The struggle is inevitable,
only options available are less or more of it.
I fly even with my wings broken and
a mind full of desires,
no matter how insignificant,
if I am not better,
at least I am different.
It is rightly said: “Sometimes cultural variations do describe a wholly different mode of understanding what makes feel good.’’
There was a month of fieldwork internship assigned to me from an organization wherein I got an opportunity to travel in some parts of Gujarat. From Baroda to Saurashtra region, my stay other than the living quarters and hotels lasted at two Gujarati families. Since I belong to a different culture and so settling into other cultures take time but yes being an Indian, our value system has great strength when it comes to adapting different colors peacefully. So it was a good quality time spent in acquainting with people and understanding a language that I wasn’t used to. It took a little longer with loads of patience but I am glad I made it. I lived with them, ate what they had and by the end of it even started talking like them. I saw a change in myself. The conversations which earlier flew above my head and annoyed me, started attracting my attention whereby I actually made efforts to decipher their words which sounded foreign to me.
But here comes the struggle, and it was the Gujarati food. I intend to make no offense while saying this but it used to get on my nerves when I found a tinge of sugar in probably every dish. Though I pretended to be diplomatic in front of the people honoring me with so much respect and courtesy but inwardly, my rants never ended. It really used to surprise me when I was served sweet dal and all the recipes with not so of course sugar in them. However since I was tired and hungry after a day’s hard work, I gulped in whatever was offered to me at the house.
With this becoming a habit, I realized that it actually started satisfying my taste buds. By adding lime juice and coupling the dishes with their homemade sweet-sour pickle, I gradually started enjoying my food. This actually seemed better to me than the bland or spicy food that I usually preferred. The sweet-salty food was actually a neutral taste that perfectly amalgamated spices and sugar. Though the quantity of sugar added in the meals lowered when I moved to Saurashtra region but yes the little less sweet flavor still persisted. I often used to tease the aunts out there when I became familiar with them that their jar of sugar is closer to them in the kitchen than the tastemaker which is salt. Addition of sugar to the food is like a daily ritual for them.
Sugar, which only deserved to be in the category of desserts for me was being consumed by me in every form through lunch, snacks, and dinner. I discovered the actual reason of adding sugar in the food was to nullify the effect of salty water in Gujarat (being a coastal region). The other reason that I was told was that the salty sugar food helps one stay hydrated in the dry hot climate of Gujarat. Anyway, the best of the sweet dishes served to me were the Aam ras and the Shrikhand.
Aam Ras is the pulp of a ripe mango which is extracted from hand or blended mechanically. As my usual habit, I initially kept it for the end of the meal to be taken as a dessert when I was served with lunch. However soon, I found it such a delectable dish that I actually used it as a dip with puris and rotlis. On the other hand, Shrikhand is sweet strained curd which is flavored with nuts, saffron, and cardamom. Both of them are such delicacies that are completely irresistible.
I realized that when my taste buds became comfortable with the sweetness and started remaining happy, I could connect with people more and also found their etiquettes very homecoming. I somehow felt that the food with added sugar reflected their sweetness in character and nature. It was like a trademark of their warmness with which they served me.
Having described my experience which actually turned my aversion towards sweet food to likeliness and wanting more of it, my taste buds have actually changed. I no longer mind having sweet dal with rice or chapati with Aamras. Shrikhand has become my so favorite that even now at the campus, I purchase it often from the nearby Amul parlor. I cannot still forget how I made a fuss when I earlier used to see my Gujarati friends adding sugar to everything here served at the campus. It was like I always wondered how can they ingest so much sweetness in normal meals until now when I have started savoring the sugary flavor. Now before passing comment on someone’s food habits, I understand how different flavors are an expression of a unique cultural identity. More than the arousal of my taste buds, the ingredient sugar has certainly fostered the spirit of understanding in me. It has positively pushed me to give away my habit of being judgmental on someone’s eating habits. The questions that what is actually delicious and what is not might tap powerful emotional differences and taboos but we need to delve into it sometimes because it is actually worth it! Just like the way the addition of sugar in every meal in Gujarat has stimulated my thinking to go beyond tolerance and enjoy the differences, similarly, I would suggest everyone try the food which seems bizarre to us at least more than once in the lifetime. For we don’t know how we end up discovering something really savoring for our taste buds!
Food without salt is tasteless and food with an excessive amount of salt is uneatable and harmful as well. In every food recipes, salt is always referred to be used according to the taste. We may use varieties of world-class spices in our food to make it royal and authentic but ultimately it is only the right amount of salt that brings the taste.
