Celebrating the freedom to choose and International Women’s Day

The first couple of months of the year are always busy and depressing, as if the new year is determined to make its presence felt on the back of the pleasant and mellow goodbyes of its predecessor. I have been on the road for several days now, balancing the family, career, friends and the ‘me’ passions of cooking and reading. Flights and airport adventures at unearthly hours, trying unsuccessfully to binge eat my way out of exhaustion-fueled depression, and developing (I am sure) all sorts of bone and eye related troubles while hunched over the keyboard. In a particularly low moment one evening this week, while miles away from home, in a strange hotel, staring at another several hours of work, I was petulantly ranting on the phone to the mum. And then she slipped in a gem which made me stop dead in my self-wallowing tracks, “remember, you chose this.”

As another International Women’s Day approached and retailers and service providers all over spammed me with offers celebrating my womanhood (rather reminiscent of P&G’s wishes of having a happy period), I found myself, on the long drive back from the airport, late Friday night, questioning the wisdom of my choices; thinking of other women I know and the journeys they are on. A dear friend who is determined to re-start her career after dedicating every waking moment to her two children this last several years, my sister in law who chose be one half of a commuting couple and raise her daughter as a single parent while staying on at work, another friend who is considering quitting at the peak of her career to devote more time to the family and find herself again. The examples are countless, even without peeking into the generations above and below. I realized anew, that at the heart of the matter, we are all attempting to find an identity and ways to measure our worth. While there are no simplistic answers, I find solace in what my mother put her finger on. It is in the choice and exercising of it, that we celebrate the essence of being a woman. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams it is a beautiful world because we CHOOSE to think of it so, and make it so. And so I choose to continue to carry on, putting one foot in front of another and booking yet another set of flight tickets.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, my mother in law cooked up a storm – all sorts of comfort food. This evening it was onion and potato pakados – chickpea flour batter dipped, crisp and crunchy vegetables with tomato and chilly ketchup as the dipping sauce. I did die and go to fritter heaven, but now the deep fried ball of guilt is weighing me by down several kilos. Difficult to celebrate womanhood while feeling like this. Might as well add period happiness and get done with it.

Double Tomato Bruschetta with Roasted Veggies
Double Tomato Bruschetta with Roasted Veggies

On the subject of comfort food – here is something healthy and vegetarian, from dinner last Sunday. Double Tomato Bruschetta with oven roasted veggies and whole-wheat spaghetti in béchamel sauce. To make the roasted veggies, throw in any vegetables you may have on hand into the oven at 250 degree c. Last week it was zucchini, bell peppers, cauliflower florets, and baby corn. You can also use carrots, beans, corn, peas, broccoli – any and every veggie you choose. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh/dried mixed herbs. I usually use a mix of thyme, rosemary and oregano with some sea salt. Roast till done – the trick being to lay your vegetables so that they don’t crowd each other. You want them to roast and not steam. Add walnuts for crunch and texture.

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