Defining your family used to be really simple when people were born and raised in the same place where they themselves would eventually settle and raise a family. Your family was your mom and dad; your siblings; and possibly a grandparent that came to live with you. Your extended family was the cousins and aunts and uncles that you saw on high days and holidays. That was your blood, your kin – and from there, levels of intimacy would cascade down in ever-diminishing degrees of closeness. In-laws, close friends, colleagues, casual acquaintances… all the way down to strangers that you had only met once or twice. Your family knew you inside out – your good points, your bad points; your likes and dislikes – the whole lot, probably because they shared many of them! Although you were all different shapes and sizes, you fitted together just like a jigsaw puzzle to make a complete picture
But… that was then, this is now. We are part of a generation that has more mobility and more freedom than possibly any other generation before us has had. We can travel the world, settle where we want to, and reinvent ourselves as we go along. But for the most part, we leave our family behind to strike out on this bold new adventure. We settle in new countries, we make new friends and we assimilate new cultures. But what we gain in experiences and novelty, we lose in the feeling of belonging. No matter how long I live in England, I will never be English; and no matter how I surround myself with a trusted "inner circle" of friends who function as my surrogate family here in the UK, there is no substitute for the sense of comfort and belonging that comes from the company of people related to you and who have a shared history and frame of reference.
And then one day, you find her: the sister you never knew you had.
Spot the family resemblance!!
On paper, this is a ridiculous proposition. You have met exactly twice in your life. You grew up in an Afrikaans home in Africa. She grew up in an Indian home all over America and the Middle East. Surely you can have precious little in common, and the chances that this unlikely combination will yield long lost sisters are close to nil?
However, the universe had other plans and besides, we had underestimated the unifying power of Norwegian heart-throbs a-ha A casual conversation about a-ha at Food Blogger Connect 09 in November resulted in tickets being purchased in December and culminated in my flying to Leipzig two weeks ago to be reuited with my sister-from-another-mother.
From the moment that we squealed and hugged next to her VW Golf, it seemed as if we were determined to catch up on the 30something years that the universe had conspired to keep us apart. Even listenng to a-ha took a back seat to the flow of chatter in the car as the conversation ebbed and flowed between us – from families to 80s pop to relationships to blogging to food and back to the relative merits of the members of a-ha. I owned the same car as her back in South Africa. We got the same present for our 21st birthdays. We watched were obsessed with the same 80s music videos and used to have friends send us Top of the Pops recordings on VHS from London. We were even susceptible to the same illnesses.
And from there, the weekend just got better. Within minutes of arriving in Weimar, we were in the shops, buying shoes (Nick – if you are reading this, pretend you didn't see that!). We wandered around the cobbled streets of the city, admiring the architecture and the rows of fat, sizzling bratwurst on vendors' grills until we were overcome with hunger.
Lunch was meant to be a quick bite to eat, but segued into an idyllic afternoon of talk and wine and laughter and flammenkuche at Hibrido. We had big plans for that evening – macaron making and dinner at home, but instead we ended up pouring ourselves some cocktails and settling down to nostalgic 80s pop videos and an evening of joyous hysteria, culminating in a midnight Skype session with Sporty Spice in Zurich and hilarious webcam tours of Chez Sporty and Chez Zesty. "Surely you're not having another cocktail at this hour?" asked Sporty, in mock horror. "Bottoms up!" said Sweary and Zesty in reply as they clinked their (full) glasses.
On Sunday, we hit Dresden, a fascinating and beautiful city on the banks of the Elbe – but our eyes kept returning to the giant stage on the riverbank where a-ha would be performing that night. After an ill-advised stop in a cafe for The Worst Coffee, Service and ice-Cream in Germany, we headed for the concert venue, a mere 5 hours before a-ha would take to the stage (!), but in time for the soundcheck. And finally the gates were opened and we sprinted to the stage, feeling like we were 16 again and appearing in one of the music videos we'd watched as teenagers. By 9pm the atmosphere was electric. A beautiful summer evening, a stunning backdrop and then… Morten, Magne and Paul, just a couple of metres from us. If my 16 year-old self could have gazed into a crystal ball and seen where she'd be in 2010, I think she would have swooned with happiness. And then they launched into Butterfly Butterfly and we embarked on 2 hours of sheer musical joy and happy nostalgia. We sang, we danced, we laughed at Magne speaking a few words of German, we rolled our eyes at Morten's constant haranguing of the sound man – but mostly we each delighted in finding a sister who knew all the words to all the old, obscure songs On the walk back to our hotel, we encountered a group of busking opera singers singing Time to Say Goodbye in a vaulted arcade – it was one of those surreally beautiful evenings. And even later back in the hotel, hoarse from singing, we were still talking. At 00h30 I said "that's it, I'm tired. I'm putting my earplugs in and going to sleep". At 02h00 we were still talking.
