Boxes are the darnest things. They trick you into feeling tidy, and then they suddenly fill up. So, what do you do? You get another box. That fills up too, so you get another. And another. Boxes multiply, brazenly. And then the big boxes and the baby boxes need to be sorted, tidied, labelled, piled or slid under beds.

But I’m still a fool for boxes. Between a pretty dress, and a pretty box, I’d choose the box every time. And I’ve been known to return from my travels with old wooden crates instead of the usual souvenirs. I might even have passed the fetish on to my daughter, because as a baby, a cardboard box could keep her far better entertained than a multicoloured toy that danced, sang and blew bubbles. For a special treat, an egg carton worked wonders.

I love my large, old wooden box filled with warm blankets. My battered tin box full of old, handwritten letters, cards, and another filled with photographs. The fabric-covered box filled with Chotto-ma’s baby clothes. My box of pretty patterned paper. Of cupcakes, and crayons. Of wooden clothes-pegs, and kitchen herbs. I have a box full of scissors of different sizes. Of shells from beaches far away. Of embroidered, white linen, handed down generations, the cloths now a little yellow with age. And a box with a key, full of stray thoughts.

Do you have a well-loved box, filled with well-loved things?

There’s one in my kitchen too. A box that is filled with many small boxes, and the small boxes filled with the most beautiful, aromatic spices, from which I take pinches of flavour, and colour. They are the spices that flavoured this fragrant soup of lentils and green mango. It’s a tangy soup that smells and tastes of Southern India. Of coconuts and curry leaves. It’s summer in a bowl.

Lentil & Green Mango Soup

2 cups red lentils, washed
1 small green mango, peeled and diced
1 cup coconut milk
A handful of curry leaves
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbs oil
5 cups water

Boil the water, and when it starts bubbling, add the lentils, mango, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt. Lower the heat to medium and cook the lentils till done. Remove from heat.
Heat oil in a pan, and add the mustard seeds and peppercorns. When the seeds start sputtering, add the curry leaves. Sit for a couple of minutes then add this to the lentils.
Put the lentils in a blender and blitz till smooth. Transfer it back to the pan and add the coconut milk. Add more water to adjust thickness if needed.
Heat the soup, without bringing it to the boil. Serve with a sprinkle of black mustard seeds.

Serves 6, maybe more.

11 thoughts on “Boxes

  1. For once my food obsessed brain pauses to read your words. It forgets about the food to get lost in the beautiful imagery that you create.
    So wonderfully written.

    The soup is ofcourse lovely.

  2. Oh, Pia. I, too, am a fool for boxes. Just plain cardboard boxes that can be quickly replaced, though not their contents. If there was a fire, the two boxes I would grab are filled with letters and photographs. Once upon a time, I trained as a furniture-maker. After a long break, I honed my skills by making hard wood boxes using traditional craftsmanship. I never loved a box as I did those ones … and thus gave one to my grandfather, one to my parents and one to my first-born niece. You've struck a chord with this post.

    I shall make this comforting soup whilst I think about reacquainting myself with my tools. Thank you.

  3. Grace, what a skill to have! To be able to shape an unyeilding piece of wood, and watch it give in to you and become something else. I would love to be able to make boxes for the people i love, knowing that it'll store things that are precious to them. Thank you for sharing that.

  4. That soup looks delicious, and the colour of it is so beautiful! I think you need to visit Denmark, they have beautiful boxes of all shapes and sizes! I am a bit of a sucker for boxes too. I convinced my husband that we absolutely needed an oak trunk as our coffee table. Don't ask me what's in it, but it's stuffed to the rafters with junk, junk and more junk 😉 Emma

  5. Emma, Denmark is definitely on our (very long) list! And an oak trunk would be my dream coffee table too…i've actually been on the hunt for the right one for a long time!
    All the best for the move! Can't wait to read more about it on your blog 🙂

  6. Thanks Mario! Glad you enjoyed the post. I bet your two empty boxes will fill up quite quickly from all your interesting travels 🙂

  7. I was looking for a recipe to use up my red lentils. This looks devine. Can't wait to try it. I love all of your beautiful pics and really interesting recipes. I am now following your blog, hope you will stop by mine and follow back.

  8. hi judee, thanks you so much for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment. this is one of my favourite summer soups, and i do hope you enjoy it.

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