Sun 1 Feb 2015
In a few short days, I’ll be meeting my best friend from back home in New York City for a long weekend. It’s been over six years since we’ve had time by ourselves face-to-face, mainly due to this hectic day-to-day thing called life and the literal ocean that sits between us.
As an expat, you learn to live without your family and friends as that’s just part of the deal. When I was preparing to move from Los Angeles to Ireland five years ago, all of my friends promised they’d visit. “Finally we have a reason to go to Ireland!” they’d say, earnestly. Five years later, only one (the aforementioned best friend) has actually followed through.
I’m not bitter about the lack of visitors. Let’s face it: it’s a huge ask, especially for my friends back home who get about 10 paid vacation days a year. Throw in kids, the expense of overseas travel and the not-so-amazing weather around here and you can’t blame them for spending their precious holidays in other locales. If the tables were turned, I’d probably do the same.
But it does get hard to maintain those friendships back home, despite social media and email and Skype. Over the years, the list of people I see when I go home has dwindled. The first visit included just about everyone; only a year had passed, I was single and had more time to keep in touch. By the second year, I probably saw about half the original number. These days, it’s a small but formidable group of mates that get together when we visit Los Angeles.
It’s difficult to maintain a connection when so much time passes without a proper conversation. After a while, you realise you hardly know anything about what’s going on with certain friends and it feels like every conversation is a marathon catch-up. By the time you’re introduced to a mate’s “new” baby, the kid is already walking and talking; you find yourself forgetting where a friend worked, or if she changed jobs since the last time you talked (she did, twice, and you forgot – or maybe she never told you). Pretty soon what used to be light-hearted conversations start to feel like an exercise in memory-jogging, and the emails fade out and oddly enough you’re both somewhat relieved. You’re now ex-friends. In a lot of ways, it’s like a breakup without the drama.
It gets lonely at times, and there is a lot of guilt and feelings of regret, but those remaining, well-seasoned friendships keep you going. And there are new relationships as well, the ones that emerge from dozens of new acquaintances you meet through work or blogging or in the new neighbourhood. The ones that remind us friendships are cyclical. I’ve been lucky to forge some lasting bonds here in Ireland, some of the strongest being with other expats.
There’s something about loss that brings people together; maybe subconsciously we sensed a shared emptiness or need for support and that’s what brought us together. Whatever the reason, I’m certainly grateful for the friendships I’ve developed here, and have a deeper appreciation for the friends back home who have stuck with me (like my best friend, pictured above!) – despite the inevitable strain of being thousands of miles apart.
Hearty Veggie Potato Cakes
Being a food blogger really opened up my social circle when I first landed in Ireland, and some of my closest friends here came from the food blogging community here in Ireland. These friendships have inspired my cooking, mainly because we spend so much time talking about FOOD! I’m always trying new recipes and this is one of them – something I whipped up recently for a Meatless Monday. The potato cakes are featured on a lovely, re-purposed chopping board that was a gift from one of my close friends, Lily Ramirez-Foran, who I met through food blogging.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large leek
1 large onion
1 red bell pepper
1 big handful fresh baby spinach
1 large potato, baked and peeled
230.00 g cannellini beans (In Water)
1 large egg
80 grams maize flour (fine)
97 grams fresh mozzarella
65 grams panko breadcrumbs (buy at Asia Market)
Salt & pepper to season
In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Chop the leek, onion and bell pepper into small dice and add to the pan, cooking for 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, and then add the spinach and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper as you cook. Put the vegetables in a large mixing bowl to cool slightly.
In a food processor, combine the beans and baked potato and egg and puree until smooth. Add in the maize flour and pulse until just combined. Put this mixture into the bowl with the vegetables and mix until combined. Tear the mozzarella into small chunks and work into the mix, using a spatula or your hands.
Put the panko breadcrumbs into a shallow, wide dish. Now take a scoop of the potato/veg/bean mixture (I used a large ice-cream scoop) and shape into patties. Carefully press each patty into the panko mix, coating each side. Place the patties onto a grease-proof paper-lined baking tray and set aside.
Heat over medium heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same, large saute pan you used to cook the veg. Carefully place the patties in the pan, in a single layer (I had to do this in two batches as mine made 7 patties) and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve with ketchup, tartar sauce or whatever you like.