Tattered Treasures!

When I got married my culinary skills were limited to brewing tea and coffee, and not very well at that. It helped that I went into a plantation house with an army of household help or R and I would have surely starved.

My mother worried endlessly. Not as much for R’s welfare – I suspect – as about what people would say about a girl who couldn’t cook. So every letter brought with it a treasured family recipe.


In English – except for the names of a few spices that she didn’t know the right term for – because I wasn’t comfortable with the Kannada script. And with exact quantities, although her cooking was instinctive and she had never ever measured her ingredients before.

I have come a long way since of course, and have singlehandedly catered to parties of more than a hundred people at a time (have to confess I have gotten ratherΒ very lazy of late), but try as I might, these recipes even when followed to a T, never turn out quite like Mom’s.

Posted by

Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

67 thoughts on “Tattered Treasures!

    1. That was a long time ago Jo. These days I rarely even attempt 6…far easier to take people out after a few drinks at home πŸ™‚

  1. Madhu, my Mom also didn’t measure. She did write down a few of them for me and I wish I’d gotten more. Mom confessed to me that she, too, did not know how to cook when she first was married. Mom quickly made up for that.

    I can’t imagine catering for 100 people. Kudos to you for doing so.

    1. Aah, I wonder how I did that myself! Couldn’t do it anymore, too glued to the net πŸ˜€
      Thanks Judy.

  2. Madhu, those letters and recipes from your mom are very colorful, and photogenic, as well as containing wonderful concoctions. I can’t believe you catered for 100! Amazing. I’m the kind that follows your lead now: drinks at home and dinner out after. I like that idea very much! πŸ™‚

  3. That took me back many years when I got married and could only cook okra and more of it… and then some more. It was a disaster. My poor hubby would take me out to eat because after cooking for the family (a horrible affair which everyone was too nice to mention), I had no appetite.

    Your mother’s letters are what my mother did over phone (secretly!)

    It’s so nice to be where we are in life… I hated being ‘just married’….!

  4. I’m not much of a cook. Catered for over a 100 people–that sends shivers down my spine. A fun memory Madhu. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Love the photograph… and the post πŸ™‚ Reminds me of something similar that I have… my grandmother’s handwriting… I have no idea what it is, as it is in Tamil. But I know she wrote it. And for that reason alone it is in my file… In fact, almost all of us in the family value seemingly meaningless objects… Our house wouldn’t be overflowing and stuffed if we weren’t such ‘sentimental fools’!

  6. Love the photo .. the different colors of the paper .. and well used.
    Madhu, you can give the same ingredients and the same recipe … to 5 chef’s and you will get 5 totally different dishes – recipes .. will always get a little extra be added by the chef, passion maybe *smile
    We are in a very special and exclusive club, can cook – but don’t want to. *smile

  7. What lovely well-used treasures from your mother, and for you to have her sure guiding hand with you forever! No wonder you were such a good hostess!

  8. Oh, Madhu, I have followed your blog and enjoyed the photo and stories of your travels. This, however, was so delightful because it has told me a little about your personal story. I loved reading it and hope you will tell us more stories.

  9. Ah maybe its because you follow them to a T – try relying on your instinct like your mum and then even if slightly different to hers it might be just as good!
    Real treasures Madhu πŸ™‚

  10. Your husband must really have been so thankful for your mom’s concern for his welfare, food wise. πŸ™‚ Lovely “tattered treasures” indeed.

  11. You have single handedly catered to parties of more than a hundred people at a time, that sounds really great!
    It’s wonderful that you have been keeping Precious treasures for so long. πŸ™‚

  12. a lovely way of concern by your Mom! every mother does her part in the play of her daughter’s new role! this is beautiful! You made it more special Madhu

  13. That is a wonderful gesture, I know cooking skill is highly appreciated in the East, your case is quite similar to our case in Indonesia πŸ™‚

  14. beautiful image, and such a tender story … your dear lovely mother sending you recipes so carefully … my mother left me a few family favourites now and then … tucked into a book where i would find them one day πŸ™‚

  15. I know the feeling. My mother is German and a GREAT cook. She makes many traditional German dishes that are delicious. I continuously remind myself that I need to have her teach me exactly how she makes them. They are quite complicated, however, and every time I try they definitely don’t taste like hers. My fear is that when she is gone, so will these wonderful family traditions be gone. Thanks for the story.

