Halcyon Gate | Tara O'Brady

Phone calls to India used to necessitate a crackling pause after you finished speaking, over which you could hear the faint echo of your own voice before any response came from the other end.

I'd imagine my words travelling along the phone line like a blip of light racing across wires, in a direct path from here to there, from day to night or the reverse, dipping under inky waves to zip across crags of the ocean floor, breaking the surface on the some far shore to scale the heights of airless mountains, carrying whatever sentiment within a incandesent bubble of breath, travelling across all those miles to end against the ear of the listener. The distance could have been the width of the universe. 

Late last month, my maternal grandfather passed away. He was 99 years old, and lived just outside Dehradun in Uttarakhand, India. Within 24 hours of receiving the news, I was on my way there.  

The road to Dehradun | Tara O'Brady
Bougainvillea | Tara O'Brady

His house is called Halcyon. 

At the side of the house | Tara O'Brady

When we arrived, the last of the pomelos still clung heavily to branches, and the mango blossoms were spent.

Calcutta brand fan | Tara O'Brady

We ate meals at the same table from my childhood, cooked by the same cook. Her chapatis were as perfect as ever. The pink gingham curtains my grandmother made hung from the windows. My grandfather's chair was still beside the toaster, his marmalade still on the table.

Sagumburi in the kitchen doorway | Tara O'Brady
Her arm while she cooks | Tara O'Brady
Aunty Dolly | Tara O'Brady

I spent days reconciling memory with fact, and filling in the greyed out details in technicolour. 

I remember his big green car; it was the perfect shade of green, a refined deep-toned emerald with the gloss of a wet leaf. I remember the warmth of his chest through the scratch of a wool sweater. His love of golf, and dogs, and how he'd shade his eyes from the sun with an unfolded newspaper for a nap. 

Those memories butted up against the tree from which the swing once hung. The water pump halfway down the slope behind the house. Straight pins in a tiny jam jar on his desk. The box of photographs that chronicled lifetimes. The fine-toothed comb on his dresser. His red jacket on a hook on his dressing room door. 

Halcyon Garden | Tara O'Brady

Mum and I would wake in the early hours of morning. If we'd left the window between the two beds open, the room was cold in the indigo light, and the breeze so heavily perfumed with flowers it was as if you could taste their scent.

She'd go to the kitchen and make tea with milk and cardamom, and then we'd lay in our respective beds, with covers pulled high and hands around hot cups, listening to the end of the night birds' song and the beginning of those from the day. When the first hint of dawn pierced the horizon, we'd hear a call to prayer. 

I missed my grandfather before we got there—such as it is when you live at a distance from others. At Halcyon I looked for him, expecting him in his favourite seat on the verandah or to hear him one room over. I expected to find him in the midst of the routines of his years. Instead he reverberated in all corners of the house, all the way up to where the wall and ceiling met and past that still. 

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Photo courtesy of my ridiculously-talented brother.

I started to think about writing this announcement this past Mother's Day; it seemed a suitable occasion to attempt to collect my thoughts and to begin to find the words to properly convey how very lucky I feel in life, especially in regards to becoming a mother for a second time.

Even though I have tried to maintain the focus of this site to be food and recipes, I have been nothing short of humbled by the excited and supportive responses I have received whenever my personal life has been made mention. The encouragement, kindness and advice has been an unexpected bonus to my writing, and I am wholly grateful to all of you who continue to visit.

Seven spoons has been, as I have said, inextricably tied to many important milestones in my life, and the life I share with Sean and Benjamin. It has brought me what will surely be lifelong friendships and expanded my culinary and professional horizons. Most of surprisingly of all though, it has brought me a new sense of perspective and purpose.

When these words are published, it will mean our perspective has shifted again. Our threesome has become four and I will be beginning to see that Ben, though forever and always our baby, is no longer the baby; he is now a full-fledged big brother.

