THE LACK – LUSTRE BAY LEAVES

The flora and fauna around us, stand as the tallest witnesses of the Creator God.

“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”

A few weeks before as I was enjoying a bowlful of delicious kheer (porridge) prepared by my mother, I took a spoonful into my mouth with half a bay leaf (commonly known as tej patta in India) hidden within. As I removed it from my mouth hoping to enjoy the delicacy without any hindrance, I began thinking of the lack-lustre aromatic bay leaf.

And these are some of the things I learnt from nature, without any technology being involved in the process –

  1. STIFF, YET FRAGRANT

The bay leaves – natural or processed, are stiff. No doubt about it. You can break them only with a crack sound. However, the aroma they impart to the delicacies they are added to, is indisputable.

How many times have we written ourselves or someone else off as being stiff-necked or as hard as a nutshell? The lesson bay leaves teach us is that no matter how stiff you may be, you are capable of imparting fragrance to those around you. Discover your hidden fragrance and help others discover theirs.

  1. BEHIND THE SCENES, YET MAKING A DIFFERENCE

After a dish is cooked, the bay leaves added to it are generally removed. The leaves being coarse in texture cannot be eaten. They can neither be chewed, nor swallowed. Hence, they are best removed. Yet the difference that the bay leaves cause to the dish they are added to, is remarkable.

Are you worried that you are often relegated to the background, despite the efforts you put in? Do you feel that it’s not worth being there in the first place and that it wouldn’t matter much after all? Sorry, you are mistaken. You are capable of making a difference by your presence. Bay leaves don’t show any signs of prominence. They just make a difference and step out. And that leaves an impact for the dish!

  1. NOT AFFECTED BY CIRCUMSTANCES

Bay leaves being hard and stiff, are not affected by the extreme heat and cold temperatures they are exposed to in the process of cooking. In the course of adding their aroma to the dish, at times they turn blackish. But, their properties remain intact.

When faced with extreme circumstances, most of us feel as if we are almost near the edge. As humans blessed with a plethora of feelings and emotions, it is impossible to remain unfazed by our situations. We laugh, weep, rage, plead, become frustrated and rightly so, else we would become robots. However the lesson here is not, to harden oneself in the face of delirious circumstances, rather to strive to keep our basic nature unaltered.

  1. ADDED TO A VARIETY OF DISHES

What amazes me is the variety of dishes that these leaves can be added to. They can be added to sweet dishes, to savouries and to spicy dishes as well. And in all these cases, they impart their aroma with equal finesse. Be it briyani, kheer, halwa or some types of soups and stews, their presence is very much needed. Moreover, bay leaves are used in cuisines in many parts of the world – Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, Brazilian, Indonesian and many other cuisines of the world.


Thinking of our multiple roles in this world, a woman maybe a daughter, a sister, a wife, a co-sister, a mother, a sister-in-law, a friend, a job-holder with a particular position. Similarly, a man maybe a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a co-brother, a brother-in-law, a friend, a job-holder with a particular position. Apart from these basic roles, there are times when one has to switch roles. For instance, a single parent has to fulfill the roles of the absent-parent as well, to the best of his/her ability. Parents have to take on the mantle of teachers, nurses, counsellors to their children. In fulfilling all these responsibilities and roles are we able to do justice, just as bay leaves impart their aroma to all types of dishes with equal finesse?

  1. REMOVES ANY UNWANTED ODOUR

Those of us who prepare and have non-vegetarian dishes, know the importance of bay leaves in those dishes for sure. In order to make the dish palatable and remove any unwanted odour, bay leaves along with certain other condiments are a must. Along with imparting their aroma, bay leaves absorb the repulsive odour that at times accompanies non-vegetarian preparations.

How adept are we to remove negative forces from around us? In the social world that we live in, we are exposed to gossips, back-biting, depressive statements, angry and frustrating words, malicious discussions, and such other things. Are we party to them all or do our aroma, positive words and righteous behaviour absorb these unwanted foul-smells, thus leaving the family or group a better place to be in?