Monday morning was a bit sad – after 7 months of planning this trip the concert was over – but soon the lavish Hilton breakfast cheered us up. After this we wandered around the city taking photographs and went up to the top of the recently restored Frauenkirche which is well worth a visit, both for the beautiful building and the gorgeous view from the top of the dome. We bought some tickets for a cruise on the Elbe and decided to kill the hour until our trip by relaxing in a sunny beer garden by the river with icy mugs of Radler (beer shandy). Within minutes we were so lost in conversation that we did not notice the minutes slipping by and soon we had less than 10 minutes to make it back across the river to the boat. As we got to the bridge, though, our way was barred: there was a film crew filming on the bridge and no pedestrians were being allowed to cross. "But we've already paid for tickets for THAT boat and we're NOT missing it!" called Meeta as the two of streaked past the startled police officer. So if you are ever watching a German TV drama with a man pointing a gun at a car on an old bridge, and you see two women in red SPRINTING past in the background of the shot, feel free to say: "Hey – I know them!".
Back in Weimar, we finally got to cook our meal together (although, to be fair, I did more Tweeting than cooking!). Meeta had devised a savoury tart in honour of my visit and it was this that she made for our last dinner together – you will have to read Meeta's post to see what was in the tart! But the question was what to drink with it? Cocktails are usually thought of as something to drink before a meal rather than to accompany it, but I can see no logical reason why this should be so. In fact, I would suggest that this cocktail is the perfect accompaniment to the tart – the bubbles of the prossecco and the tart berry flavour of the vodka cuts through the tart's richness and cleanses your palate for another bite. Just like me and my sister-from-another-mother, they fit together just like a jigsaw puzzle to make a beautiful complete picture.
(Of course, Meeta could not drink our last round of cocktails for the photoshoot as she still had to drive me to the airport, and so the first time I met her husband and son I was standing there with a sheepish grin and a vodka cocktail in each hand at 3pm on a weekday afternoon. I wonder if he thinks I'm a bad influence…?!)
The drive to the airport was bittersweet. It meant we got another hour of listening to a-ha and laughing together, and I got to eat my very first Magnum Gold (verdict: Oooooh, gold chocolate! Great caramel flavour. Salt? What salt?). But it also meant that each passing mile brought me closer to the plane that would take be back to London and away from my sister. It's probably a good thing that Meeta had to dash back to her double-parked car and our goodbye was rushed, because a long goodbye could only have ended in floods of tears from both of us. Family goodbyes are always wrenching, especially when you have no idea when you will see your sister-from-another-mother again. But we'll always have the memories of our crazy a-ha weekend, and all I have to do to re-live them is pour myself one of these cocktails and whip up Meeta's tart.
Of course, as sisters do, Meeta and I could not agree on a name for our cocktail. She favours a Rassecco (after the main ingredients), and I favour a Time Machine (because you feel 20 years younger when you drink it). So this is where the giveaway comes in! We’re each giving away a copy of The Vodka Bible by Paul Knorr to two lucky people who come up with an original, unique and fitting name for this cocktail – and we will ship worldwide. The rules are simple: just leave a comment on either this post or on Meeta’s post with your suggested name for the cocktail. You have till Monday 16 Aug 12:00 AM CEST after which we’ll go through the suggestions and choose a lucky winner from each blog.
RASPBERRI & PROSECCO COCKTAIL
Ingredients per serving
3 fresh raspberries
15 ml (or more!) raspberry-flavoured vodka (we used Absolut Raspberri)
You will need large martini glasses, but if you don't have those, champagne flutes are also good.
Place three raspberries in the base of each glass. Pour the vodka over, then top up with the prosecco.
Drink with girlfriends and sisters while listening to a-ha
Meeta & I are entering both the cocktail and tart to this month’s Monthly Mingle. Sara over at Sara’s Corner has been the gracious hostess all this month and has invited us all to come over with Party Treats. She’s doing a great job and we hope you will all join her at the party. The deadline is on August 17th. Hope to see you there!
And in other news… nominations are now open for the 2010 South African Blog Awards. I would REALLY appreciate it if you would take a few moments to click on the link below and nominate me in the categories Best Food & Wine blog and Best Overseas Blog. Only the blogs with the most nominations go through to be finalists, so every nomination counts!! Pretty please with chocolate sprinkles? When you click the link below, CookSister has already been selected as nominee in the abovementioned categories, so all you have to do is enter the security code displayed and a VALID e-mail address, then click on the link in the confirmation e-mail they send you. NB – you have to click the link in the e-mail that you will be sent, otherwise your nomination will not count! Thanks ever so much