There is comfort in following a recipe. There is learning in not following one.
Today, I plunged impromptu into making a version of pulikuttu upperi, a traditional tamilian dish made with raw banana, brinjal (eggplant) and okra. I eyeballed a recipe online and naturally, our Berlin house lacked several key ingredients. Further, I decided to use the recipe as a guideline and improvised as I went along.
The result was an overly sour blend, with the eggplant having cooked too much, and the banana too little. Not following the recipe left me with less than perfect results. But here’s what I gained from the experience:
- An idea of how sour the water is to be while starting a tamarind based dish
- The knowledge that eggplant cooks faster than raw banana, and that the latter should be cut into long slender pieces
- That excessive sourness can be mitigated with salt and sweet
In effect, not following the recipe helps us learn about the process, at the expense of sure shot results. It orients us towards the input rather than the output.
Once we master the inputs, the outputs can be whatever we want, rather than what is prescribed by a recipe.