The Nomad: Mini Chocolate Lava Cake

A short story followed by a recipe, both sharing a connection to each other

By Ayla Iqbal

It never seemed to occur to her that she needed to fit in anywhere. She spent her life moving from one country to the next every few years with her family – always joining international schools where the student body comprised of nomads like herself. Though they never considered themselves nomads, they were simply international children who had moving homes.

They would all return to their home country during school breaks, coming back with stories about how life was different for their cousins, yet also similar in so many ways. Everyone had school that involved tests, friends who they would eat lunch with and family dinners. At times the differences would be vast – it would be unusual to have a close group of 6 friends where everyone was a different nationality, where the country you lived in spoke a language you tried to learn, but were never really fluent.

Though growing up, it did not seem unusual. It was just the way life was. Some people moved around, and some people stayed in one place.  She thought the beauty was being able to be comfortable in many places. This was before others pointed out being comfortable was not the same as being a “local.”

Her first experience was in university. Living in countries like Brazil and Poland meant that she was often the only Pakistani in school. There would be Indians, but hardly ever Pakistanis.  She knew of popular expat locations like Dubai and Singapore where there were plenty of Pakistanis, but never experienced living in those places. It was when she entered university that she suddenly met Pakistanis who were both from Pakistan, and also grew up in the UK. This is when the problem began.

She introduced herself to a girl named Fatima, who quickly asked her where she was from, and followed up with which city in Pakistan. Quickly figuring out that she never lived there, she scoffed and said, “Well, you’re not really from Pakistan, then are you?”

It was a shock to the system. Her cousins never made this accusation, at least not to her face.  If she wasn’t from Pakistan, then where could be possibly be from?  Given her accent and US citizenship, they were quick to judge and say she was American. Except she wasn’t. Aside from being born there and having somewhat of an American accent due to her schooling, she never lived there or had any of the stereotypical American traits.

Every day she met more people who were so sure of where they were from, who they were and where they fit in. Every day she became a little more unsure of herself.  She became resentful to her parents. Why would they bring her up this way? Only to lead to confusion and self-doubt. It didn’t help matters that she could never possibly imagine living in Pakistan, nor that her Urdu definitely lacked the fluency that she wished she could obtain.

After stumbling through the first few weeks, bouncing around classes and trying to find people she could relate to, she had nearly given up. It didn’t help matters that she was based in a university town and there were students crawling everywhere, each having the time of their lives while she was melting away.

One day as she was ambling through the little streets, she stepped inside a quiet looking café. She began to feel exhausted from all the self-pity and decided to treat herself. Looking at the menu, she delighted at the fact they had her favorite – chocolate lava cake. Ordering one, and knowing she would have to wait 20 minutes, she pulled out a book and began to read.

A few minutes, completely immersed in the novel, she hadn’t noticed two other customers sit down a few tables down.  As they began talking, she realized she wasn’t alone and shifted in her seat as if to hide herself.  It was only when she overheard them order the same dessert, that she peered up curiously.  Her eyes caught the girl facing her and she gave a swift tiny smile of acknowledgement and instantly put her head down again.

The girl, having no qualms with talking across the restaurant, started, “Hey! I love that book, you should definitely read more from the same author if you haven’t already.”

“Um, ya, I have actually – she’s my favorite author.” She responded tentatively.

“Omg, yes! I love her too.  I’m Marie, come sit with us if you want, we are both bibliophiles and are currently seeking our own people.”

It was this curious sentence that led her to join them. She was intrigued by the idea that they were seeking their own people, as if they too were having the same identity crisis she was undergoing.

Within a few minutes, both the desserts arrived.  The two other girls were delighted to see it was the same and declared it was absolute fate.  She couldn’t help but think the same as they dove into the gooey chocolate and swapped origin stories with no judgement.

 Mini Chocolate Lava Cake

Sometimes you will only have one or two people coming over for a meal and you don’t want to make an entire dessert that will inevitably have you eating it for days to come; breaking your vow of eating healthy. But you still have to make some form of dessert. This is a great version of a lava cake designed for three to four people to dig in family style. If you put some ice cream on top, well then, your guests will be leaving very happy people. It is chocolately, but not too sweet so you feel sick after one bite.


100 grams chocolate

85 grams butter

2 eggs

60 grams of sugar

15 grams of flour


1. Melt the butter, either in the microwave or above hot water. Once melted, add in the chocolate and let this sit for a minute before mixing so all the chocolate is melted and combined

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar until it is pale and fluffy. It is easiest using a hand mixer for this, but if you don’t have one, then use a whisk.

3. Once that is done, add in the chocolate butter mixture and combine. Then using a sieve, sift the flour in to the batter and fold this in using a spatula.

4. Pour into a rectangle dish (that has been greased before) that measures approximately 5×7 inches. If you don’t have this exact size or shape, use whatever you have that is closest.

5. Put in an oven at 180 Celsius for 18 minutes. It will be very gooey, but this is the beauty of it! However, if you don’t want it as gooey, then you make bake for a few more minutes, monitoring the progress so it doesn’t bake all the way through.  To know when it is ready, the outsides should be firm, but the center should still be jiggly.



This is part of a series that is updated weekly.

For the full story, you can visit the author’s personal website here

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