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.