Rituals have been, and still are, all about finding ways to survive, and thrive, in the different lives I have lived.
I was making my breakfast this morning, thinking about the fact that putting together a perfect breakfast has always been my first task, after moving countries.
Finding the bread I liked best, the coffee, the butter, the jam … or whatever it was that I loved in the early mornings of those other lives.
In Istanbul, it was Trabzon bread. A big soft loaf of loveliness, that surely wasn’t good for my body but had the power to save my soul on the bad days.
In Belgium, the UK, Berlin, London, then Surrey, I’m not sure I remember the details of type but Trabzon bread stuck because it was so good, and so very difficult to name, back at the beginning of my time spent living in that ancient Turkish city.
I looked on a map just now, having never really officially named the smaller shopping mall I used when I lived in Ataköy. Searching, I found the Plus Mall, and I’m almost sure it was there, in the bakery section.
I remembered how naive I was, shocked to realise that sugar, flour and butter, had other names in other languages. Names so different to those I knew, that it was like starting over. Words like tereyağı for butter, and şeker for sugar.
I lived very lightly there because I was divorced and alone, just trying to find the money to go home and buy a house and stability for my daughter and I. My ability to create more than a breakfast ritual was limited by my lack of courage, and by the fact I was completely alone in that new life.
I had friends, and I knew people but I was ashamed of how little I knew. And, back then, I was mostly too embarrassed to ask for help.
Although, I suspect it was there that I became addicted to feeling slightly drunk, or high, as I learned to navigate a world so unlike mine, that life was mostly surreal.
I was Alice, and the rabbit holes became part of my everyday life. The gunman loose in the school. The wheel that fell off my taxi. The woman who fell past my 5th storey balcony. The salesmen I used to sit chatting with in the Grand Bazaar. My walks through the city, when I moved over to Mecidiyeköy, from the Taksim Square Metro, through Galata, over the bridge and into Sultanahmet.
Then I met a Belgian, stopped in Antwerp … on my way back to New Zealand, married him, and stayed for 10 years. My breakfast ritual was simpler there. I tried and discarded more than a few coffee machines. I had fallen in love with Genova by then and so I loved good espresso, more than anything
I tried so many different breads during those years. My ultimate breakfast was an espresso, with a croissant, butter and peach jam. It was there, as the end of my marriage loomed, that I had to add blood pressure pills to my morning ritual.
In the UK, Kim introduced me to bagels. Another first. Another love. Espresso and bagel, with butter and jam, for that year I spent living in Portsmouth and Farnham, London and Oxshott. I picked up a Nespresso machine somewhere along the way because when decent coffee was too far away, Nespresso did the job on those mornings.
And then came the summer I was offered the chance to take care of a friend’s cats, over in Italy, in that city I had fallen for way back in 2008.
Terrified, I said yes. Gave my up income and moved to Genova, a city that closed over summer.
It was sometimes a dark time, out in the suburbs, a little bit terrified about what I had done.
How would I get home to NZ if I had made the mistake it seemed like I might have made?
But the city saved me. As it always has, just in the nick of time.
My breakfast of choice became walking through those medieval streets to one of 3 favourite bars, for a brioche alla crema e caffè.
Genova gifted me the holiest of holy breakfasts. My breakfast on the terrace, back when I had a room in the palazzo on Via Cairoli, was probably the best of my home breakfasts. Equal, perhaps, with my breakfast sitting out on the steps, with the water of Otago Harbour just across the narrow road, back when I lived at Broad Bay, in Dunedin.
This morning, I was making my breakfast and realising, my ritual is failing me here in Mosgiel. I don’t feel any joy in it. It feels empty. I’m not sure how to fix that. I can’t for now.
The espresso I drink here, comes without Roberto’s smile at the bar on Via Garibaldi; without the conversation with the people at Douce, and the greeting at Pasticceria Caffetteria Arleo, before going up to spend days with Marc.
Genova gifted me the best of so many things. Breakfasts too.
It is my place, if I could choose.