Last time I was in Berlin, socks felt like hell, we moaned in the heat and schlepped forty beetroot and an untold number of mangos up six flights of stairs.
This time it was cold, but Berlin continued to be wonderful.
After a bad flight over late Thursday night, I woke up early on Friday to a cup of fresh coffee and Heather’s amazingly warm room against the winter chill of Neukolln outside. With barely any time to acclimatise, we caught the U-Bahn over to Veganz and spent EURO 50 on seitan, eating Veganz-branded biscuits on the train back over to Heather’s flat, ready for our practise meal that day.
Liv and Zenib arrived before we got home- all of us equally not-so-sure about the dishes we’d personally been working on for months. Our mis-matched group of four friends that only knew Heather, now with what felt like far too much to catch up on that wasn’t food related. Coffee and more biscuits aside, we reluctantly started cooking up our courses, taking it in turn to have one ready on the table while another one prepares the next dish.
Those test meals are actually often scarier than serving it all on the night. By the night, we’ve worked most things out. But at the test meal, the tricky parts are still to come. You see how far you actually need to go before the idea you’ve had becomes edible, and then more than edible - great. More-ish, OMG-I-need-twelve-of-whatever-these-are-ish.
That Friday morning I’d been worried that it hadn’t just been the heat that made it so hard last time, and that maybe we’d been lucky back in July, and something else might just collapse under the big weight of getting-every-detail-right. But then we sat down, and Zenib spooned the pickles she’d been working on into dishes, and the four of us finally focused on the food. And the self deprecation stopped, because the pickles were incredible. And within the space of two minutes, as the sun went back behind the clouds, it was okay that we’d spent half our food budget on a type of seitan I’d never cooked with. It was okay that we didn’t know how we’d make donuts from fresh for 30 the next day. The pickles were good.
Instead of baking hot bike rides through the city to pick up leftover ingredients, we layered up in borrowed coats from flat mates and searched for desiccated coconut in the local Turkish shop. Once again we made Miet & Eat our home for 24 hours, piling in our produce (thankfully no more beetroots) and realising, once we could close the fridge doors, that we might be getting a little better at that whole portion game.
Saturday night was more fun than I thought cooking for so many people you kinda know could be. Our kitchen turned from fresh produce and spices to mounds of Zenib’s roasted garlic naans, tray upon tray of Liv’s sweet potato and red cabbage tikkis, endless dishes of Heather’s impossibly cute chai donuts and vats of steaming seitan butter chicken growing richer by the hour.
We didn’t sit outside with Club Mate and smokers, but inside with coats on and not one single donut left over. There was no storm to send everyone home, but an endless Saturday night that finished up with Heather and I destroying two killer vegan burgers the next day at lunchtime.
Once again, cooking with these people, for those people and in that city was amazing. I look at these photos now with so much love. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be doing this with, and I do wish we got to do it more. I miss these girls and the treat it is to work with them. I miss the endless cackling of Salt ‘N’ Pepa lyrics mis-heard and sung over and over as we chop onions and coat tofu. I miss hearing the silence fall as we untwist jars of preserves and help each other actually make something we’ve talked about come true.
It feels like we’re really lucky to be able to make Poppadom Preach happen, and I guess keeping these one night only meals so far apart means that shine won’t risk wearing off anytime soon. I realise I sound very sentimental, but when you’re fortunate enough to meet three people you love working with on a project you all care about so much, it becomes such a treasure.
We’re coming to London this year. We’re currently looking for a location to host Poppadom Preach’s first London pop-up. East London would be great, cheap would be even better. We’d like to cook for 25-30 people. If you know of anywhere that could fit the bill, drop me a tweet, Insta comment, or just an old-fashioned email: firstname.lastname@example.org