Tag Archives: relationships

Don’t Get Caught In A Pickle

Caught in a pickle

Every family has their secrets. Some are the pink elephants of traumas, tragedies or other unspeakable tales. Some are the revered ones, such as traditional knowledge or crafts, that are guarded like the family jewels, passed carefully from one generation to the next. In the rich depository of such ancestral inheritance, what I considered exceptionally valuable, was a recipe for mango pickle.

Sounds innocuous, but if you had ever tasted this delicious sun-dried, spicy mango delight at my grandmother’s, you would understand. It seemed unlikely that any other preparation could ever match that taste.  After her demise, my uncle took over. As he got older, the preparation became my sister’s responsibility. An essential requirement is the stark, dry heat of Nagpur or Nasik. In my mind, this is how I rationalized the difference in taste from the other Maharashtrian pickles available in Mumbai. That and of course, the exceptional ‘family recipe‘. To me it was as precious as the traditional medicine for jaundice that is passed on in a cousin’s family. Or as notable as the anecdotes about another ancestor’s medical prowess. It was unique, and our own special inheritance.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be in Hyderabad for some work. Our hosts were kind enough to take us out for a sampling of the local thali meal.  I cannot describe my shock at finding ‘my’ pickle in my plate.  I was even more stunned to discover that this was the popular Aavakaya pickle.  Every Andhra household prepares this and my friends were confused and surprised at my excited reaction.  A couple of them offered to bring me homemade bottles, as most of them had it at their homes.  I was humbled and delighted, all at the same time.  I now had easy and limitless access to this delicacy.

But the irony was not lost on me. Despite having a liking for spicy food and having sampled many pickles, I had not ‘discovered’ that what the younger family had assumed ownership over was actually a given in a far larger collective. The rich variety and diversity of food and culture in India does make familiarity with all foods near impossible to the lay person.  (I have no idea how a South Indian recipe became a staple part of my centrally located grandmother’s recipes.)

But how easily we become proud and possessive of something that actually belongs to the whole world.
Just because of our ignorance.  Because of our limited knowledge and experience.

When one applies this across other subjects, the gravity of the repercussion is self evident and significant.  We debate over ideas and beliefs, one region against another, one religion against another, one nation against another.  Vociferously, righteously clinging to our claim over what are often universal truths and planetary gifts that we mistakenly believe we own exclusively.  Only because we view them from some historical, blinkered perspective, often relying on mythical memories to back our version of things. Makes me wonder, how much of the rigidity and conflict would dissolve – if we began to respect how much we all have in common and that  we have simply failed to see – nothing is ours alone.

The same also applies to what we consider our unique failings and challenges. In Marathi, we have a saying, “Gharo Ghari matichya chuli“.  What it implies is that every household that you visit, essentially faces the same challenges.

In a conversation about plagiarism,  I heard that some people deliberately do not attribute credit to the original source whose quotes or teaching they share.  Because if they have subsequently lived it,  they feel that they can now ‘own’ it.

Perhaps eventually, we will come to realize that all roads lead home and far enough down these roads – all paths are one.


Filed under Flow, Meal Experience, Relationships, World and Community

Meeting Points + Recipe Spinach Vegetable Rice

“Do not do unto others as you expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Consider this – on one occasion, I had some friends over and asked whether they would like some tea. Ended up preparing a boiled chai with ginger, one without ginger, black tea with lemon, one green tea, one black coffee without sugar, one cold coffee with full milk and a few more.  You get the idea, I am sure.

Everyone has their own tastes, preferences and priorities. Meeting of interests and a commonality in ideas and values can generate much togetherness and synergy.  The tendency can be to start expecting this similarity to spill over into most, if not all areas.  However, this need not be the case.  Everyone has their own approach, likes and dislikes and simply because there is a common agreement in some of these –  it need not extend to all areas.  

While it seems an obvious observation, in hindsight, I realize that it took me a while to remember this and to stop making any such assumptions about another, regardless of how well you feel you know them.  Such assumptions could lead to misunderstandings or differences that can be avoided.

I have also found it useful to remember that there should be no insistence to convert others to your point of view.  If someone believes he must have his meat for protein intake, so be it.  If another feels he must go vegan, so be it.  Everyone has their own reasons, understanding and compulsions.  Just as I have my own.  So live and let live.

Hence, today, while I may share what I have learnt, or how I feel about things, there is no longer any forceful attempt to convince another of my chosen ways.  As Gibran said beautifully, “Say not, I have found the truth, but rather, I have found a truth.

This post came about as I was preparing a meal for a friend.  I wanted to use spinach and mushrooms and for me, cheese goes beautifully with the two.  But my friend avoids dairy.  So I made this tasty, nutritious fried rice instead.  When I told him this, he said, “But a little cheese would have been okay.  You didn’t have to change plans.”

The point being – when you respect each other’s opinion and give the space – people are more than likely to meet you half way 🙂

Spinach, Mushroom, Broccoli fried rice


15-20 Spinach leaves, chopped
1 large Red Onion, thinly sliced
4 large Portabella Mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 or 3 large florets of Broccoli, sliced long
1/2 cup semi cooked green peas
1 tomato, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Red Bird’s Eye Chilly
Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon oil

2 cups cooked Rice


Fry onions, garlic and chilly. Add mushrooms, broccoli and seasonings. Stir a few minutes on heat. Add spinach. Once it has wilted, add rice, peas and lastly, the sliced tomato.

1 Comment

December 20, 2012 · 9:16 am

Friends and food so go together…  One of my closest friends is one of the most awesome cooks I know.  As is his wife.  Their home reflects the generous, loving hospitality of the best of Punjabis.  You can rest assured that even the briefest visit to their home will leave you satiated and grateful.  Not only for the delicious food that they serve, but the loving attention with which it is prepared and the intense attention that is given to the finer nuances.  And more than anything else, the wholeheartedness with which the guest is made to feel pampered.

Years ago, this friend was famous for his beach barbecues.  He would marinate the foods from the day before and carry bricks and coals.  Then everyone would drive out to Marve beach and under moonlight, he would assemble the tandoor. Painstakingly preparing the tandoori delicacies for the entire party.  Amazing and touching.  Stuff the best of memories are made of.

For the last decade or so, I have come to count on his thoughtfulness.  Whenever he visits my place, we usually eat out.  He was most understanding about my disenchantment with cooking, knowing that I had grown weary with all the complications of cooking as a caregiver for those with dietary restrictions.

How we tend to lean on friends.  It has been only too convenient for me to maintain this arrangement. But now, with my relationship with cooking having healed – I was more than happy to cook a meal for him.  Spinach pancakes, a greek salad and an experimental sweet dish.  After having stopped use of  baking soda(high sodium) for twelve years, I finally prepared a cake again.  The Basboosa turned out to be interesting, though I used half the suggested syrup and served it with glazed strawberries.  Will probably use even less syrup next time!Basboosa

But my friend’s delighted appreciation of the food was welcome sweetness indeed.  Glad I have returned some of the happiness that has been served to me so often.

We easily fall into patterns in our relationships.  Sometimes they become a little skewed, and it is important to ensure that counting on someone does not lead to taking anyone for granted.

So while I delight in the way I am taken care of, there is also great joy in being there for my friends, in different ways.

It’s always nice to give back… from the heart.  And a delicious meal is always a good way!



December 1, 2012 · 6:08 pm