Ladyfingers and a Charlotte Malakoff Cake

While everyone was stocking up on toilet paper and wipes, I bought the essentials: unsalted butter (freezes well), champagne and sparkling wine (these are difficult times), organic sugar, and lots of chocolate. Can someone please explain to me why people were hoarding toilet paper for an impending respiratory disease? I understand lockdown but do people really use that much toilet paper? And wipes. All of a sudden everyone is buying wipes. Did people use wipes before this and I’m just now finding this out? I don’t want to know.

Anyhow.

I read cookbooks for fun. Well, I used to. As of late I’ve been working too much and traveling too much and this quarantine has made that very clear to me. I was aware of it before but in denial. And too busy to think about it. So the other day, I watched Julie and Julia and have been reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking more frequently. I had pages marked off for recipes I want to make. So I was going through and came across the Charlotte Malakoff cake, an almond cream cake in a mold of liquor-soaked ladyfingers. I had a package of ladyfingers that my brother and sister-in-law had got me at Christmastime and what better time than to use them?

I thought I had read the recipe all the way through and was prepared to enjoy the cake after dinner. Until I got to the last step, which read, “refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. The butter must be chilled firm, so the dessert will not collapse when unmolded.”

So I would be having the cake with my morning tea. No problem. No dessert tonight.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Julia Child, et al’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The recipe calls for fresh strawberries, which I did not have and did not care to procure, so I topped it with Meyer Lemon Preserve that I have plenty of.

Ingredients:

Mold:

  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 24 lady fingers

The almond cream:

  • 1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup organge liqueur
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cups ground almond
  • 2 cups whipping cream, chilled

Line the bottom of an unbuttered mold with a round of unbuttered wax paper. The recipe recommends a 2-quart cylindrical mold, 4 inches high and 7 inches in diameter, which I did not have so I used a deep springform mold that I did. It worked fine but I had a lot of filling leftover, which I froze and will report back in the future on its defrostability.

Pour orange liqueur and water into a soup plate. Dip the ladyfingers, one by one, and drain on a rack. They are actually pretty absorbent so don’t rush it. Unless you like not-so-boozy and not-so-soaked ladyfingers, in which case go quickly. Line the bottom of the mold and then the sides with the soaked ladyfingers. You will likely need to cut the ladyfingers in half or in some shape to cover the inside of the mold. Reserve the remaining ladyfingers (you will put those in halfway after you have stuffed the cake).

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in the orange liqueur and the almond extract; continue beating for several minutes until they are fully incorporated and the sugar is dissolved. Beat in the ground almonds.

In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until it’s almost whipped. Mrs. Child, et al describe this as “the beater, when drawn across the top of the cream, leaves light traces.” Fold the cream into the butter/almond mixture.

Pour half of the filling into the prepared mold. Arrange the remaining soaked ladyfingers and cover with the rest of the filling. Cover with a piece of wax-paper and fit a plate on top with a weight on top. I used a jar of jam in my refrigerator.

Refrigerate for six hours or overnight. The step that left me dessertless.

When you’re ready to serve the cake, remove from the refrigerator, take off the weight and the plate; leave the wax paper in place while you gently unmold your cake. You will want two plates, your serving platter and one for flipping the cake. Basically you will flip it over twice. You want the side of the cake that has the ladyfingers on the bottom. So flip the cake onto the spare plate, waxpaper side down, and then take the mold off (gently) and then again flip, this time mold-less onto the serving platter. Remove the wax paper and decorate with fresh fruit or, in my case, Meyer lemon preserves.

Enjoy!

My perfectly imperfect Charlotte Malakoff cake

This cake is really rich and probably shouldn’t be consumed by one person alone. I shared some with my aunt, my neighbor, and my colleague and friend who lives in my neighborhood and has her son staying with her ever since he got the boot from the dorms at his university.

Social Distancing

I’ve been hyperaware of this social distancing bit. I’m a hugger and so I have to remind myself to respect the space. Has this been difficult or different for anyone else?

