How to create your own recipe for life
‘Do this’, ‘think that’, ‘buy those’, ‘be like this...’. These messages are everywhere: our families, social media, newspapers, films, novels and the TV shows we consume, everywhere. For many of us, in many parts of our lives, this works. But often these expectations come without instructions and we’ve got to figure it out for ourselves. And sometimes, we’re not even up for meeting the expectation so need to start from scratch.
When tackling any new learning, there are four levels of thinking … I’ll explain them using my personal ten-year journey to perfecting my favourite soup recipe.
Level one – Innocence (or ignorance!)
When on holiday in Turkey, I discovered a soup which I loved and ate in every restaurant; they all had it on the menu. I didn’t pay much attention to what it was called because my friend always ordered for us in Turkish. I hadn’t even contemplated, at that young time in my life, that I would one day want to order it for myself back home, let alone recreate it.
I spent a couple of years, whenever in a Turkish restaurant looking to see if I could find it on the menu. When on holiday, I didn’t yet know, what I didn’t know. Why didn’t I even ask what it was called?
Curiosity is life’s best companion, pay attention to the things you enjoy. Get to know that feeling of ‘yes’! That warm sense of belonging in your heart and the easy smile on your face. That’s it. When you feel it, listen in. Maybe it’s a particular aspect of your job or an activity you like to do at the weekend, maybe it’s a way of being in the world. Ignore the external noise and follow your own desire and needs. Necessity is the mother of all learning, so find your drive from within, it’ll take you further.
Level two – Curiosity
I found a Turkish restaurant near where I lived which had ‘lentil soup’ on the menu. I had found my soup. As I ate it I marvelled that I hadn’t even noticed the lentils all those years before – how naïve I’d been! I tried to detect what else was in it.
My friend and I enjoyed our meal and catch up. I left the restaurant vowing to make it at home. This time, I was aware of what I didn’t know, and what I had to learn. My first attempt, after some internet recipe research, wasn’t as pleasing as the restaurant version, so the next time we went there I asked what made it so creamy – the waiter said rice. The internet had had me on a wild potato goose chase.
In a less trivial, and non-food-based scenario – the doors curiosity opens can feel confusing or overwhelming, scary even. Maybe you’ve had a taste of something you’d love your day job to be, maybe it’s a skill you want to develop or a habit you want to create or break. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to play an instrument or learn a new language.
These big ideas we have can often feel too far to reach for. Internet research and admiring others from afar on social media will take you a little way to satisfying your curiosity. But better yet, find someone who has achieved what you wish to and ask them how they did it. Quiz them. Ask what they would do if they were you. There’s no shame in learning from others who’ve had the same journey, aim to get underneath the story and feel your way into what might also work for you.
If you’re wishing you’d never opened the can of curiosity worms, take a deep breath and repeat the words ‘possible in the world, possible for me’. Keep a search window open and chip away until you’ve got your answer.
Level three – Practice
Back to the soup: I entered a period of trial and error, error and retrial. How much rice in relation to lentils to get that creamy texture. How to replicate the rich colour and sweetness - red peppers or carrot, or both, or neither? How much water and tomatoes so that it didn’t end up too thick?
Irrelevant of it being a good batch or not, I’d give it another go a few weeks later – I really wanted to make this soup! And the soup was improving. I began to be aware of what I knew, but I still had to think about it. And I had settled into a practice of it. But it wasn’t quite right, yet.
Next time I ordered, I was able to ask a more refined question of my now familiar waiter – from a basis of practical experience, we are able to build on our initial curiosity. ‘Cumin’ he said after asking the chef, it hadn’t even occurred to me to use it, but I knew a spice was the missing key ingredient
‘Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity’ - Einstein.
To grow, we must fail quickly, dust ourselves off and try again. Avoid making assumptions about what did or didn’t, or will or won’t work. Never rest in a place, however accomplished, where you’ve tried everything or where what has worked before will continue to do so. As your learning evolves, so will your learning ‘to do’ list. For example, at a later date, I came across a similar soup recipe which used mint and I've not looked back since incorporating it.
Level four – Mastery
These days, when I don’t know what to cook I turn to this soup because I don’t need to think about it and I’ll know what I’ll get. It’s like I don’t even know what I know anymore, I just do it.
There comes a time to let the need to learn from others go. Whatever your new nugget of learning, make it your own. Maybe you develop your own style in playing that instrument or take the next step onward from the job you first set out to attain. Or indeed, teach others what you have learned.
I’ll leave you with my version of the recipe:
Red lentils - 2-3 cups
Rice - 1 -1.5 cups rice
Onion - 1
Red pepper - 1
Carrot - 1
Tin toms - 1 or 2 plus water
Garlic - 1-2 cloves
Chilli - to taste
Mint - fresh or 2 tsp
Cumin - 2-3 tsp
Paprika - 1 tsp
Cayenne - to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
- Soak lentils and rice. The longer the better, with a few changes of water. I’ll let them soak for 30 minutes.
- Chop and fry the onion with garlic and chilli until soft. Add juice of half the lemon, the pepper and carrot both finely chopped.
- Add drained rice and lentils, warm and stir for a second or two – add oil if needed. Add all spices (except mint)
- Make up recommended amount of water and tomato – the rule of thumb here is twice as much water as rice and lentils. I soak them in a measuring jug so I know how much I had. I’ll then make up twice as much water and include a tin of tomatoes in the measurement. Add this to the pan, stir and bring to boil
- Simmer until lentils are cooked which will take 30-40 mins. I’ll leave the pan lid half on so it stays hot but can steam a little.
- Once done, take off the heat, add the mint (fresh is best).
- Blend until smooth. If it seems too thick, add a little water, stir well on low heat
- Serve with lemon juice and dried chilli flakes. Goes down nicely with humous and bread on the side.
A long serving Londoner, Phoebe is a qualified practitioner in Neurolinguistic Programming, life coach and yoga teacher, and experienced singer songwriter. She’s been leading workshops in a range of personal development topics and supporting people to achieve their goals for over 15 years. She teaches and sings regularly in North London and all around the world. You can find her over on instagram, facebook