We humans are intrinsically social creatures. It is in our communal DNA to seek out interaction and connections with others. A number of these connections start out haphazardly with casual introductions, chance encounters, professional or business services and, at times, relationships develop.
In the course of our days we all form patterns. They are made up of the tasks and responsibilities that fill our needs and that of our families and here is where those small and short meetings with others can be the rich stuff of our lives.
Manchester is a small city that is getting bigger quickly. We are all witnessing and experiencing the effects of its growth, both the good and the bad. As we all maneuver our way through and around the speed bumps, the personal connections that we make along the way are what will make the experience smooth and maybe fulfilling.
Owning a restaurant in the city enabled me to meet a wide variety of our fellow sapiens. Not only guests but employees, vendors, street neighbors and service providers. Some were friendly and casual “It’s good to see you again” relationships, but some conversations blossomed into important friendships.
A plumber that came to our restaurant’s aid decades ago now not only has a key to our house but his daughter later on became an intern. A bank teller who we often converse with when doing business stopped a fraud attempt because she recognized a transaction that was out of our character. The service manager of the car dealership that we have been customers of for 15 years is aware of my tight schedule and went out of his way to have an emergency repair done as soon as I walked in the door. A neighbor plowed our driveway during the last major storm when we were in Paris so our friend could make it to the door and feed our cats. I can go on. We may never be invited to their homes for dinner but genuine concern for each other has evolved.
One of my life patterns has been the gym as I am sure it is the same for some of you. I go just about the same time each day and see the same people at least four days a week. Almost to a person (me as well) all are wearing earbuds that not only entertain and motivate but they protect us from others as well. They are a sign, DO NOT ENTER. Recently, I have decided to get over myself and at least acknowledge the presence of a few who are sweating just feet from my workout space. I purposely make eye contact with those dedicated souls who, like me, want to live forever. This focused act has led to head nods and, over time, grown to a few simple shared words. Where it goes from there is anyone’s guess.
Given the fact that I have been immersed in the highly social setting of restaurants for over three decades, I am basically an insular person, but as I age I realize how important it is to take a chance and show myself to others. Late-life friendships have blossomed and for those, I am eternally grateful. My personal situation applies to all, especially to those new to the city. Social forums help indeed but also a smile and a word to the person next to you or an inquiring question to someone who is providing a service can be the seed of a friendship.
If there is anything I am not it is a self-help Yoda, yet city living does require a personal network. Your phone can connect you to the hundreds but there are times when it’s the singular that counts.
Here is a story for sure. The recipe has roots in Algeria, moved with the ousted French to Marseille and Nice where I encountered it, and centuries prior sailed with the Berber pirates up the coast of Italy to Genoa where it’s called Farinata. It then became a Friday staple at both Republic and Campo. I will give you a home version. It is delicious, easy and can be the base for just about anything. This will make a good number of pancakes that can be frozen for later use.
- 3 cups chickpea flour
- 4 cups warm water
- 1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley (Rosemary is also a nice substitute)
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 chili pepper, diced
- 1 small carrot, shredded
- 1 small beet, shredded (nonbeet eaters can dice a red pepper)
- 1 Tablespoon curry powder
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Olive oil
In a bowl, add the chickpea flour and whisk with a fork to break up the lumps. Add the salt, pepper, parsley and water. Mix until smooth. A foam will form at the top. This is good. Place the bowl uncovered on the counter and let sit for at least three hours. (The natural yeasts in the air will give the batter a snappy taste. The longer it sits the more it will ferment.)
When the batter is ready toss the vegetables in the curry powder, salt and pepper. In a pre-heated saucepan add 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the vegetables for 3-4 minutes then add to the batter and mix well. Wipe out the saucepan and place back over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil and using a 1/2 cup scoop add the batter to the pan. When small bubbles form on the top flip the pancake and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Serve as is as a snack topped with yogurt, or as a first course with a salad. For us last night it was a base for Claudia’s chickpea, vegetable and date stew.