I went for a hike yesterday up in Veteran’s Park. It’s felt so good to get outside and get fresh air and pump my legs. As I turned a corner to go up to the stairs I heard some people so I slowed down to make space for them and not startle them. There was a young, chubby guy with the most shiny, round, beautiful chipmunk cheeks I have ever seen (OK, second most beautiful, my baby niece takes the cake on beautiful chipmunk cheeks). The kid practically yelled “hello” and came at me with arms wide open for a hug. I stepped back with my hands out in front of me. I looked to his hiking buddy, maybe his brother? He was calling to him in Spanish, telling him to stop. I was startled. Not freaked out and there was no gut wrenching warning like I was in danger–I hope you’ve never felt that before but I have and you know, your whole body washes over with this warm sensation and your insides clench up and you freeze and want to run away. I believe they call that fight or flight. Anyways, this was just like, ahhh sorry! We’re not supposed to hug right now. And then I realized this kid had some sort of developmental disorder. He held his arms out again and came at me, slowly and steadily, for a hug. His brother grabbed his arm and told him to come along.

I said “I’m so sorry, honey, it’s just that we’re not supposed to hug right now…umm, coronavirus…” I felt stupid as I said it.

He kept yelling “hello” as he and his brother walked off in one direction and me in another. I turned the corner and burst into tears. I was standing on the trail “ugly crying” as the cute girls call it. I was so sad that I didn’t hug the kid. I know we’re in a global pandemic but was my hugging this kid going to disrupt the course of fate?

All these thoughts ran through my head as I wept. It felt good to cry. And to cry outside in the open air, not holed up in my bedroom. Not that I ever feel holed up in my bedroom but you get what I’m saying. So I just took a moment to cry. And it felt good. If you have someone you’re not condemned to be socially distant from, like your husband, wife, boyfriend, etc. please hug them extra hard and long for me today.

Uninhibited

After a lot of rain and being inside far too much, I decided to go to one of my happy places, Asilomar, for a walk this afternoon. I parked on the street and walked down the boardwalk and up the sandhill and then down towards the beach. There were so many people on the beach! This coronavirus has definitely got people going outside.

Greetings from the beach

Anyhow, I saw a young mom with her son on a beach towel and then the little boy ran off with a bucket and mom leaned back with a book to read. The boy, who was no more than five years old, ran over to me yelling something. When he got closer I heard him say “I founded a shrimp.”

He was very proud. We had a brief exchange about his shrimp and I asked him if he had eaten it. “No, silly,” he told me. He rambled on about some other stuff without stopping in between thoughts or sentences to take a breath.

I needed to cross a little stream of water and the little boy saw me pacing back and forth and testing out rocks for their stability. He looked at me and said, “just do like this” as he hopped lightly from rock to rock and onto the other bank.

I laughed out loud. What a beautiful little mind he had. He was uninhibited by the fear of falling and I clearly was. He stood on the other side of the little stream, jumping up and down and yelling, “just go!”

After much trepidation, I crossed the stream, markedly less limberly than he had. He had already run off to join his sister who at this point was yelling towards me about her brother’s shrimp discovery. I went on my walk with much to think about.

Am I afraid to “just go?” Maybe I should do like the little boy and just jump on ahead to the other side of the stream. Maybe I think too much. Why do we think so much? Test every rock before taking a step?

the little stream
the little boy, uninhibited
lovely Asilimar

Embracing ephemera

The other day I was writing in my journal at a local wine tasting room and I overheard this British couple talking about their plans around town and Carmel. We eventually struck up a conversation and they asked me for some recommendations for local wineries, restaurants, and things to do.

Fast-forward to the next day when I was cleaning the house and wondering if the charming couple ever went to the places I had suggested. And if they had, what they had thought? And then I let my mind wander, as it does, and I thought how cool is it that I will never know? How beautiful that we shared a moment over a glass of wine and an unwritten journal page so I could share some of my restaurant preferences in my hometown. Maybe they lost the paper they had jotted my recommendations down on and never made it to those places? Maybe they went to them all and had bad experiences? Or perhaps, they tried some and discovered others on their own.

And then I got to thinking about how we oughtn’t control things or expect things. Buddhism teaches that suffering comes from the attachment to expectations. And also to embrace and live in the present. My recommendation-giving was yesterday…and I gave them those recommendations without expectations that they would like or dislike them or report back to me. Now it is with me as a nice memory as I dust my bookshelf.

I let my mind wander some more and I began looking up words and found that the word ephemeral–which means lasting for a very short time–comes from the Greek ephēmeros which means “lasting only one day.” I can think of many things in my life that lasted only one day or even less and that they were beautiful just in their short lifespan. A meal with a friend or a lover. A swim in a creek. A deep conversation. A movie. Blackberry picking in the summer.

A daylily, so called because it is only in bloom for about a day
Photo by Bradley Howington on Unsplash

If only I can remind myself to let events in life be ephemeral. To not attach expectation to them and maybe I can find myself a little more liberated. To embrace a moment, a conversation, a relationship for its lifespan…whatever that may be. And then to let it go.