  16. What a wonderful treasure. Do you still use your Mom’s recipes?
    My husband was brought up by his grandparents, and before we were married I was introduced to them; his grandmother’s first question to me was “can you cook?” looked into her eyes and lied straight out and said I could πŸ™‚

  17. What a thoughtful memory. Mom’s did have a way of worrying about all the things we didn’t learn from them or want to learn from them at the time. They are there in a pinch and you have proof of that…a keepsake photograph of those original recipes. 100 people…good grief!

  18. What a lovely and caretaking mum… πŸ™‚

    By the way I believe many girls and boys too – don’t learn cooking before they move from away mothers safe kitchen… “lol”

    I love to cook and have always loved it – partly foods have been a part of my business life the last 30 years through marketing and so on – partly it’s so wonderful cozy and relaxing after a day’s work …

    The theme of “the perfect woman in the kitchen” is for me – a woman sitting at the kitchen table and chat with me while I cook – preferably with a glass of red wine in hand – it’s so cozy, I really love it… πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰

  19. Very touching. I have recipes like that, too. Recipes handed down from my great aunt. I like to cook and follow her instructions, but somehow it never tastes the same.

  20. I love reading through old letters & written with a fountain pen too. My mum is exactly the same as I can burn frozen pizza, sadly my skills haven’t improved! She always says that whoever marries me better be rich as he will have to live on takeaway

  21. As you reflect on what you have written Madhu, what do you see as the difference between your cooking and your Mom’s? Is there really a difference?

    Loved the post as I could relate it immediately to my wife…


  22. Oh gosh what a beautiful post Madhu. I’m astonished that someone who couldn’t cook when she got married was soon able to cook for 100 people. My complements to the chef!

  23. So Heartwarming not just the Pic but the feelings, of a Concerned mother, that came along with the Letters.
    Indeed one of the most prized possession for you….

  24. how cool is this! what a brilliant idea – and the photo is rich with textures, patterns and memories. thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  25. and i forgot to say – i am no natural cooker either. there are a few things i make – but i could not imagine catering for 100 people! congrats!! πŸ™‚

  26. I just love the idea of your mother painstakingly measuring ingredients just so she could tell you how to prepare your favourites Madhu, but I wonder if you’re being hard on yourself in comparing her recipes – imbued with all the nostalgia and flavours of your imagination – with your attempts? Mo, and many other good cooks I know, say they don’t enjoy eating their dishes – especially straight after the cooking! Lovely post πŸ™‚

  27. You can make a lovely meal by throwing a few vegetables, beans and lentils into a slow cooker and adding powdered stock mixture. Serve with pasta or rice. Easy.

    Never catered for 100 though. I would probably have a nervous breakdown if I tried!

  28. Wonderful treasures to have, Madhu! I would keep these forever. Your progression to being able to cater a party of 100 people is impressive.
    My grandmother was a great cook, but didn’t write anything down. She had the talent to add a dash of this and a dash of that and have it turn out wonderful. I’ve tried to duplicate some of her dishes the best I can.

  29. They are valuable indeed, Madhu. My FIL recreated some of the family recipes that his mother and grandmother used to cook. He compiled them all and gave each child a copy. He also became the family resource person for old recipes. You have truly treasures in your hands – one that links generations and cultures.

    Marriage has a way of teaching one skills, doesn’t it. Like you, I was not into cooking before I got married. My skills were limited to instant ramen. I love telling the story that in the early days of my marriage, I made scrambled eggs with vanilla for my husband. Of course, he did not like it. I had to learn to cook and now, I am much better than I used to (well, with zero knowledge, any new thing is a huge improvement !) Anyway, I don’t think I will ever come close to your feat – catering to a 100 people! Now, that IS an improvement. πŸ™‚

    1. Glad you enjoyed this Manu. My memories series seems to hold more appeal to all my readers than my travel stories! The first one was certainly cathartic. Thank YOU for spending time here πŸ™‚

  30. Mahdu, hello and thank you sharing with me. I love the idea of the recipes handed down by letter. What a strong link you have with you cultural heritage. The letters would make a fascinating story giving rise to all kinds of encounters, social, physical, culinary, and travel associated with collecting ingredients , experimenting with food and embracing cultures.
    I love the richness of your blog page.
    See mine at anthony-farmer.blogspot.com (charabanc)

  31. Surely what your children are saying about your recipes and their own efforts:
    good, but just not as good as mom’s.
    No sauce like nostalgia!

  32. Oh, what a treasure trove. (How did I miss this post the first time around??) I also have some recipes from my mother in her handwriting. Makes me feel like she’s in my kitchen with me. πŸ˜‰

Let me know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s