Wisdom from 150 Beans!


I am flipping the pages of one of my handwritten recipe books. The book is yellowed – with both age and stains from the kitchen; from having balanced the book near the cooking pot or from having turned the pages with hands coated with dough or turmeric powder or a hundred other ingredients.

Against each recipe is a small note in my handwriting, which rates how the recipe turned out.

This book has recipes from my grandma, my mom, my mother in law and my dad’s sister.

Today, I can stand in front of the stove, and estimate the quantities of ingredients mentally, I can gauge by the aroma, if all is well. Skills that have been acquired over many years.

But there was a time when I was a novice cook, navigating the world of recipes with precise measurements and quantities. Life in the kitchen revolved more around the science of cooking rather than its creative side. My tools were a set of measuring bowls and spoons.

I remember one evening, when we had a potluck dinner with our friends. I had to prepare a vegetable side dish for around 40 people.

I used this very same recipe book then. However, I had scrawled down the ingredients and quantities, but had not written down how many people the recipe could serve.

Then began the complicated math. The recipe said 2 carrots, 15 French Beans, 3 tomatoes, 1 onion and so on. To me this seemed like the quantity for around 4 to 5 people.

Being an expert at the math of cooking, I multiplied the quantities by 10 to serve 40 people. When I wrote my new quantities down, the 150 beans seemed out of place………..and thus it began – my journey towards learning that cooking is more about intuition, and less about precise quantities.

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

It has taken me many years and many errors to get here. There have been times that the dishes looked good but tasted anything but! Then again, there were dishes that crumbled, but tasted delicious.

It has been a long and enjoyable journey. Today, as I stand in front of the stove, I add salt and spice with practiced ease, I can see and tell, smell and diagnose what is right or wrong. I am a better judge of quantities.

After all, it is the wisdom acquired from 150 beans.

Salty Saturday


When we were growing up, weekends were fun days, except for one specific ritual on Saturday mornings that we had to follow.  My Dad had read a book on herbal medicine that advocated the use of salt, at least once every week, instead of toothpaste, to brush your teeth.

We woke up on Saturdays to small cups filled with salt, for each of us. My father stood and watched, as we brushed with eyes squirming. We would all go from sleepy to fully alert in a matter of seconds, as the salt overrode all our other senses.

Ugh! We grimaced at each other, but our Dad stood quite unmoved.

Needless to say, that was the first ritual I knocked off my list, when I left home for University.

A few years ago, when I was quaking in a dentist’s chair, she commended me on well-preserved teeth. Jokingly, I told her that it was because of the once-a-week-salt toothpaste I used as a child.

She looked disbelievingly and laughed. I laughed with her too.

Recently, when I was stocking up routine stuff for the house at the supermarket, I walked down the aisle that had oral hygiene products and guess what? There was Colgate Active Salt toothpaste.

Hmmmmm…..maybe I should get my kids started on the Salty Saturday routine.