Went to borrow a baking tin, returned with conversations and companionship

A fat piece of a cheesecake in a blue plate and set on a table with a yellow table cloth. The top part is burnt - but it is not burnt accidentally, it is the way this cheese cake is supposed to be. It is called Burnt Basque Cheesecake.

The husband had been meaning to make a Burnt Basque Cheesecake for months now. He follows the American chef John Armand Mitzewich, famously known as ‘Chef John’, and this particular recipe had caught his fancy.

Now we have never baked. Not a cake, a brownie, a cupcake. Ever. The apartments that we lived in previously had really tiny kitchens with no storage space and what little existed was taken up by the various jars of spices and masalas and pots, pans, pressure cookers and kadhais needed for our Indian cooking. We didn’t have the space for an additional baking tin, sieves, measuring cups or stuff.

Now, we live in an apartment that has a spacious kitchen. I know it sounds crazy but when we first moved to this apartment, I would open and close the many cabinets and shelves of the modular kitchen with a childlike delight and glee.

However, we had failed to buy any baking equipment. So while the husband returned with the ingredients he needed for the cheesecake, he realised that we did not have a round baking tin.

Off he went again, to two stores and none of them had in stock the kind of tin the recipe required.

So I asked. I asked if anyone had a baking tin in the WhatsApp group that I share with four of my neighbours.

One promptly replied that she had the baking tin and I was welcome to borrow it.

I messaged her if I could come in the morning the next day, post 9 am, to pick it up and she said that since her husband works from home and from the living room, if I came in the morning, we wouldn’t be able to sit and chat.

Why don’t you come over now? Both of you, she texted. We could have some ice cream together.

We were done with our dinner and I asked my husband if he wanted to accompany me to our neighbours. He said yes.

And so we went. It turned out to be a delightful post dinner chat. She served us homemade chocolate chip cookies (those were delicious) and Tiramisu ice cream (gorgeous as well) and we chatted about our time in India, about their trip back home, about cancelled flights, about buses and new apartment blocks coming up in our neighbourhood, about beaches and the seaside at Bray and what not.

It was also lovely to see their two children – one shared little anecdotes about her friends and life, and drew some beautiful flowers and coloured one of them in my favourite colour (purple). Their little boy – who, I had seen before we left for India, about five months ago, was now talking. He counted the numbers – I would say one, and he would say two, and so on and so forth till 50!

Finally, after about an hour or two, we went home.

The husband baked his burnt basque cheesecake the next day and it turned out to be nearly perfect. (The last time he had tried baking it at his mother’s place, he had halved the quantity of ingredients and without halving the baking time. He had burnt the cake.)

We sent a slice each to three of our neighbours. The other one lives in another apartment block and doesn’t quite eat anything that has eggs in it.

And I thought later on, it is good sometimes to ask for and borrow things from your neighbours. As well as to lend things. One shouldn’t be very uptight about it. It’s okay, really. I remember neighbours in the Doctor’s campus that I grew up at, often asking for a bowl of sugar, a potato or two, a lime from our garden, some loose tealeaves, spoonfuls of our homemade yoghurt so that they could set their own – when they ran out of things. I think we must have also borrowed things.

And as Indian customs go, you always return a bowl or plate that you borrowed from your neighbour with something. Something that you have made that day. If you think you have nothing on hand or what you have made is not very nice, you put in some sugar or a piece of jaggery. The idea is you never return a container empty. You can also send something over later if you don’t have anything on hand when you return the container/pot/pan.

When you borrow, return and lend things with your neighbours, you also build something. You build friendships, trust, interdependence. You realise that we all need each other. And that it is okay to ask. For a little sugar, a plate or two, a serving bowl or a nice serving dish when you have guests over, a potato or two.

Return it with something – something you made, a beautiful conversation, an invitation to your place for tea.

A photograph of the cheesecake before it is put in the oven for baking. You can see the yellowish batter, the parchment paper set out in the round tin, and a potted plant in the background. The plant is in a ceramic pot of a greenish colour, the tin is black in colour and in the left hand side corner, you can see a cloth that has a face of a potato lady (Swedish kitchen napkin that depicts a Swedish character from a children's story book)

4 thoughts on “Went to borrow a baking tin, returned with conversations and companionship

  1. I’ve never even heard about the Burnt Basque cheesecake, but now I’m totally intrigued by it. The cake certainly looks delicious. Building relationships with your neighbors is one of the things I love the most. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. I hope all is well with you and your family 🙏❤️ Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest, I am not a big cheesecake person but this was good for a change. The husband followed the recipe from John Armand Mitzewich. Look him up; I am quite fascinated by his voice! We are all well and I hope you and your lovely family is too. Thank you for writing in – appreciate it very much.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ❤
    Beautiful write up Prerna..
    You present the scene effortlessly, yet with precision!
    Loved the cheesecake! We had it for the 1st time, and it was amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Priya. The cheesecake came about because you so generously lent us your baking tray, followed by such a lovely evening. The cake and this blog post owes much to you.


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