This was originally a guestpost over at Belgravia Wives. She has taken a break from blogging, but go and have a look at her stuff anyway - it's well worth it.

The first time I heard the word serendipity was in London, somewhere South and not very glamorous. I was listening, wide-eyed, to some boy pontificating on the topic, nodding at his every word, hoping he would like me if I did. I even let him sing me a very whiny song called 'Serendipity'. I can't remember who that was by. I tried to like it. But looking back, I didn't feel very serendipitous at the time. I felt like a right idiot.
Serendipity only really became part of my life once I stopped looking for things, once I knew (more or less) what I wanted and where to find it. So today I was suddenly delighted by there being a bus taking us from the town centre in Ankara all the way back to our University campus. My husband gave me the sideways look. Yes, I did realise that this is the same bus we've been taking for the ten years we've been here, it's just that when I thought of it, it suddenly felt so lucky!

This is me doing Yoga on the beach right now. Nothing to do with serendipity. Just thought I'd remind you where I was!

Of course what I didn't understand about serendipity in that Clapham bedsit all those years ago, what no dictionary definition (or whiny song) can tell you, is that serendipity is a skill, and the kind of skill that you can only acquire with time. It's not quite the same as learning to make your own luck – may be you can do that, but I've always thought that it's a crass thing to say to people who've never had the raw materials to manufacture luck with.

I think that to be serendipitous is more about being prepared for luck, to know it when it comes, welcome it, make it comfortable so that it wants to stay with you. It requires a certain amount of grace, and easiness with yourself that not many people in their twenties and thirties have, and that now I am about to turn forty, I feel I can just about grasp. (Please don't tell my sisters I said that: they're younger, they'll be jealous).

I certainly believe in serendipity in cooking. For me that usually means no measuring of any kind, and especially, no timing (and saucepans you don't mind replacing often). So imagine my delight when a few years ago I saw a Mesopotamian recipe in the LRB. It went something like that:

Catch a beast.
Take a sufficient quantity of watercress.
Take some of a different kind of watercress

Roast the whole for some time.

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