Category: a wanna be writer


It all started with me buying some bananas despite the fact that I don’t like bananas. There are many things I don’t like but when I get bored of available food choices I turn to these products pushed at the very back of my mental grocery shelves; either because too much time has passed since the last time I had them and I have forgotten what exactly it was I did not like about them, or because I imagine that in the meantime I have miraculously started liking them. So I do buy that food but the moment I pay for it at the checkout and leave the shop I know I won’t enjoy it. Thus, on my way home I try to come up with a way to best use what I have just bought and what I don’t actually like. It is barely surprising that my life choices undergo the same pattern. Doing one and the same thing over and over again, forgetting what it resulted to the first time (or the second and the third) and even hoping it to result to something else. Maybe this sounds familiar to you. It did to me so I Googled it and it turned out this was the definition Einstein gave to insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, I myself, call this eternal optimism. I will let you meditate on that and will go back to the bananas. Luckily for my sanity and optimism, the getting-the-same-results banana spell was broken. I found a way to like them.

I typed bananas and oats (as this is something I am addicted to lately) and Google, my best friend these days, suggested me I make an oatmeal banana bread. Here is what I took out of the oven an hour later.

I went through five or six recipes and picked one which in the course of cooking quite predictably underwent a complete change. I used more oats than flour and added raisins and considerable amount of hazelnuts. All that was left from the bananas was a thick puree that later gave a sweet taste to the bread and together with the cinnamon even sweeter smell in the air. The final product was just as I had hoped it to be – soft bread texture and crunchy hazelnuts. Sitting there in the warm kitchen, savouring this moment with all my senses, I couldn’t help but feel the absence of another human being. But the reason for that was hard to admit, even to myself. Was it because I was overtaken by the selfish urge to show off this succulent piece of heaven or by a generosity wave to simply share this moment of heaven. Both of them seemed equally scary and sad. I had to find out, so five minutes later I was five floors below my flat, standing in front of my neighbour’s door with a plate in my hand. I realised I was saved this time. I simply had the need to share my happiness – to surprise someone, offering them a piece of this gourmet pleasure. I got back home happy, leaving my neighbour equally so.

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Not long ago, when I was a student, I would do anything, including cooking, not to study. I know what you are thinking, ‘Been there, done that’.  Well, on this sunny Sunday I had nothing to do (only because it was the seventh day, i.e. the day for rest, and I gave myself a well-deserved day off CV sending) and yet there I was browsing the web for recipes and later browsing the kitchen cupboards for ingredients. I got inspired by the content of the cupboards so the recipe I had found earlier was subsequently used only as a guidance, as the skeleton of my gastronomic creation. I scribbled the necessary ingredients on a piece of paper or rather, being a freak paper-recycler, on an envelope I had recently received  from Luxembourg informing me that weeks ago had I applied for a job at their institution (as if I didn’t remember) and letting me know it would take couple of more weeks (as if I hadn’t figured it out myself) before they decided if I would be even considered for the position. This otherwise trivial story would make a good example. Good example N°1 of how excruciatingly redundant and never-ending this job-hunting process is. Even taking a break from it leaves you with the feeling of something hanging in the air, determined to suffocate you.  Good example N°2 of modern day recycling practices and paper re-usage – on one side there are those who instead of emailing would post a letter and on the other side are those who would re-use it, thinking they are being environmentally friendly. What is actually happening is instead of taking a step ahead we, me, the little insignificant citizen, are only repairing the damage already inflicted; despite our actions we are taken a step back where it all had started, only to neutralize somebody’s negative impact. Well, I am sure you are begging me to take a step back and return to that recipe of mine, hoping this post would finally make a sense.

Oatmeal cookies recipe

Confused by the American measurement of cups, I tried to find the ingredients’ equivalent in weight. More confused by my kitchen scale or rather by my incapability of reading it, I decided to go back to the cups or even to the more professional approach – working from instinct, by the art of imagination – as all the big chefs are known for. And imagination, I have unlimited amounts of.

So with the oats and the flour already in the bowl, I started adding sunflower seeds, sultanas and cinnamon. I had an image of a crispy cookie with a crumbly texture and thought the seeds must inevitably produce that sensation. Besides, I could imagine the smell of roasted seeds and their warm, crunchy taste (please, try to ignore the month-watering sensation and the urge to run to the kitchen and make your own cookies and keep reading). I often use sultanas as an extra ingredient to my extremely nutty, homemade cereal mix or as a substitute to sugar in baking. So the decision to use them came rather naturally. Besides reducing the amount of added sugar, they would also help me get these tiny chewy bits in the otherwise crispy cookie. Writing down the word ‘sultana’, my linguist instinct was immediately triggered and the seed of doubt was planted in my already disturbed translator’s mind. I started wondering was it a sultana or a raisin what I had just added and how could one distinguish them. Trying to find a way out of this, I turned to Google, hoping it would come to the rescue but as it often happens, it only added more confusion. A readers’ poll on the Guardian not only did not make this linguistic mystery clearer but it also added the currant to the story. So I trusted my instinct and added the sultanas. As for the cinnamon, I assume that just like with any other spice, there are some rules as what goes with it but I tend to add it to any pastries I make as I love its tempting smell coming from the oven and the cosy, seductive feeling it leaves floating in the air. I realize it is not anymore my cookies I am selling you but a moment of anticipation and pleasure for your senses; an experience wrapped in a single cookie, released with a bite and preserved in this photo.

My crispy oatmeal cookie

If I cannot physically share my cookies with anyone, I can at least share the experience of preparing and savouring them with you.