  1. MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Bay leaves have multiple medicinal properties. One handy tip – Boil a few bay leaves, a few pods of cloves, a few black cardamoms, a few basil leaves in melted rock sugar (commonly known as mishri in India). Strain the solids and have a cup of the concoction once a day, when having a stubborn cold with accumulated phlegm. It works really well. As it warms up the body from within, be sure to keep your stomach cool by having plenty of water and other fluids at room temperature at other times. Bay leaves are also good at detoxifying the body, optimizing digestion, reducing bacterial infections and the many more.

Like the bay leaves, let us strive to be the balms for others during their times of inconvenience. Just being there for a person is the best medicine for his /her difficult time.

  1. PUNGENT, YET AROMATIC

Bay leaves cannot be chewed. They are very pungent. Any attempt to eat them would result in immediately spitting them out of our mouths. Yet, they impart a welcome aroma to the dishes they are added.

Life isn’t always fair. At times, events in our life weigh us down. I met a lady some time back, whose company no one wanted. When I got to speak to her, she confided how life situations and difficult people in her life had made her that way. She sighed very sadly, “I used to be a chirpy, happy-go-lucky person, full of positivity – but, I have lost all those traits now. I have become hard to myself and to others.” It is never easy to be sweet to others and self, when the heart is breaking within. Yet, it’s not impossible. Bay leaves teach us that.

How do the bay leaves teach us so many things?

Had God not blessed the bay leaves with such extravagant qualities, it wouldn’t have been possible for them to impart those. I marvelled at God’s creation! These leaves that are found in almost every house, possessing such culinary and medicinal properties have so much to teach us. Praise be to the Creator who has designed these leaves this way.

God has endowed each of us with multifarious potentials of the head and the heart – definitely much more than the bay leaves. Let us not keep our aroma hidden. Let’s add flavour to the world around us.

MEMORIES OF A TASTE BUD

food-878445_1280What is the tastiest food you have ever eaten? Well, I certainly can’t forget some dishes. They made an unforgettable mark on my taste buds. It’s not that I start salivating when I think about them, but I certainly remember them with a certain fondness. They say best things in life are unexpected and so it happened with me.

LUNCH IN SONADA:

I was travelling to Darjeeling with my parents in the year 2002. We got down at Sonada which is about 20 kilometers from the famous hill station. Dad knew a few people at the novitiate there so we tagged along with him. The novitiate was located on a hill slope. A thin veil of fog covered the basketball court outside.  It was afternoon and yet there was no sign of the sun. We were hungry and one of the Salesian fathers led us to their cafeteria.

The beef I ate there was out of this world. Soft and succulent, my taste buds relished every piece of it before swallowing. I don’t know how they prepared it. It wasn’t spicy (which is the way I like) but it had an incredible taste. It wasn’t fried as much as I can remember. I have asked mom to prepare beef in that particular fashion but she never perfected it although once she came fairly close. May be it is something to do with the altitude of Sonada and the air pressure there.

DINNER AT A PUB IN SALUGARA:

It was my friend’s birthday. We went to this small pub in the northern edges of my home town. I was not sure what to expect in that place. The waiter, a young Nepali boy served us plates of “chilly pork”. I am not a big fan of pork. Although, in my childhood days I used to have plenty of it at my aunt’s place. It usually contains lot of fat and I had grown out of it eventually. This preparation seemed different. They had removed the extra fat and the garnishing of onions along with the spices made it yummy. It was better than any chilly chicken I had eaten before. I have not eaten much pork after that except for pepperoni on countable number of occasions. That has been the tastiest pork yet.

HOT GULAB-JAMUNS:

I was with my parents again as we strolled through the crowded Hill-cart road. The Durga Puja celebrations were in full flow. The drums were beating loudly from the various pandals. The strips of decorative lightings hung over the roads and the bamboo structure with lighting patterns marked the edges of the small streets leading to another pandal.  The festive atmosphere kept everyone in high spirits.

 After a long walk we stopped for dinner. I can’t recollect what we had in the main course, but I certainly remember the dessert. The medium sized gulab-jamun took the tongue by surprise with its amount of warmth.  It was delicious and the taste spread as it gradually melted in my mouth. I took another piece and it certainly felt heavenly. Even mom and dad liked it a lot. From then on I have always preferred hot gulab-jamuns.

Enjoy your food and cherish the foodie memories. Like they say, “best things in life are unexpected” and sometimes you will find out that the best food in life is unexpected too.

Peter Minj