A weekend in London
Taking it easy for two hours last Friday morning on the Eurostar train ride from Paris to London. Not eager to connect to Wi-Fi to post selfies of me sipping a cup of the best Americana a train station could offer or to research more restaurants and things to do. I tuned into my easy listening Google playlist: ‘Afro-niceness’ and let likes of Fela Kuti and Somi do the talking or singing rather, as Hugh Masekela schooled me on African heritage and Shango–Gods of powers. As we moved swiftly passed town to town, my eyes opened in time to witness the clean, green landscape bearing wild rabbits and lazily grazing horses, sheep and cows. No cars were seen for miles, only tiny country houses and buildings, surrounding by fields of vegetation, farms and tall trees with leaves not yet changing colors to welcome the colder months.
As we got nearer to the St Pancras International Station, my wandering halted as I came back to thinking of the things I wanted to accomplish in less than 72 hours in London. Apart from heading to Borough Market – everything and more I thought it would be. One of the very things that brought me here was to meet up with Shonel, Trinidadian born business owner and caterer of Trini Gourmet with a Twist. We follow each other on social media and have grown close, messaging each other with questions, jokes and have been making plans to meet-up for most of the year. The joyful feeling of our embrace at the underground station not far from my Airbnb made it seem we’ve been friends for a longer time.
I’ve watched my fair share of tv series depicting 18 & 1900s UK, and I believe I’m not much of a history / sightseer gal, before heading to Brixton to try out a new Rum Hall, I was excited walking over the millennium bridge with Shonel to snap pictures of St Paul’s Cathedral, hopping unto a double decker bus to Oxford Street while munching on delicious homemade Kurma Shonel made earlier for a catering order and seeing the entrance to Buckingham Palace and other grand buildings with amazing and restored architecture.
The Rum Hall was literally nothing to write about 😦
I live for first dates that end with “let meet up again to cook!” And that we did. The next day I made my way to Shonel’s home. Living in a more suburban area of London, the train ride to her house felt like taking a trip to the Bronx, less the weekend delays and the annoyingly long travel time.
Entering her home I’m greeted by her two children. So well-mannered saying thanks for the sweet-scented and sugary cookies I brought from the US for them. If the concentrated aromas coming from Shonel’s spacious kitchen made bright by the two huge windows wasn’t inviting enough, she then asked “make some Anchar nah?” I was too happy to oblige.
We stood side by side, talking and laughing while the flames of her stove ran high cooking all the trimmings to go with Dhalpuri. Shonel learned how to make Dhalpuri from her older sister and stepmother who still works daily making roti and bara for doubles in Trinidad. For many years, I’ve only ever eaten and watched Dhalpuri be made. It doesn’t seem hard but there is nothing worse than a tasteless and heavy roti. The dough and ground spilt pea recipe remains a secret but I listened to the shared technique, tips and tricks Shonel picked up over the years of making Dhalpuri and Paratha – the two most popular types of roti in the West Indies. We made forty medium-sized Dhalpuri and as the last one came off the tawa, Shonel’s phone buzzed with inquisitive customers and family members wanting to know what was on the menu.
The menu? Oh boy was it delish! We had the usual suspects to eat with the Dhalpuri – Curried Potato and Channa; my signature Pommcythere Anchar; Braised Beef bought fresh from the farm that morning; Butternut Squash, a vegan option that is found in every ‘curry feast’ and Baby Shrimp I sautéed in (good) butter.
I had a fun and belly-filling day with Shonel and her family, I came away with so much more than snaps of old buildings and will always remember my first visit to London.