Lunch at Sur Burger

Ack. It appears that I have let “busy-ness” plague me like so many in our society. A friend messaged me the other day to have lunch and so we met up at Sur Burger on Alvarado. He commented that I hadn’t written on my blog in some time so here I am.

This life is crazy and beautiful. We get so many things thrown at us that we get no formal training on how to deal with. I guess busy-ness is one of those things. We all have our ways of coping: making schedules, exercising, ensuring we get enough sleep, etc. But sometimes those habits are less than healthy, maybe we lose sleep to accommodate the busy schedule and try to accomplish more in the day. Maybe we drop the exercise on account of being tired from losing sleep or to try to accomplish more in the day. I guess this is me reminding myself to focus on the healthy habits and not the less than healthy habits. To remind myself that no matter what happens, it will all get accomplished and it will all turn out OK in the end.

My friend suggested we order a bottle of champagne…we had lots to celebrate: life, friendship, living in California, a day ending in “y.” So we ordered a bottle of bubbly and a couple of burgers (we were at a burger joint, after all) and I thought this is so California. A little known fact is that the name “California” originates from the Spanish conquistadors after “califia” a mythical island paradise in Las Serges de Esplandian by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo, a Spanish romance written c. 1510. But also California is a land of abundance with a Mediterranean climate. With that abundance, people–inventive, motivated, life-loving people–have learned how to refine and perfect so much of the natural abundance and resources. Take for example, agriculture (and gastronomy) and viticulture. California has such lovely food and wine.

Anyhow, I’m not trying to get too philosophical here other than to say champagne and burgers felt like a very “California” lunch to me. Champagne is reminiscent of “high-class” culture, if you will, and burgers are fast food. Put together, and eaten slowly, you get the perfect Californian meal.

Something unique about Sur Burger is that they have a “condiment bar.” You can fill up on pickles, cole slaw, and different dips for your fries and sauces for your burger. The menu offers “chicken and waffles,” which I was going to say is a California food on account of the popularity of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles, but upon further research, I have found that the dish is a bit older than Roscoe’s. There are multiple theories about its origin but one posits that in the early 1800s hotels and resorts outside of Philadelphia served waffles and fried catfish but over time the catfish became any other meat due to catfish’s limited availability. By the end of the nineteenth century, the dish was a symbol of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. How cool!

Anyhow, I had a lovely lunch of bubble and burgers, spent good time with a dear friend, and was reminded that I need to write on my blog more often. I hope you have enjoyed my stream of consciousness and that you can take a minute to remind yourself to do something you love that maybe you haven’t done in a while. Or reach out to a friend for lunch.

sweet potato fries, burgers, & bubbles

Taxi ride in Santiago

He was a talker. Busy. Anxious to please. He saw me lift my sleeve up and pull it back down, he didn’t know I was checking on my eczema. He thought I was cold. He turned his head around quickly and saw I was wearing a turtle neck. He didn’t know it was a turtleneck tank top. “Are you cold?” he implored.

“No.”

“I can turn the air off.” he asked.

“No no, I like it.”

“Oh ok. Yes. Good. Because it’s really hot down there.” (By down there be meant in the city.)

“I am Alfonso. Anything you need I’m at your service.”

“Thank you, Alfonso.”

It was quiet again and that made him unstill.

“Do you have a sore throat?” he asked, looking at me through the rear view mirror and touching his throat.

“No.”

“Oh. I thought. You were—“

“No no I’m fine.”

Again, quiet. But he wanted to talk.

“Are you here on vacation? Work?” He asked.

“Work.”

“Are you Central American? You have an accent like you could be…Guatemalan, Colombian…”

“No I’m North American,”

“North American! And you learned Spanish?”

“Yes.”

“And I’m Alfonso, did I already tell you that? What is your name?”

“Sally.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Sally. Anything you need you just tell me. Any questions, anything.”

“Thank you, Alfonso.”

He picked up his cell phone and spoke to it, giving it the address of my hotel. The female machinated voice started to give him directions in Spanish. He updated me: “24 km. Or 22 minutes. We will arrive at your hotel at 11:24.”

“Thank you.”

Alfonso proceeded to give me a demographic and geographic report of his country. I nodded along. After several minutes of talking he asked if I had ever been to Chile. I told him I had. And he laughed out loud, “so you already know all of this?”

“I don’t remember all the details, please continue.”

