worries about work or relationships. All of our difficulties serve to bring people together and show us how truly valuable that time is.
On the morning after Christmas, I’m sitting in my parents’ living room in a nest of scattered wrapping paper with my Bombay cat asleep against my side. I can hear hockey on TV, and the arguing and laughter of my immediate family. The lights of the Christmas tree are on, just because. Outside shines a slate grey sky: a typical Vancouver December day. Raja moves to the window to watch squirrels, to watch life continue in his new home. I watch him and wonder when I ever felt so peaceful.
Every big city has a pulse and a heartbeat. From Hong Kong to Dubai and from Montreal to Calcutta, each provides a different coloured backdrop for human experiences, interactions and emotions.
I recently moved from the enormous urban wilderness of Bombay back to my home city of Vancouver. This blog is a catalogue of beautiful things that I find in urban spaces, with a focus on rediscovering Vancouver.