I am sure that this new journey will bring many more adventures, lessons and memorable meals. I do hope that you all will join me in exploring this new territory and enjoy the stories to come. As the next little while will be a tad hectic on our end, I will be shifting the content of the site from original recipes to feature more book reviews as well as resurrecting my "Taste to Go" columns, spotlighting products and purveyors of which I am particularly fond. As soon as time (and a newborn) permits me, please look out for this new content. Finally, I will be featuring more of the photographic talents of my big brother Anik and his equally-gifted wife Rene; they both have skills that far surpass mine and I am thrilled to have them contribute to the site.

Until then, we once again thank all of you. We have to thank our family for always being there with the standing offer of babysitting and for being a source of constant strength. To our friends, thank you for being such wonderful Aunties and Uncles to Benjamin, confidants to us and a wealth of boundless enthusiasm.

And finally I would like to take a moment to thank my dear Sean, our bundle of boy Benjamin, and this latest addition to the family for being everything to me.

[William was born on June 11th at 12:22PM EST, and is a handsome fellow.]

See you all soon.

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Making puris with my parents

Puri, or poori, are deep-fried Indian breads made from atta (whole wheat flour). The dough is rolled into a thin disc, then dropped into hot oil. Using a spatula the puri is held under the oil's surface, trapping the resulting steam and puffing the dough into a golden pillow. One quick flip to brown the other cheek and they are done. I will admit a certain sense of accomplishment when a puri emerges perfectly formed - lightly tanned, slightly flaky but really more tender. Here they are served with Mum's spiced potatoes, yogurt and lime pickle. These beautiful photographs are courtesy of my rather talented brother; many thanks to him and to my parents for a delicious afternoon.

For everyone kind enough to send birthday wishes to Benjamin, or to anyone interested, here is a peak at some of the birthday festivities. Thank you all for helping us celebrated our little man, and a special thank you to my brother for the above photograph.

This one of Ben's three cakes; spiced banana cake layers with carmelized banana filling, topped with brown sugar cream cheese frosting and a bit of salted mixed nut crumble.

Edited to add: For those interested in the recipe, the cake is a spiced variation on the banana layer cake with mascapone frosting from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. The frosting I use is Ina Garten's, with a bit of the icing sugar substituted for golden brown. Finally, I top it with a salted-nut praline crumble, of my own recipe.

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I was out with my lovely Mum the other day and we came across these little violet darlings, all tucked in a box at the back of the market. Though not on our list of things to buy, neither of us could resist their charming size; so they were bundled up to be brought home.

Yes, we were smitten by fruit.

Beyond their diminutive stature, I think I was most taken with their weeble-ish physique. Their little tops and gently bulging belly struck a chord with me, and my own recently expanding equator.

Though I am sure some some of my southern spread can be attributed to holiday excess, I do have a far more pleasing reason for the plumpness - and my unexplained absence towards the end of last year.

My dear Sean and I are ecstatic to say that our Benjamin is going to be a big brother.

Some astute readers may have noticed that my aforementioned absence spanned three months, or one trimester. I had not meant to take time off, but morning sickness struck at all hours of the day and with unexpected ferocity. When I could eat I was restricted to a few, rather dull, foods in small quantities. Oatmeal and banana. Toast with a bit of cheddar if I was lucky. Rice with lentils. Not really the stuff riveting food writing is made of.

I must take a moment to express my deep gratitude, once again, to our wonderful family and friends. They came with meals in hand to make sure that my boys were fed and with cozy sweaters to make sure I kept warm. Thank you for all your support and enthusiasm, we are so terribly lucky.

And so, while our last pregnancy was never highlighted here, I hope that you all will welcome a mention or two over the coming months. I am happy to say I am feeling much better and I have resumed my role in the kitchen. I am unhappy to say I am missing soft cheeses terribly and that it is frustrating to see the lack of interesting non-alcoholic beverages at restaurants.

Soon Ben will be two (my goodness!) and in a few months he won't be the littlest anymore. Big changes around these parts, but each and every one will be met with the same silly grin we have been wearing ever since we heard the news.

Thank you all for your patience with me and for still being here!

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