“Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to.”
Orson Scott Card
Every Thursday night I drive across town to a cottage at the back of a long, gravel driveway surrounded by a white picket fence and winding rows of lavender. Wooden steps and glowing candles lead to the front door, always left ajar for those who come. I’m one of fifteen or so women who meet here weekly and have done so for a number of years. We range in age from mid twenties to mid sixties and from the outside there’s very little we share of each other’s traits.
Every week I say to myself, “I’m tired, I’ll only stay for a little while.” and every week I stay until the moon’s halfway through its nighttime journey, surrounded by a level of companionship and support I could barely imagine a few years ago. We talk of everything, and often of nothing. We laugh constantly and take our turns in tears. We have no leaders, although one in particular’s silently acknowledged as our wise woman, not that she would respond to the title with anything but a top-shelf eye roll.
Every week we discuss something from books we read together, chosen by group suggestions and a vote at the end of the previous book. Every week we promise ourselves that we’re going to read more than a paragraph before conversation sweeps in to claim its place at the centre of our night. Every week we fail spectacularly and don’t regret it for a moment. If we rushed, we might end up missing something that a woman was about to find the courage to say but needed to sink into the flow of other’s honest and open conversation before she found her own voice. We might also not hear our own answers — the ones we didn’t know we sought until someone voiced them in a moment of their own introspection.
Every week holds a magical moment when the universe appears to tune in and the molecules that make up our separateness start vibrating at the same tempo, connecting the very centre of ourselves into the centre of each other. If there’s any true magic in my world, it’s this feeling of utterly belonging in a moment with others.
Every week I take that feeling and carry it into the world with me. And for as long as it lasts, others are recipients of the connectedness in me. I imagine that after they’re in contact with it, they spread it into their world and that, for a short while, molecules all over my city are vibrating together in a jiggly dance of belonging.
Another jiggly creation of my mind is this deliciously simple, no bake cheesecake. I made it for my Thursday night ladies but it didn’t set in time so I’m sharing it with you. The flavours are a well known community, although on the surface they’re quite different. The complexity of saffron helps hold down the higher notes of mango and the pistachio crust’s flavour is like the grounding, base note of a music cord, while adding a gorgeously textured dimension to the cake. It’s also gluten free, not because I made it with gluten free in mind, but because it genuinely tastes better that way.
- 250g raw pistachios + extra for decoration
- 65g caster sugar
- Large pinch of sea (kosher) salt
- 60g unsalted butter, melted
- 200ml double (thick) cream, whipped
- 250g cream cheese
- 100g greek yoghurt
- 600g mango flesh (I got this from three 350g mangos, you can used canned pulp if you can’t get fresh mangoes)
- 1-2 tbl sp caster sugar (to taste)
- ¼ tsp saffron powder
Grease a 20cm springform pan and line the bottom with greaseproof paper
For the base, place the pistachios, 65g of caster sugar and salt into a food processor and blend until the mix resembles sand
Pour the mix into a bowl with the melted butter and stir until completely combined
Tip the mixture into the springform pan and press it down to form a smooth base, with a ridge of about 1cm around the edge
For the filling, put 400g of the mango flesh into a food processor and blend until you have a smooth pulp, taste and add more sugar if required
Mix the whipped cream, cream cheese, yoghurt and saffron powder together in a bowl
Gently add the mango pulp stirring until all the pulp has been incorporated but there are still plenty of lumps in the mix
Spoon on top of the pistachio base, smooth over the top and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours, or until set
When ready to serve, remove the springform pan and decorate with the remaining mango and pistachios before serving