Melissa’s First Picnic Of The Season
This is Melissa.
Melissa is a ray of sunshine. She comes from South Africa and it seems that she brought some of that African sun with her to Berlin. It’s been a while since we last saw each other so it was lovely to be reunited in Berlin over yummy food while bathing in much needed vitamin D. I visited her in her beautiful, bright apartment right at Berlin’s hip core – Kreuzberg. As I wandered through her home, I discovered tulips, a wonderful book collection (among which were cookbooks of course), souvenirs from her countless travels as well as many jars filled with wholesome deliciousness.
She already had her ingredients set out and was in the midst of making banana bread as I arrived. That banana bread is a special one that reminds me of a trip we had together two summers ago and I will soon tell you all about that. But first, let’s take a little peak of what she has in store for us.
Melissa currently does her PhD in Economics for which she travels all over the globe while having a cosy base here in Berlin. Not only that but she also teaches a course at university. And in her spare time? She practices yoga, pilates, goes swimming once a week and discovers a new restaurant with a friend afterwards -what a fun tradition! And not to forget: she cooks and bakes. In case you’re wondering; her partner is responsible for this very carefully labelled spice jar cabinet. Melissa, I think he is a keeper (and a foodie)!
Melissa whipped up a storm in her kitchen while casually telling me of some childhood food memories. For example, she tells me that she remembers many baked goods and cakes. In the summer time, her mother would make a brilliant crustless yoghurt cheesecake that wasn’t too sweet and instead very refreshing. Banana bread is also a part of such nostalgic memories as well as marble cakes for birthdays, date squares as a snack and chocolate mousse for dessert. It seems that Melissa is a fellow sweet tooth!
Here in Berlin, spring has begun. The sun is shining, the skies are blue, people cycle and walk around in less heavy jackets and some are already enjoying icecream cones (I’m one of those people). So what did Melissa and I do? That’s right, we gathered a picnic blanket and planned to take our yummy food to the park. A good idead? A great idea!
Melissa’s Picnic Menu
cantaloupe salad with feta and mint
roasted aubergine dip with tahini & pomegranate seeds
fresh Turkish flatbread
Banana bread is one of Melissa’s go-to baked goodies – and after tasting it, I very well understand why that is. In fact, it reminded me of when Melissa and I met – in sunny Cape Town, South Africa, where she invited me to her beautiful home and pulled the same warm banana loaf out of the oven. We sat under big gumtrees in her garden, drank tea and ate fluffy, perfectly sweet, cinnamon-and-nutmeg-spiced, sugar-crusted slices of banana bread. Next up was a gorgeous hike up Lion’s Head – what a winning combination! These are such great memories combining my two favourite things: baked goods and adventures in nature. More of this puh-lease!
She did tell me later on that it wasn’t the easiest task to answer all my questions while keeping track of her measurements for the banana bread. But of course she managed without complications such as putting salt instead of sugar (which – I kid you not – happened to me recently and everyone who tasted that salty-instead-of-sweet-cheesecake still reminds me of it..)
This time, we devoured that samesame but different banana bread in sunny Görlitzer park – right around the corner from where Melissa lives and cooks and practices yoga. On our way to the park, we passed by a tiny bakery to get some fresh Turkish flatbread to accompany the aubergine dip. Yum! Melissa invited her hungry, sun- and food-loving neighbour to join our feast and off we went to find a patch of green grass.
We lay in the sun, chatted about this and that, dipped the fresh flatbread into Melissa’s creamy aubergine dip, tried the fresh cantaloupe salad and closed our eyes as we tasted that heaven-sent banana bread. I brought along my beloved oat & quinoa chocolate chip cookies (find the recipe here) because why not. It’s chocolate. You get the logic?
Kreuzberg is very vibrant, artsy, multicultural and colourful so you can imagine what the park looked and felt like on this early spring day. Parks in Berlin are filled with families, hippies, musicians, hipsters, seemingly professional frisbee-throwers and not to forget – loads of dogs. Some fluffy, some tiny, others huge and all of them hungry, arriving at the edge of our picnic blanket with a highly suggestive you’re not planning on eating this anymore, are you? sort of look.
Melissa, it was my pleasure to share these first sunrays of the year with you surrounded by all those crazy Berliners and gourmet dogs. To many more loafs of banana bread and sunny hours in the park!