• Mohana Prabhakar

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

I have no idea whether I am a potato, a coffee bean or an egg. Please note that this is relevant in the context of hot water only. I remember helping someone learn this speech for a speak-up event - I had no clue regarding its origins, but found the premise rather interesting.

So, put a potato in hot water, it becomes soft and weak, an egg becomes hard inside its shell and a coffee bean changes the water itself. This was the lesson being given by a dad to his daughter who was complaining about her miserable lot in life. The moral was basically what we love to ignore and then love to be told by some expert or guru: When bad things happen, it is how we deal with it that’s ultimately important and not what happened.

The story ends with the dad asking his daughter: “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, coffee bean or egg?” The poor girl said coffee (though it isn’t explicitly stated), because the story mentions that the aroma brought a smile to her face. That’s probably because she needed a caffeine hit though.

I don’t think the answer is quite that simple.

The popular vote goes to being a coffee bean, suggesting you can change any situation you are in and turn it into something better. The words used to describe the coffee bean (unique), and the end result (aromatic), tells you this is the right answer, but is it?

What’s in the small print is that the coffee bean has to be ground first, and I am not convinced that I want to be ground into dust and lose myself in hot water, to show that I am in control of my life. (Do you think Starbuck’s came up with this little story?)

The potato is obviously not what we should aspire to be because it doesn’t just become soft, but also weak according to the storyteller. Just to be difficult, let’s look at it in another way. I do like coffee, but with due apologies to George Clooney who convinced me that Nespresso was ambrosia, it is always a dark brown liquid. A boiled potato on the other hand is extremely versatile in shape, form and consistency.

It can thicken a soup or bring a crunch as a croquette. It can take on any flavour you want, any texture; it can be had hot as delicious, buttery mashed potatoes or cold, as a summery potato salad. It combines well with fish, meat, chicken and any vegetables you can think of.

There you go: Versatility, adaptability and a team player. Shouldn’t these be the vital qualities one needs in adverse situations? So I am already leaning towards being a potato at this stage.

Eggs. To say I love eggs is an understatement and it is number one on my Can’t Live Without These list. So in this story, I don’t understand the attitude towards the humble egg. The dad says that the fragile egg, with its thin exterior protecting the liquid interior, becomes hard when put in boiling water. But he says it like it’s a bad thing. Surely it speaks volumes about how one can overcome fragility to become strong and solid.

I don’t think there is any right answer in this one. I can think of many occasions where I should have been a potato or an egg and things would have turned out differently, and almost certainly better. Coffee bean: Not so sure. I am still having a hard time getting past the visual of being ground up to make myself and my life better.

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