I have a couple of hours before I leave for work. Chotto-ma is at school. D and I dropped her off, then came back home for a coffee before he left for work. We do that whenever I have the morning free. We drop her off, and sneak back home. I don’t know why it feels like sneaking, but it’s fantastic.

We sit on that brown sofa, our legs stretched out and crisscrossing like rivers; and as liquid. We drink our coffee and talk. Today, we also had these slivers of orangey chocolate crisps – addictive little critters – that a friend introduced us to recently. The crisps crunch between our teeth, and that’s the only sound we hear. If I open my ears wider, there’s a chik-chree-chik of a winter bird I cannot name, the ticjk-tock-ticjk-tock of a clock that’s running seven minutes late, and the sounds of our floorboards stretching like old bones. I’m in love with this quiet, with this time, this tangle of limbs.

When we were walking Chotto-ma to school earlier, something caught my eye at the window of the thrift shop we pass everyday. My feet faltered, stopped, for there behind the shop window stood the coffee table I’d been waiting years for. Angels sang. It was old, tiled, used, perfect. But the shop hadn’t opened yet, it was too early in the morning. By the time it opened I’d be at work, and the whole day would’ve passed. I knew the table wouldn’t stay that long; it was a very busy shop, business was brisk, the table was just Β£20. I stood there, I fretted. D walked to the back of the shop; the cleaner was opening one of the shutters, but then the cleaner wasn’t allowed to sell anything. Chotto-ma was getting late for school, I was getting late for work. And so, I walked away. I told myself that if it was meant to live with us, the table would stay. And if it wasn’t, well, it was meant for someone else to keep their coffee on.

The table waited for us. The world had passed by its gorgeous tiles, its sturdy legs, its throwaway price, and yet, no one had taken it away. And that’s the way most of our home has gathered itself over the years. Pieces, old and used, from here are there – the big armchair, the dining table, the odd chairs, the blue china cupboard which we painted and wallpapered, my desk, the footstool my feet now rest on.

Unlike new furniture, these come with stories. They have a past, they were loved and left, or passed down from those who had passed away. Adopted, orphaned wood. I like the way they bring in bits of other lives; imprints I can only guess at. I like to think of them as continuations.

Many months after we bought our dining table, while cleaning crumbs from the floor, I discovered that the table had something on its underside. A painted heart with the initials A + L next to it.

– – – –

And here’s another continuation: do you remember this? Well, it’s been sitting by the window for a while now, and I’ve watched it change from a bright yellow to a deep, dull yellow. I’ve watched it settle and sink into its own juices, skin softening, ageing. I’ve opened the lid to sniff, dipped in a finger to taste, and I can’t wait any longer.

Butter with preserved lemon, roasted cumin & coriander


A good salted butter
Preserved lemon peel, finely chopped (don’t use the pulp, just the peel)
2 tsp whole cumin
Fresh coriander leaves
Chilli flakes

Keep the butter outside the refrigerator to soften it.
Lightly dry-roast the cumin in a hot pan, stirring constantly. Take it off the heat and coarsely grind it with a pestle.
Mix all the ingredients together. And your butter’s ready.

You can use it on anything – spread it on toast, smear it on a grilled fish, tuck it into warm rice. It’s all good.

27 thoughts on “Continuations

  1. Adore your new table, it's gorgeous. We went on holiday this year, for a weekend with friends. We all stayed in a residential house, so we could self-cater and relax. In the living room was a table that was the twin of one I'd grown up with and always adored. Immediately I took a photo and phoned my mum, asking what had happened to that table I loves so much but hadn't seen for some years? To my delight, she said it was there, in the back room, under a cloth and used to stack boxes on top, but now she knew I loved it, it would be saved for me. It's not quite the same as yours but it shares the big tiles with their 70s patterns, and I just love it!

  2. Your place is so beautiful, and I am glad you got the coffee table. You are so right about old furniture, it just means so much more, and is far better for the planet too of course. We have a huge mahogany chest of drawers that is probably over a hundred years old. I often wonder how many babies had the bottom drawer as a bed (if any :D)…

  3. Oh how lovely that your mum still has the table! There's nothing like living with furniture you've grown up with. I'd love to see a picture of it when the cloth and boxes are gone and you have it sitting in your home, Kavey πŸ™‚ xx

  4. Haha! A bed in the bottom drawer – I can see it now, all padded with blankets and a pillow, slid out every night for a wriggly little baby πŸ™‚ Thanks for that picture, Emma.

  5. I love your collection Pia and asha kori ekdin amrao settle hoye collection banate parbo. It's my dream you know! That coffee table was totally meant for you, and I am sure ami tomar jayega hole, same bhabe react kortum πŸ™‚
    And tomar ayi compound butter recipe ta darun, being a lemon lover, I know how much I am gonna enjoy it!

  6. I hope you're out hunting for your own little collection soon, Kankana – I'm sure khub shundor hobe – they'll be gorgeous styled, and in happy colours, like everything you put together πŸ™‚

  7. Lovely table and a lovelier post! I have a weakness for handmade tiles – Jaipur blue pottery tiles, Chettinad Athangudi ones, the Goan- Portuguese kind, Mexican Talavera tiles (that I discovered last week), Moroccan tiles – all of them so intricate, so beautiful!
    (Loved spotting Chotto- ma's baby chair in the corner, next to the big people couch)

  8. πŸ˜€ I love that you noticed the chair, Roxana.
    And I so share your love of tiles. I remember, on a work-trip to Jaipur, being more taken in by the tiles than by Hawa Mahal πŸ™‚

  9. Pia! I've been gone for a little while but I'm so so excited to see your lovely work again. Your photos beautiful as always, and your home looking just stunning. Always so lovely and inspiring looking through your blog. I can't wait to come back regularly and get ideas! xo

  10. Thanks Sandeepa πŸ™‚ Aamio bhebechilam nije tiles kiney banabo, kintu ekhon aar korte hobe na – I even got lucky with the colour.

  11. Hello Pia. I was wondering how to search for recipes in your blog. I remember reading about a Milky Fish Curry that you had made but couldn't find it. I tried the search bar but it didn't quite give the right links. Can you help here?

  12. Pia… I am thrilled to have discovered your blog. We lived in London for several years (quite possibly our best years ever as a family!), and I am so enjoying reading about your experiences and travel. I'm looking forward to following your adventures. Like you I MUST travel… Oh and PS… love the coffee table πŸ™‚

  13. Welcome in! I'd just hopped over to your blog, and your 'About me' page had me chuckling. And 'Bourbon and Brown Sugar' – such heady promise in that name. Must read more of it πŸ™‚ xx

  14. Pia, thanks for sharing your living space…it's lovely! The little chair by the books must be Chotto-ma's…the baby bear of the family as I see it. πŸ™‚ I already told you on Facebook how much I love the table…and now excuse me as I read your posts about Rome.

  15. Baby bear, indeed πŸ™‚ Glad you like it, Esha.
    In case you're in my corner of the world, my living room is always open for coffee πŸ™‚ x

  16. Hi Pia…..that is a gorgeous table and clearly meant to be yours.
    I was recommended your blog by Nags from edible garden as she knows my love of good writing. I must thank her as your words are beautifully addictive. I shall be back for more.

  17. Hello Pia,
    Sorry for the late reply. You see, I got married and hence didn't have much time for the Internet. I have tried this prawns recipe of yours already sometime back and my husband, who was my boyfriend that time, really enjoyed the dish! The milky fish curry was something else I had read on your blog quite some time back. But thanks anyway, I will try this recipe with fishes and tell you how it was.
    Bye, take care.

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