He told me about all the provinces in the country and the neighborhoods in Santiago. He told me the area I was staying in was very safe and I had nothing to worry about.

“There are places that really respect health. To include that you can’t smoke outside. Wait. Do you smoke?” He quickly turned around thinking he may have offended me.

“No.”

“Good.” He sounded relieved, “Then you won’t have any problem. Because there are neighborhoods that you can’t smoke and if you do you’ll be fined.”

He went on, “You’ll be safe. For example. If someone says to you, “what a beauty!” We call that a cat call and you can’t do that. You can file a complaint. You are safe here. But it won’t happen so don’t worry.”

He asked me what I thought of Chilean people and after I had given my opinion he shared his opinion of his country and I loved that. He was proud.

We pulled up at a stop light and he pointed his finger out of the passenger side window, “you’re American! That’s your embassy.”

There was a sky-rise with a window cleaner halfway up.

See the window washer on the right about halfway up? And sorry for the white van…it pulled up just as I was snapping the photo!

Alfonso told me how different he thought Donald Trump and Bill Clinton were. How he thought that the quality of life in Chile was excellent. How their economy is doing really well right now and they have a lot of immigrants.

When we pulled up at the hotel he said, “It’s been a pleasure. May I give you my card? If you want a ride back to the airport when you’re leaving I’m happy to take you.”

He handed me the card and explained what each phone number meant. I tucked it in my purse and got out of the car. He jumped out after me. He was disappointed that the bell boy at the hotel had already gotten my one piece of luggage.

As I walked away he called after me, “Enjoy Chile!”

Morning walk on the beach with my dad

Throughout my adult life, I have had on-and-off routines with my dad where we do things we both like to do and allow us to spend time together. This is mainly around exercise because he is a very active guy and we both love to be outdoors. Although once we decided to take up yoga together…in addition to being very active, my dad is very funny and in the middle of downward dog he would make noises or comments to make me laugh which is frowned upon in yoga. We never went back.

He recently had a knee replacement surgery and he is not very good at the healing process. I don’t mean his body isn’t healing, it is healing fine, he isn’t good at waiting for it to heal and tolerating the pain and discomfort. However he is encouraged to move his knee and walking is good for him. Plus, we all know that exercise is great for the mood, too. My dad loves to walk on the beach. He has a whole routine—much like everything else in his life—it is orderly and specific and only he knows how to do it right. So I just go along for the ride. I decided that a couple mornings a week we would go walk on the beach together. Which means you have to do things his way so I have to wear pants I can roll up because we walk barefoot, wading in the water. He walks with a stick which is also a prop for the lectures he gives me while we walk, shaking it in the air in disapproval of something I have done or to emphasize a point.

So we got to the beach and left our shoes in his car. We walked down the sandy path onto the beach, down to the water, and over to the tide pool because that is where his walk starts. All of this other stuff is just prep for the walk. I had my phone and was snapping photos of sea anemones and sea stars for which I was scolded. “We came to walk! Not take pictures put that thing away.” (That “thing” is an iPhone.)

We walked and talked or just walked together in silence. I heard stories and jokes I have heard a hundred times but have learned to listen. At one point I said “oh my God,” in response to some joke my dad had said and without skipping a beat he said, “oh my Buddha.”

When we walked by a group of ladies he waved his arm in the air to wave, they all smiled and waved back. He makes friends everywhere he goes.

When we finished our walk, we went back to the car and I was given strict instructions to sit in the passenger’s seat and wait for him with my feet hanging out of the car. He came over with a bottle of water he had filled up at home and poured the water over my feet instructing me to rub them together to get the sand off. We have done this for years. I asked him if he wanted me to do the same for him and he told me I didn’t now how to do it, as he threw me an old towel to dry my feet off. He rinsed his feet off in a similar fashion and dried them off with the same towel. I sat in the car thinking of the number of years we have done this. I remember being a kid, before we had discovered that water is better for rinsing sand off than a dry towel which acts like sandpaper against your feet. I remember squealing and complaining as my parents cleaned my feet off before I was allowed back in the car.

Life is strange and can be frustrating. We have expectations of how things should be or ought to be and social media certainly doesn’t help with our expectation management. However, this morning on my walk with my dad and my observations of our interaction, I was just thankful. I was thankful to have the morning walk, thankful for my dad, and thankful to be able to reflect for a moment.

In my reflection, I concluded that today is the first day of autumn. While the calendar says otherwise, today the sunlight changed dramatically. The air was crisp and it was windy. This is my favorite time of year here in Monterey. I hope you enjoy it, too, whether you are here or wherever you are.

