Our home kitchen is a direct reflection of our lifestyle choices. Why are we speaking about this today ?
The answer to that question is simple. Even in a small rural hamlet there will be that shop selling a packet of ready to eat snacks or packaged food, which came off a large factory assembly line. The reason being the ease at which we are connected. Everything is just a click away, should we want it.
Diet has gone far away from eating the kinds of food that we stand to inherit from ancestral leanings. We wrote about this extremely worrying issue in the previous edition of Farmer Diaries in the segment - Cultural Food Systems (Sustainability and Food Security). Kitchen gardens are becoming popular in the urban set up simply because there is an understanding of the benefits that arise from growing our own veggies, fruits and herbs.
We do need to understand that the process of growing real food in a conscious manner, processing it without adulteration and employing manual labour when necessary will reflect in the final cost of the product. It need not necessarily be expensive but it will definitely cost more than a sub-standard version of the same. In the long term using cold pressed oil instead of refined oil, for example, will be more beneficial for health and on the pocket.
When we cook in cold pressed oils, the taste of the oil adds to the flavour of the dish. When the taste buds are exposed to the actual intensity of the ingredients, the appetite reaches satiation faster. So half a litre of aromatic oil will go a longer way than the odourless and tasteless refined counterpart.
Making a homemade tomato sauce is as easy as pulping fresh tomatoes, adding salt, spices of choice, natural sugar and allowing it to reduce on the stove. This can be done once a month or once a week depending on the requirement and time available. Making the switch also gives tremendous satisfaction of knowing exactly what we are putting into our bodies.
When people talk of allergies or issues with digestion, they are told to avoid certain foods by medical experts. Unfortunately we tend to overlook all that there is hidden inside seemingly simple foods.
For example, finding pure asafoetida is an exhaustive search but it is available. All one needs is actually a tiny (mustard seed size) quantity to imbibe the benefits. But since the processing is done by using a large amount of edible gum and refined flour, this resin powder is added in small spoonfuls without even realizing that the majority of that is actually a refined ingredient.
It’s like plastic surgery but for food. Beauty at all cost. The ones paying the price however is you, me and the environment.
Making a switch is so much easier than we allow ourselves to believe. Yes it is overwhelming to enter a supermarket and be assailed from every direction about this fortified flour and that new ingredient and a something flavoured cereal. But those can be occasional foods which we can maybe grab for a quick bite as seldom as once a month. The body can handle it then.
Free flowing salt is another food which is over-abused in our diet. It is really not the salt to blame but the manner in which it is processed and used. When using rock salt or sea salt, the balance comes automatically when cooking because the taste is so heavily felt on the tongue. We will automatically reach for less, just enough to enhance the food and not over power it.
Similarly there is unnecessary fear of eating traditional Indian pickles because of the salt content. When unrefined salt crystals have been mixed with traditional ingredients in a recipe handed down over generations, it is one that will undoubtedly contribute to health.
Half a teaspoon of this pickle is where from the body gets in a whole range of pre-biotics. This is different from the excess salt which enters the body by way of packaged biscuits. The former won’t harm whereas constant intake of the latter definitely will!
Making a lifestyle modification does begin in the kitchen. We want every rupee to count. It’s hardwork to put in hours trying to establish a good lifestyle. Food choices need to be the kind that adds energy rather than instill lethargy. Believe it or not it has to do with the kind of ingredients we choose - refined vs un-refined. People think that it requires time and effort to go looking for ingredients which are made in a conscious manner. It’s not difficult at all, thanks to the internet.
It’s not urban hoo-haa or trying to talk food literacy and reading labels. It’s necessary because we are moving away from a local and seasonal diet. How many of us know or tell our children what kind of grain or food to eat during the rainy season?
There are fruits, flowers and leaves which grow in every season and are meant to be eaten along with a particular staple be it rice, ragi, wheat, tapioca, jowar etc in a specific proportion. How are we to go back to that if our kitchen shelves are filled with cans, boxes, packets of foods and so on which is becoming a day to day sustenance?
Let’s start by taking a look at who benefits by refining natural ingredients. You will be surprised to note that it most definitely isn’t you. Any reason why your money should be spent on it then?
There are so many small time farmers and food entrepreneurs trying to do right by the consumer. You might want to read a blog post we wrote on why we should be supporting Farmer run businesses. Let’s find them and allow them to do just that!
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In desi breeds of cows and buffaloes the colostrum is produced in excess of what the young calf needs. The excess if not collected just gets wasted and if not milked, leaves the animal feeling uncomfortable. Bovine colostrum is a part of not just the Indian traditional diet but an ancient one. When rearing cows was a part of the household chores and the animals were looked after like family, the excess first milk was seen as an offering and became a part of the family diet. The Indian cow was not harmed or put to any torture for this extraction process. It was just a natural circle of man & animal co-existence. Many farm today still practice this kind of beautiful bond. It must be seen to be understood.
It has since been considered to be the mother of all health elixirs comprising all sorts of roots, shoots, herbs, seeds and fresh ingredients. One of the most prominent ingredients in the Chyawanprash is the Amla or the Indian Goosberry. It has more Vitamin C than citrus fruits and is vital to combat respiratory illnesses, prevent muscular spasms and boost immunity.
Chyawanprash can be had either in the morning or evening or both times, if so prescribed. For children, it is best to have a small spoonful once a day. It can be mixed with desi cow milk or just eaten off the spoon. Some folks like to spread it on bread for breakfast but that does not conform to traditional practices so the efficacy of that might not be as potent. The Chyawanprash also helps dispel lethargy or listlessness of the brain and body.