Having publicised the first Casa Ali supperclub event, butterflies fluttered in my belly. On 13th december as I walked to buy fresh groceries, it was freezing cold and I could not find my gloves for love nor money. A brisk twenty-minute walk to Leslies and back with the heavy bags slung across got my energy going. I was in work mode after that and as the prep got going the butterflies dissipated, cooking took centre stage and the rest just flowed beautifully. Some of the guests knew each other and some were going to share the evening for the first time around my table.
Breaking bread together has an ultimate magic of connecting, however as a host there is always a little ‘what if’ the people don’t click. People arrived mostly on time, however one guest was delayed because of fallen leaves on train tracks – a typical British rail excuse for being inefficient! Around my table seating seven (including myself) were cultures, heritages and stories from England, India, Jamaica, Japan, Pakistan, Romania, Trinidad & Tobago and Slovenia… this is London magic for you!
Introductions out-of-the-way, from the first course onwards we were immersed in conversations and laughter punctuated only by *flavour bombs as the courses progressed. Tastes brought out stories of what people ate as children or where they had eaten something like what they were eating then, the ingredients and where were they from, or their nutritional/medicinal properties. I wondered once more… why my cooking has no bearings to “authentic” Indian, or Pakistani or English cuisine. There is no particular answer that satisfies my curiosity apart from thinking that of course it is authentic. Every time I cook something new, my experiences authenticate what I cook. I was introduced to plantains via my ex-boyfriend’s father some twenty years ago. He cooked them differently to how I usually do. My arrival at using it as a base of my starter is inspired from the Caribbean to South America to how people use it in India. It’s a queer fusion!? May be a queer sensibility but definitely it is cooking from the heart! I enjoy it most when stereotypes get debunked while buying ingredients – plantain in particular. Chatting in urdu this time an Afghani shopkeeper in West Croydon said the same thing I have come across several times before, “ye to kalay log kharedtay hain, ap kya karo gay iska?” meaning only blacks buy this, what would you do with this? It is this reductive association of reading into race, food and culture that inspires me to push my own limits into imagining and experimenting with fresh combinations.
The promised Japanese surprise? Takuya, whom I hosted as a couchsurfer a year ago is now a good friend and now visiting again, doing couple short courses in fashion at Central and Saint Martins. I wanted him to take part in this new venture of mine. A big thanks to him for bearing gifts of special condiments and ingredients, and most importantly, food experience/wisdom he shares so generously which in turn ignite new ideas for me. Not only did Takuya make a beautiful salad as his offering to Casa Ali, his after-dinner treat was a pack of pre-cut origami paper. Under his very patient guidance, we made our first paper cranes. Ideas were discussed, emails exchanged, warm hugs to beat any frost… it was indeed a blessed gathering!
At Casa Ali, love of good food is the starting point, it is a perfect setting where interactions begin and friendships are formed. Where do they lead to? Who knows. I can only promise to ignite you with love, and more love. How you conclude, is up to you!
Some comments from the guests:
- I am a vociferous meat and cheese eater so for me it made a lovely healthy change. I do like strong flavours though, so the dahl was what stood out. It was all so beautiful and colourful and appetising and unusual – top marks!
- Meeting new people over stimulating cuisine!
- Red bombs of flavor!
- The crisped ginger turned the soup into a beautiful taste and texture experience!
- My beloved beetroot at it’s best!
- The food was just amazing and the atmosphere was just super awesome ^0^ I feel totally inspired to host some of my own supperclub as well.
If you like what you see and want recipes posted, you just have to ask! Also if you would like to book Casa Ali for a special occasion, you can contact me here. Tabled meals can accommodate up to eight people.
Next dinner coming up on 21st December 7-10pm. Click here for tickets.
Guests who attended the first dinner
- Vojko Jeric creates people-focused images which stir up hidden feelings evoked by long-lost memories of past experiences. website
- Eleanor Barrett is the founder and Artistic Director of The Brick Box, an arts organisation run as a Community Interest Company facilitating arts events in non traditional spaces to reach and engage diverse communities Also works as an independent producer, currently as Producer for the Wandsworth Arts Festival 2013 website FB page
- Jessica “I am interested in all things wonderful that have to do with Cultural and Communication Studies. My aspirations are centred around starting up and participating in community projects around London that aim to reach out to the youth.” Blog
- Henrietta “Currently working on my first writing project- a children’s story. I hope that my next writing project will be an homage to transgressive literature; a key interest of mine. I love books by Angela Carter, John Fante and Ryu Murakami. However I am also interested in curating multimedia archives and constructing installation spaces.” Blog
- Sebastian Linta (coined the word *flavour bombs) is open-minded and positive! “Continually developing and evolving as a human being and a social artist, constantly adapting to the environment and people around me.
Some of my passions that I would like to mention are photography, snowboarding, seduction, and automobiles.” Flickr stream
- Takuya Yokoyama is a fashion design student from Chipa, Japan. “I see fashion as a practical form of art and I like to combine various elements into it to express myself and my concepts. My interests include cultures, traditions, food, art etc… I’m somewhat concerned about environment and cultures. I enjoy cooking and exploring new foods very much.”