How food changed in India!

My grand mother is 91. I have always wondered how our grand parents or great grand parents lived such healthy and long lives. Diseases as we know today, were rare occurrence. The reason is very simple, fast food, packaged food and food that required labels was rare too. Meals were prepared with utmost care and love for the entire family. Cooking took time and effort, and why not? It is the most important thing that shapes our body mind and soul, should we not invest in it?

When we see slow cooking methods, popular in the olden days, we realize that today, cooking is just a time-saving process with modern appliances. Most of the nutrition in food is lost when we start using our appliances to prepare the food faster. I have even come across people who add more salt to onions while starting to cook curries so that the onions cook faster. 

During our grand parents time, they had fresh vegetables and meat everyday and food was freshly prepared. Dairy was fresh from cows people, their neighbors or the community/village owned. These days with the lack of time, access to frozen/fast food, and most importantly, the feeling of meals bringing the family closer has vanished.

India is a country rich in culture, traditions and history and Indian cuisine has been shaped by its long history and unique georgraphy. Indian food is also greatly influenced by different rulers, travelers and neighbors. Food has always been an important part of our culture. It is not just important for filling you up, but also brings people closer. Indian food is very diverse in taste, looks and way of eating them and can be compartmentalized into 4 categories, North, South, East, and West.  Despite this diversity, it is connected by some unifying threads. One prominent one being use of spices to enhance the aroma and flavor of the food. 

A variety of reasons affect the quality and taste of the food, the compatibility of spices, the right time for cooking, choosing seasonal vegetables, and ofcourse the interest of the cook. The knowledge and use of herbs and spices is very critical. They can help clean accumulated toxins and rejuvenate your body. Today is it hard to find authentic spices grown organically, this makes it even harder to prepare therapeuticl meals for the family.

Ancient Tamils
Ancient Tamils were known to incorporate medicinal herbs in their dishes and Rasam is one such dish. If you ever have cold or not feeling that well, this rasam will come as a life saver for you. But this particular dish is not that popular these days because it takes time and is made using a special herb called Kandanthipili (which has immense medicinal properties) which is rarely found in Tamil Nadu these days.

Punjabi Food
Ragi roti is yet another traditional south Indian dish, that has been forgotten by people of the present generation. Many have not even tasted this. This dish is absolutely healthy and has the right balance of nutrients in it. In some places it is even prepared with methi (fenugreek) leaves, making it healthier. This was the staple breakfast of South Indians during the ancient times.

Similarly, people from Punjab use to take time and effort to make Makki Di Roti (maize flour flat bread) and Sarson Da Saag (Mustard leaves) using fresh ingredients. Now days everything is available ready made in pouches, just cut them open and you have pre prepared masala for your Punjabi dish. This hardly tastes as good and is devoid of nutritional value.

Bengali Food
Shrimps or Prawns as we know it have always been a favorite with Bengalis. Because it was always a luxury to have this variety of sea food, our fore fathers could only afford a handful. This did not stop them from whipping up one really delicious prawn dish called “lau chingri”. This is prepared very simply with lauki (gourd) and prawn cooked in turmeric, salt and kalonjii (Black Seeds). The dish is healthy and totally delicious.

Tit Koh, a Pondicherry dish is made by slow cooking pork in coconut water, red chillies, honey and Jaggery, all having medicinal properties.

Lets start making meal times special, lets pour in some love and warmth into our daily cooking and see our family flourish. Maybe its time to invest in that slow cooker and blender we have been eyeing and prepare our own meals with the right spices and keep the health of our kids top notch.

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