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It is amazing the things you accumulate over time. Quite recently I decided to look through the contents of a flat carboard box tied with a red shoelace. The label on it read ‘Recipes’. Did I want to keep any of them, or was it time to throw them all away? After all it hadn’t bene opened in like over a decade. Of what use would they be to me, especially when any recipe could be got with a click, on the net?

As I untied the red shoelace, memories came rushing back. Can you imagine, there was a time when my after lunch hours were spent sifting through the recipe collections. I used to read recipe books like people do novels or short stories. While reading, I’d imagine the process of making the dish, how the final product would look, its flavors et al and then decide which ones I wanted to try out in the following days.

Many of the cuttings in the box were from magazines like Femina, Eve’s weekly, Women’s Era (They are magazines I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole these days, and no, it is not because of the recipes). Other recipes were jotted down while watching cookery shows on television. Yes, that was a hobby too, watching available shows whenever possible. This collection is apart from a couple of old dairies filled with recipes painstakingly and neatly written down, as also a humongous folder with pages and pages taken from old magazines.

As I was looking through the contents of the box I found half an inland letter from mother and a page from a letter sent by my sister in law. I stared at them wondering why the heck I had them stored along with my recipes. Then I turned the page over and knew why. In the letter, mother had mentioned how to go about making kondattams. When vegetables are plenty, you boil them in salt water, dry them in the sun and store. They are then deep fried in oil and served as a side attraction at meals whenever needed. They are also made from cooked and mashed rice, with spices added, which make crunchy snacks. The sister in law’s letter on the other hand contained a recipe for chocolate cake.

Digging further, I found a tattered old paper with ‘Demo: Chocolate Bread Pastries’ written on top. As I peeled it off from the rest of the papers, it tore into two in my hands. This was a recipe I got from my first ever walking buddy in Binnaguri, Mrs R. It was a big hit with my family and also at the ladies club where I gave a demo. Fast forward a few years. I made the same thing on demand for the college going First Born and his friends. Did they like it? Suffice to say that years later, one of the girls from the group sent a query via email to all her old collegemates. Did anyone know the recipe of the pastry that their friend’s mother had made for them? You bet I sent her the recipe!

There were a few more things in the box, mainly games prepared for the ladies club meetings. Guess the ad, guess the weight, fill in the blanks… I threw the lot in the wastepaper basket. No one needs those any more. I am keeping the tattered paper though. As soon as the pandemic gets over and the children visit, I am going to make them the Chocolate-Bread Pastry.

© Shail Mohan 2021