The Agreement

Our connected world has a funny way of isolating us.

— Life is a Recipe

As I was driving with my mom last week, she asked me a question that really made me think. She asked, “Did your father ever have a cell phone? I can’t seem to remember.” My mom often asks questions about the past because she spent a good part of my teenage years in a hospital taking care of my dad, who was battling Multiple Myeloma. In the years that passed since then, she felt that she hadn’t been in touch with the “real world.”

Her question sparked an image in my mind of my dad holding a phone that was the size of a basketball player’s sneaker. I remember him making sure that it was constantly plugged into a curly, old fashioned wire because the battery would run down very quickly. Because he was in the fashion industry, my dad was constantly on the phone at odd hours because of phone meetings and time-zone differences. He had to make sure that things were going to be delivered on time, or if a sample had been approved. Back then his calls had to be connected by operators. I remember how he had purchased the latest cordless phones in Hong Kong, so that he could talk while being free to move around. Unfortunately, my father did not get to see what happened next: the screen-age of smart phones.

My father would have loved our situation right now – a time where we can be connected anywhere and anytime. He would have loved having a computer and a phone all in one device. I also know it would have driven him crazy if we used our phones in the addictive way we do now. If he wanted to spend time with us and we were enamored with our emails and social media – God forbid at the dinner table – he would have been quite irritated by the distraction that would pull us away from being present with each other.

This is the same way I feel when my kids are tapping away on their phones when they’re with me – and my kids feel the same way when I’m the culprit! Current studies show that the average child in America spends more than 50 hours a week interacting with some kind of media screen, and that the average teen sends approximately 3,000 texts per week!* This problem hit home when one of my kids texted me from their bedroom (next to mine) and asked what we were having for dinner that night. Something had to be done about this monster, techno-takeover. I decided to make a few changes that wouldn’t leave them with “FOMO” (fear of missing out), but would help us reconnect in person.

First, we sat down and discussed the importance of togetherness, and how togetherness is enhanced by reading another person’s expressions, hearing their tone of voice, or giving/getting a simple hug. Texting, even with cute little emoticons, is void of this kind of communication.

Secondly, we came up with an agreement.

The digital world keeps us connected in a far less intimate way. It’s important that we use it, but it’s also important we don’t lose the human connection with the people around us.

I know how much my dad would have both loved and hated the digital age. I think of him every time I make the following recipe, one he loved to make and serve at family dinners where everyone was fully present, laughing and talking together. It’s a recipe where one actively uses their hands, which is another way to prevent us from using our phones and iPads all the time.

*Pew Center for Research


Life Recipe:
The Agreement

  1. Phones are to be left outside of the kitchen during mealtime. This is where we spend most of our time, so drop them in the hallway caddy.
  2. If you must have your phone (i.e. you're expecting an important call), keep it as an afterthought or face down while you're interacting with your company.
  3. Start training your friends to know that you protect family time and you'll get back to them when the time is right.

Dinner Recipe:
Chicken Tikka Masala

  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of Life is a Recipe® Tikka Masala Part 1
  • 1 tablespooon of minced fresh ginger
  • 1 whole chicken cut in 8-10 pieces. No skin and no fat.
  • 1 tablespoon of ghee
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 -3 Serrano chillies finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 cup of Heavy whipping cream or coconut milk
  • less the 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoon of Life is a Recipe® Tikka Masala Part 2
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • *Add more salt to taste.
  • 1 pound green beans (fresh)
  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic (fresh, chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black lentil
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 6 large lemons
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • ¾ teaspoon of Life is a Recipe® Garam Masala
  • 5 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cans of condensed milk
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Chai Masala
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • water

Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 tablespoons of Tikka Masala Part 1.

  2. Stir in with chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Lightly oil the pan.

  5. Bake until the juices run clear.

  6. Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat.

  7. Sauté garlic, ginger, and Serrano chili for 1 minute then add chopped tomatoes.

  8. Cover with lid for tomatoes to cook.

  9. Add 2 teaspoons of Tikka Masala Part 2 and less the 1 teaspoon of salt mix together.

  10. Add the chicken to this mixture stir then add the 1/2 cup of cream or coconut milk, but find the cream makes this dish yummier.

  11. Add salt to taste.

  12. Reduce to simmer for 10 minutes for juice to vaporize and garnish with cilantro.

  13. Serve on a bed of rice.

Green Beans with Garlic

  1. Wash green beans well. Cut off ends and then break in half.

  2. In a pan add in ghee and warm on medium heat.

  3. Add in mustard seeds.

  4. When the seeds begin to pop, add in garlic and lentils.

  5. When the lentils turn light brown, add in green beans, salt, turmeric, and red chili.

  6. Mix well and cover.

  7. Reduce heat to medium-low.

  8. Cook until green beans are soft but crunchy.

Quick Lemon Pickle

  1. Wash lemons and cut into halves. Cut each half into 8 slices.

  2. Remove seeds. In a large bowl, add lemon slices, salt, chili powder, and Life is a Recipe® Garam Masala.

  3. Mix well.

  4. Microwave for 7 minutes.

  5. Remove from microwave and stir well.

  6. Microwave again for 5 minutes.

  7. Next, add in sugar and stir well.

  8. Microwave for 4 more minutes.

  9. Let the mixture cool and then store in a glass jar.

Chai Infused Flan

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.

  2. In a saucepan, add in sugar and ¼ cup of water and boil over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and becomes caramel.

  3. In a blender, add in eggs, condensed milk, Chai Masala, vanilla extract, 1 cup of water and blend.

  4. Next, in a pre-greased glass tray, pour caramel and spread evenly.

  5. Pour egg mixture over the caramel.

  6. Place the glass tray into a larger glass tray that is filled half way with water.

  7. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.

  8. Check flan with a toothpick.

  9. When finished, let cool.

  10. Place plate over flan and flip flan over.

  11. Enjoy.