A sea star hiding under the kelp at low tide

A sea anemone, retracting at low tide

Lots of sea anemones

Papa B & me

Sunrise

Papa B with a treasure from the sea

A sea gull with a treasure from the sea

 

The Oasis on Lake Travis — Austin, TX

The day after my cousin’s wedding, a lot of my side of the family decided to go to The Oasis at Lake Travis in Austin, about an hour and fifteen minutes northeast of San Antonio.

It was a long drive and my cousin’s car doesn’t have the most reliable air conditioning (read, it turns off randomly) which made the two hour drive in 102˚F plus 80% humidity less than enjoyable (read, miserable). Ok, I’m being a bit dramatic, my aunt, who is one of the best cooks I know had freshly made shawerma (gyro) sandwiches in her purse (naturally) and I ate one and wrote down the recipe with a blissful heart and belly.

When we arrived, we put our name down for a party of 20 for “first available” but really just wanted to sit inside. We were told it would be a two hour wait so one group of us went and found refuge from the heat and coffee at a nearby shopping center. I guess that’s what people who live in really hot places do, go hang out at Safeway. I’ve actually heard of this phenomenon, Safeways have Starbucks in them and they keep the store really cool so you just bring your laptop or a book and have coffee and sit in the lobby of Safeway, passing the July Saturday. Man are we lucky in Monterey.

The Oasis is known as “the sunset capital of Texas” and the building is a multiple level restaurant overlooking Lake Travis. Everywhere you turn there are funky statues and quirky signs. All along the rails throughout the restaurant there are hundreds of locks and it is referred to as “Lovers Lock Lane.” There’s a sign saying:

May your love live forever at the Sunset Capital of Texas.
Lock your love with your soulmate,
family member or friend.
Personalize your love lock and toss
your key into the fountain.

Locks available for purchase in The OASIS Gift Shop.

I think the last line says it all. I also hope your love endures past the Sunset Capital of Texas.

The kids (ages 20-30) were assigned to sit at one end of the table while the adults sat at the other end of the table. We all shared food and drinks and just hung out, it was lovely. We waited for the sun to set and snapped group photos. It was a nice way to spend the last day in Texas and the day after a long weekend of family time and a big wedding. If you find yourself in Austin, and you like quirky places, lakes, and people, head over to The Oasis. In the meantime, enjoy my photos!

 

View of Lake Travis, note all the locks hanging from the fence

My aunt and mom posing with the old lady statue–one of the many quirky statues around the grounds

My dad, my baby cousin, and my dad’s baby brother

Nachos!

Chicken enchiladas

The sun setting over Lake Travis

Me!

Sunsetting over Lake Travis

Boatrides at dusk

The entrance to the Oasis, note the statue

Machu Picchu

I woke up at 4:30 knowing I needed to start moving. I had initially thought I’d walk up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, it’s about a 2 km walk with another 2km altitude gain but everyone kept telling me to take the bus up and walk down. My independent, adventurous self was mad at my other self for not strapping on the headlamp and climbing the mountain.

I went downstairs to breakfast. I was the only person in the breakfast room. I had café con leche, breakfast, and packed myself a couple small sandwiches for the day.

Breakfast room at my hotel…mama, do you see the Milo!?

It was still pitch black outside. I walked to the bus stop which was just about 3-4 blocks up the street and found the line. Then I walked about a quarter of a mile to the end of the line!

The guy who got behind me in line had been sitting across the aisle from me on the train yesterday. We struck up a conversation, he was also traveling alone.

The seemingly endless line at 0545

We only waited about 15-20 minutes in line until we got on board the bus and started the incline up the mountain to Machu Picchu. We were dropped off at the entry also the front entrance to Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel on the grounds of Machu Picchu and sells for $1700/night in the off season.

Line to get into Machu Picchu

There are so many people here it’s unnerving. I was recently at Zion National Park and I felt the same way. It makes me think of when Kramer (from Seinfeld) quits swimming at the gym because it’s like a “flabby arm spanking machine.” That’s how this feels, wading through thousands of tourists from all over the world. And it’s unfortunate that Americans have such a bad rep because I have met obnoxious people from everywhere. There was a group of Australians taking photos with the ruins in the background and they were jumping, you know, like those photos for social media. A tour guide said “please sir no jumping” to one of them. You know what he responded?

“That’s stupid. Why not?”

