Well today’s dish for the road is.. nothing. Nowt. Nicht. Nada. The big zero. An empty vacuum. An event horizon. Infinity minus itself. There’s no cronut, hopper, or shakshuka to review. No flavour, aroma, or presentation to report. The ‘score out-of-10’ is not even nought: there is no score out-of-10. For on Wednesday is Yom Kippur, a Jewish fast day, when one reflects on the past year and atones for all the bad stuff. View Post
Religion. Do I go there? What is to gain? What could I lose? And yet here I am. And here beside me is the territory of ritual, history and God. And here’s me stepping into it..
I think most of us have our stories of religion. Whether we grew up with it or not. Whether it was found or it was lost. Mine begins in a Jewish family, quite Orthodox in fact, until I discovered I was possibly atheist, but let’s call it agnostic, but always felt connected to Jewish culture if not belief, now living in and raising a mixed-faith family, rewarded by the richness and challenges that brings, living in a city that’s probably the most diverse on earth. I love that my neighbours are also mixed-faith; in fact between our two houses there are four religions, a fifth if you include our other neighbours. In our local neighborhood, there’s a friendly Sikh gurdwara, a serene Buddhist temple, a vibrant synagogue, the oldest mosque in London, churches from myriad denominations, and probably lots more besides.
I’m constantly intrigued by religion. I revel in its rituals, its festivals, its music, its community, and of course the centrality of food. It can transcend the individual, traversing time and space, helping people in their search for meaning. But as for dogma, division, rigidity and intolerance – well, who needs those unfortunate bedfellows… View Post
Many things are said about what it’s like landing in India for the first time. People say it’s an assault on the senses. People warn you about the heart-breaking poverty. And of course there’s the sweltering heat.
Stepping out of Delhi airport as a young backpacker in the 90’s, it was of course all of these things. But first things first: I had to deal with a more unnerving, if revealing, introduction to this incredible, if often unfathomable, country. Collapsing onto the hot sticky seats of the airport bus, an array of alarming signs accosted my tired jet-lagged eyes:
“In the mind’s eye, a fractal is a way of seeing infinity.”
James Gleick, from Chaos, 1987
“We saw shadows of the morning light, the shadows of the evening sun, till the shadows and the light were one.”
Jane’s Addiction, from Three Days, Ritual de lo Habitual, 1990.
By opening time at 7am, the smells of warm dough and coffee are already swirling around Solly’s bakery and the place is a buzz with bagel worshippers, bleary-eyed commuters, and caffeine-fixers. The counters burgeon with bagels high-stacked in assorted pyramids: poppy-seed, sesame-seed, onion, cinnamon and plain. But my senses are invariably drawn to the inviting tray of cinnamon buns and chocolate babkas; cuboid confectionery etched with characteristic spirals; an array which bedazzles the eyes with an optic illusion of rotating bakery. They are alive. They are calling me.
It was the summer of ‘95 and I was a 20 year-old medical student wannabe-beat-traveller journeying down Mexico way searching for soul, spirit, tequila, tortilla, dust, desert, nature, adventure, and the wild ol’ mariachi songs of love, tears, hope and death. But not a full-stop. Jack Kerouac didn’t do full-stops and, at that time of my life, the work of this 50’s Mexico-junkie beat-poet was my numero-uno travelling companion. On The Road and Lonesome Traveller: such stories fizzed with words that flowed off the pages like a roaring torrent of energy and life and the beat-spirit pummelled into my brain with force and power and off I went.
The journey started in Tijuana. In fact, I suspect lots of things start in Tijuana. An old border town that entices flocks of Californians looking for cheap goods, dentists, liqour and love, or some seedy combination thereof, possibly all in the same night. It’s a hot dusty intense place: brash, noisy and much loved and unloved. It’s exactly the sort of place where Breaking Bad cartel henchman would neck back tequila shots in a backroom bar before retiring to their black limos and a journey out of town to a lonely desert air-strip. View Post