Parables Through Coffee Colored Glasses

February 11, 2012


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mcwaffle89 /Free Photos
We all see the world through our experiences and interests. The things we know influence how we perceive and understand other things. Sometimes I forget that and it surprises me, as it did this morning when I read the parable of the carrot, the egg and the coffee bean.


Have you heard that one? It's been floating around the Internet for a couple of years. I've seen it attributed to Mary Sullivan, but can't find the original source. It goes like this:



Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?



A young woman was going through hard times and having trouble dealing with them emotionally. She went to her mother (in one version, to her father, a chef) and told her how unfair life is and asked for advice. The mother wordlessly got three pans, filled them with water and put them on the stove to boil. When they had come to a boil, the mother put a carrot into the first one, an egg into the second one and a handful of coffee beans into the third one. She let them boil for twenty minutes, then removed each of them from the water and put them in front of her daughter. 



She then explained that each of the three -- carrot, egg and coffee beans -- had all faced the same adversity, hot water, but each had reacted differently. The carrot, which started out hard and unyielding, had become weak, soft and mushy. The egg, which was liquid inside its protective shell, had hardened and toughened. The coffee beans appeared unchanged...but  they had transformed the water around them into something wonderful.



The little parable is supposed to leave you thinking how wonderful to be like the coffee bean, going through adversity and transforming everything around you by your strong beliefs and actions, or some such thing. And it's a lovely story, it really is. But as a cook, writer and coffee lover, I end up totally hung up on the finer points and details and really really wish that writers would  get their facts straight before they run off at the typewriter.



I mean really -- 20 minutes of boiling? Way to ruin three delicious foods in one parable! First, who the heck puts whole coffee beans in water to make coffee? And the boiling? Twenty minutes? Really? No wonder the carrots were mush. And a 20-minute boiled egg? Dry, crumbly and with a grey-green ring around the yolk, completely unappetizing. 



Worst of all, though, can you imagine coffee grounds boiled for 20 minutes and the bitter, nasty brew that would result? I understand the premise of the parable, but what I'd get out of it if my mother did that is that if you subject anyone to enough adversity, they end up bitter, nasty and unpalatable.



And then, being who I am, I start thinking about the elements of the parable -- coffee, carrots and eggs.. hm... I wonder how carrot cake would taste made with coffee...



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