I don’t mind taking up the role of the housewife now and then and coming up with some unexpected delights, but I hope destiny has other plans for me and I get to find them out very soon.

In the meantime, you can make your own oatmeal cookies by checking the recipe I consulted and by adding anything your imagination and kitchen cupboards offer you.

My very own pile of oatmeal cookies

I always knew Romanians were more religious than us Bulgarians, and yet I would still get surprised by random gestures of religious faith. Crossing the Danube with the ferry (which if you could see, would agree had nothing to do with a ferry but I do not know any other word to name it with), I somehow against my will ended amid a group of retired Romanians. Upon arriving at the Romanian coast, I noticed one of the ladies making three times the sign of a cross in front of her chest – because we had arrived safe, I assumed, and thought there was nothing surprising in that gesture, coming from a lady her age and social status. Once in the town of Călărași, I spent one hour wandering around, trying to find the bus station, which despite my friend’s assurance was not so easy to find; speaking 4+ languages didn’t help me much. Thanks to the kind guy who proudly answered affirmatively to my question ‘Sorry, do you speak English?’, I finally made it to the station, which was just round the corner of where I was desperately standing. Once the bus, or should I say the little van, left the station, I noticed the guy on the seat in front of me making that same cross sign. Three times. Exactly what the lady did. Except that this time it was a guy my age i.e. young, and definitely from a different social milieu than the elder lady, as 10 min ago I was looking, for the sake of sociology and anthropology, of course, at his clothes’ style and his fancy vest. And yes, I did notice his equally fancy girlfriend sitting next to him.

While writing, I noticed in my peripheral vision (despite my driving instructor insisting I have no such thing) that we were going through one of these little, picturesque countryside villages. These same villages that we also have in Bulgaria, except that in Romania they are more colourful and cheerful as if to make up for the colourless conditions of the harsh countryside life. So I lifted my eyes from the tiny notebook I was frantically scribbling in and examined the elderly people sitting on benches in front of their houses, curiously observing the passage of buses and cars, or maybe just waiting for the passage of time. At that moment, Bulgaria and Romania could not be any more similar. However, I soon realized how wrong I was since in Bulgaria you would not be able to find this life-size crucified Jesus in a little niche inside the garden walls of these same houses.

Looking up again from my notebook, I noticed (I am sure you could not help but notice that I am a person who notices a lot) the three little icons above the head of the young bus driver, who had his left hand on the wheel and his right on his ear, holding an iPhone. I have always considered religion and its symbols outdated signs from the past. That was why I was surprised to see Virgin Mary, holding the baby and looking down at the driver’s iPhone. Once again, I had arrived somewhere with my preconceptions and had projected my own views on society, and in particular my own agnostic visions on Romanian society, as obviously religion there was alive and present. Omnipresent.

This was more than obvious in the little wooden ‘houses’ sheltering Jesus or Mary and the baby and covered with images of saints: something typical in every village the bus passed through all the way to Bucharest.

Later that day my Romanian friend told me that she had no idea what these sanctuaries were. She thought it to be weird. Yet, every time we would pass by a church or see one in the distance, she would make the cross gesture; a rare sight of someone having and showing respect and faith in something, I silently thought.

*             *             *

9 am. Bucharest – Paris Wizz Air flight. The pilot ended the usual message to the passengers with the words ‘Thank you for choosing Wizz Air. Enjoy your flight. Goodbye!’ Is he going somewhere, I could not help but wonder.

While I was waiting impatiently for the magical trolley to bring me the even more magical coffee, the man in the front seat ordered two beers when all I could think of right now was a sip of a strong coffee. And no, the second beer was not for the lady sitting next to him. Yet, one hour later she was the one sleeping on his shoulder while I, the coffee having fulfilled its mission, was energetically rearranging my purse, scribbling frantically in my notebook and flipping curiously through the pages of an old French Glamour magazine with ever so glamorous male actors and models. Paris, here I come!

*             *             *

8pm. Dark night. The Romanian Danube coast. Narrow dusty road, dry bushes, a small barrack and the bac (the Romanian word for ferry) approaching the coast. The bac is a 100m² platform made of rusty metal sheets and pushed by a small, even rustier boat that noisily and wearily, as if with its last breath, stopped at the coast. Looking like giant bugs coming out of their nest, the cars started getting off the bac and getting on the shore; in the space lit by their lights, I could see dust particles flying in the air. I suddenly realized where I was and understood what the girl on that Bucharest – Călărași bus meant. I had asked her in English where I could find a taxi to take me to the bac. ‘The bac? Are you going back?’, she asked perplexed. ‘The bac‘, I repeated with what I believed to be the right Romanian pronunciation and then continued, ‘The bac to Bulgaria, Silistra! I am from Silistra, I am going home’. ‘Now? In this night?!’, she could not hide her surprise. ‘Yes!’, I answered even more surprised, thinking what was wrong with the night; though already dark, it was not even 8pm after all. Then I got on a taxi, put on again my good-for-nothing Romanian pronunciation and asked for the bac. The second thing I asked, in as threatening as I could get my voice, was ‘Where’s the meter?’ I have enough experience with Bulgarian and Romanian taxi drivers not to get in a taxi without showing them who they are dealing with, i.e. small but fearless girl. Not that with all my threatening voice I could have done anything to save myself during the 10km ride on a dark road in the middle of nowhere, then getting off at a dusty barrack selling tickets for the bac and arriving right in front of two grubby-looking men whose only job was to sit, smoke and stare at that must-be-crazy girl coming from nowhere ‘in this night’. This is when I realized how people perceive me and my supposedly reckless actions. It is a good thing I do not see them as such. I like using the word adventurous if I have to think about it. But only if I have to…