A few weeks ago Terry Anne and I shared an Airbnb in Pisa for a night. In the morning we wanted coffee and were dismayed to see there was no coffee machine. All that our hosts had provided was a measly espresso pot.
“How on earth does that thing work?” Terry Anne asked, the sound of panic rising in her voice.
“I have one at home I haven’t used for years,” I replied. “I wonder whether I can remember how to use the damn contraption. Still,” I sighed, “it is our only hope.”
And so, I nervously unscrewed the top from the base, filled said base with water up to the sticky-out thing, spooned some dusty coffee grounds into the funnel-shaped sieve-like cup, replaced the top securely and set it on the stove. We sat at our pale, round, plastic-covered painted table, watching the mysterious aluminium pot sit silently atop a flickering blue flame. Now what? Had I made a mistake?
But then, after a minute or so the deafening gush of a throaty gurgle, loud as a passing bullet train, filled the tiny kitchen. It seemed our morning fix was ready. Terry Anne looked slightly terrified. I was thrilled. To have dredged the machinations of Italian coffee-making from the depths of two decades of memory was impressive. What’s more that coffee was rich and deep and delicious.
Back home, I located our own long lost espresso pot at the back of a cupboard. It had been hiding behind the boxes of Nespresso pods and the cafetieres, behind the teabags and teapots.
Ever since then making Italian coffee has been my ritual. I love the anticipation of waiting for the rush of the brew forced up through the grounds. I love how its tasty caffeine-fueled jolt slaps me awake and how, every morning, I can return to Italy.
Earlier this year, in Spain, Ian and I discovered the joy of eating squid grilled a la plancha and shamefully realised we already owned one that we had never used. Since then our dinners often take us back to Alicante.
My rice cooker, extra-long cooking chopsticks and baby copper wok let me visit Malaysia from my own kitchen in The Hague.
I love to cook. The kitchen is the most important room in my house by a mile. Like Terry Anne I am a traveller in my soul, my heart and my bone marrow. I dread not being able to taste the exotic in my daily life, fearing we may now be too old to get another expatriate posting. And so, I am making a vow to be more mindful of exotic moments in my everyday.
I may not be prepared to settle for being an armchair traveller, but I already have the wherewithal to be a stovetop adventurer.