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.

What’s really important?


This afternoon, after a crazily busy month, I finally got some free time. I lazily flipped through the hundreds of TV channels that never seem to stop churning out programs.

I finally decided to watch a movie. The channel I watched was playing a blockbuster Bollywood film from the eighties. And this movie triggered memories about an incident that happened during my childhood.

In the small town, where I grew up, we had a club house that screened movies, every weekend, for its members.

Our slot was on Saturday evenings at 5.30 p.m. The movies screened were usually blockbusters or those that had won critical acclaim. So, Saturday evenings were quite exciting.

On one such Saturday, my sisters and I were on pins to watch the movie being screened, as it had been released just a few weeks ago, and was a huge hit at the box office.

We were ready from 3.30 p.m.,waiting for my parents to finish their chores, and get ready. At around 4.15 p.m., the door bell chimed.

We had visitors. Two of my grandma’s friends had decided to pay grandma, and all of us, a surprise visit.

Those were the days, when social networking was actually done in person! So people just dropped in unannounced, and were welcomed with joy and fanfare.

My grandma was visibly excited. So were my parents.

I also have to tell you that my grandma & mom were life members of the ‘Whoever visits our home will not leave without a heavy meal’ Club.

So, as my grandma caught up with her buddies, the aroma of filter coffee, masala dosa, and rava kesari, wafted in the air.

My sisters and I were really down. The movie….? The clock was merrily ticking away, fast approaching 5 p.m. The club house was a 7 minute walk or a 4 minute run, so there was still some hope.

We were in our room, feeling sorry and worried. At 5.10, we quietly slipped into the kitchen to ask mom if we could leave, as grandma could keep her friends engaged till we came back.

I will never forget what my mom told us. Our ears rang as we slunk back to our room.

She said, “There are some things in life that are very important. Whenever guests come home, they take precedence over everything else. Our priority is to be good hosts and feed them well. This movie that you want to see, will be there forever. When you grow old, or retire, you can sit and watch it anytime. Now, go to your room and play a board game, I will bring something for you to eat.”

That was an important lesson. The simple joys of being with loving friends, and all the camaraderie that goes with it.

At that point in time, my sisters and I moped and sulked; Mom’s lesson totally lost in our sorrow.

But what an important lesson!

We never got to watch that movie after that, but funnily, this is the very same movie that I watched this afternoon, just as my mom predicted – when I had all the time.