There were obnoxious Koreans, Brazilians, Spaniards, British, Canadians, etc. The common denominator is that there are obnoxious people. There are also really lovely people from everywhere so let’s not stereotype. And let’s not be obnoxious when we travel…or ever.

The ruins at Machu Picchu

A llama

flowers 🙂

I hiked down the mountain passing many people on my way down. It was basically all stairs and predominately switchbacks. I crossed the bridge and found “Casa de la Mariposa, ABIERTA” (house of butterflies, OPEN). So I walked through the garden and found a sign for a coffee shop. Woohoo! An old man unlatched the gate for me and we chatted about plants and he told me the patio here was a good place to watch birds.

By this point it was pouring rain so I sat under the tin roof and he brought me a book about the birds of Machu Picchu. He brought me a menu and I ordered a pisco sour. He told me they were out of pisco. So I ordered a passionfruit juice and read through the book while looking out over the river at the birds. I recognized the swallows and the hummingbirds but there were many I didn’t. Several colorful ones perched at the bird feeder the old gentleman had built. Another bigger white bird with a black head flew over the river and landed on the rocks. It continued to pour. I got hungry and went to order something to eat. The young man behind the counter hadn’t stopped cooking since I had walked in. I asked him what the empanadas were, he told me pork, cheese, and pineapple. Like Hawaiian pizza…without the tomato sauce.

An old Mayan legend says: when you want happiness and to make your desires reality, whisper it to a butterfly and give her your love and freedom. Grateful, she will fly and the happiness and love will arrive…

The river, the mountains, the clouds

Milenka and La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla

Milenka and I decided to meet up on Friday night. She asked where I wanted to go and I told her I was a little hungry and I just wanted to eat Peruvian food. Peruvian food is amazing. There is good food everywhere and the presentation is always thoughtful and beautiful. Even cheap food or street food is delicious and beautifully presented.

We decided to meet at the same place that we first met the other day, which was 2 blocks from my hotel. I got there and stood looking for Milenka. I realized I didn’t know how tall she was because I only met her on a bike before. I stood at the crosswalk surveying people coming from the left, and the right, crossing the street toward me when suddenly I head “Sah-Lee”–soft a soft l. 

“Sorry I’m late. I stopped at the pharmacy to buy some medicine, I have a cold.” She said after a kiss and a big hug.

She wore a turtleneck sweater and a jacket and told me how freezing Lima is. A lot of the Limeños I’m talking to tell me Lima is freezing right now and the weather is just intolerable. It’s been in the low 60s but for a place with temperate weather most of the year, the low 60s and heavy fog/mist is too much.

We decided to go to La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla, a very famous sandwich shop in Lima. There were two within walking distance and we picked one and walked and talked, getting to know one another.

Milenka is from Cusco but moved to Lima for work after college, she’s a fashion designer and started working at H&M in Lima a few years ago when they opened a big store in Peru. She wanted to work retail and learn about the fashion industry from that perspective. She hated retail but learned a ton. After two years she quit and worked as an independent fashion designer selling her collection at independent shows and markets for young designers in Peru. Now she works part time at a fitness clothing store and spends the rest of her time designing clothes.

She is a passionate human and we talked for what felt like hours over my sanguich, french fries, and maracuya sour (passionfruit and pisco cocktail).the potatoes they used were not what I am used to back home. The context of their starch was different, thicker which made for different fries. And my sanguich–pavo a la leña (turkey cooked over firewood) and criolla salsa which is a salsa made from thinly sliced onions, aji (a yellow pepper), cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.She had a coffee since she’s got a cold and no appetite.

The counter at La Lucha, it looks like an old diner…I think it is!

My sanguich and french fries

We talked about love and heartbreak and all of the things we had in common. Her sweetheart had recently moved back to his homeland of Spain and she was working through those feeling  We laughed and encouraged one another to take the risks and follow our hearts. This, and these relationships, I believe are what make life worth living.

We took a selfie and walked out of the restaurant. Milenka wove her arm in mine and we walked back to my hotel saying over and over how this had been a magical meeting and we are certain we will see one another again, this friendship was sent to us.

Back at the hotel I tried on one of her shirts, I had picked one out that I wanted to buy from her from her Facebook page. I loved it and it fit me perfectly. It’s so Milenka’s style and every time I wear it I will think of her.

-:- Mile and me -:-

We parted ways, not wanted to stop hugging or tell one another how magical our meeting had been. Friendship and personal connections are magical. We ought to be open to them and seize them when they present themselves. Milenka told me she had been having a crummy week and this had totally turned it around.