One of the reasons we immediately add salt and turmeric as we wash meat or fish or any non-vegetarian food because it removes the stinky smell from the food.
To preserve pickles for a long time, salt is very essential. Even it is the salt that doesn’t allow the ice to melt easily, for the icing of ice-creams one of the desi-nushkha (country cooking style) is to garnish the salt on the ice to keep it from quick melting.
Salt is essential for life in general, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. Salt is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous food seasonings, and salting is an important method of food preservation.
Salt is an essential element of our life which our body can’t produce. Hence it has to be provided within the recommended amount, through our diet. Salt helps our body to retain water and keep our blood pressure in normal condition. It is an important nerve stimulant for the proper functioning of our muscles. It contains many necessary nutrients which activate several salivary and digestive enzymes. The World Health Organization recommends an adult to consume 2,000 mg of sodium, equivalent to 5 grams of Salt per day.
Salt’s contributions to the human healthy existence are enormous and unignorable. The deeper the research goes the bigger the contribution of the list goes on and on. In overall, the undeniable fact of our human existence is – the SALT.
In reference to some of the earliest pieces of evidence salt processing dates to around 6,000 BC. It is processed from Salt mines, and by the evaporation of seawater (sea salt) and mineral-rich spring water in shallow pools. In a year globally, 200 million tons of salt is produced, and only 6% of it is used for human consumption whereas the rest is used for water conditioning, de-icing highways, and other agricultural use.
Just think, if there would be no salt in the world what could have happened to our existence on earth! Will it be ever a healthy existence?
SALT & its SALTINESS is essential and identical in human existence.
Analogically Jesus said in the Bible says,
“You (HUMAN) are the salt of the earth.
But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Salt dissolves wherever it is used, it leaves its own shape but its presence is highly felt. Its character penetrates the food, adds flavor and makes the food eatable. Wait, its story doesn’t end there, it is the nutrients of Salt that keeps our body healthy and preserves our existence.
Often, we paradigm our life confined within I – ME – MY story but in reality, it’s not! It is an absolute illusion about the understanding of life. Each of our human action has a greater intensity of influencing others. Our life is keenly hitched with other’s existence. We leave influence while we live on earth.
God has created us in His image, given us the mind to reason between good and evil, foolishness and prudent living and reflecting godly characters. We are the salt and our influences are the saltiness that brings the taste in our relationships, it preserves other’s life from the sinful living and fulfills the purpose of our birth. Death is absolute, then our physical presence will never be seen like the salt’s story but yes, the presence of our influence will always be felt.
Green slender ones, it impresses me as nothing else does. Yes, I am referring to chillies. You might wonder what makes me so fond of chilli. If you ever take a look into my fridge, and even my balcony garden, you will find chillies everywhere.
My first encounter with Chilli
It was when I was a kid, I used to notice my mom, add these green chillies to the coconut chutney my mom makes. The tinge of green that it brings to the chutney was something impressive.
As I grew up, these chillies became a part of my cooking. There was not even a dish, without chillies I cooked. Even the red ones also took my heart, when it comes to taste. In Kerala, whenever we make tapioca especially the boiled ones, we have the green chillies (tiny ones) with shallots and yes it tastes awesome, that even as I write my mouth waters. 😛
Love at first sight
Every day, when I am off to work, on the way, I pass by a market area, and all you see is a bunch of fresh veggies. As I go by bus, I can see vendors unloading sacks full of chillies onto the spaces for selling. It is always fascinating to watch all those tiny green slender ones, load up.
Chillies, tinier ones are mostly used in the pickles and ones that are salted and added to vinegar ….the taste is just WOW. You can find an array of lemon, mango, gooseberries pickled with green tender chillies at my home.
Amazing facts about Green Chillies
Let me put up a few facts about green chilli, which will make you fall in love with it…
- Green chilli is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin A, iron, copper, potassium and a small amount of protein and carbohydrates
- It is rich in dietary fibre, which makes it important for your healthy digestive system.
- Have green chillies and own a healthy glowing skin – as it contains Vitamin C.
- Aid digestion – Hope you all know saliva is a major add-on to our food that aids digestion of food. When you consume chilli, you produce more saliva, which will help in fastening digestion.
- Good for weight loss – Green chillies can help in weight loss and burn excess fat by increasing metabolism.
- Good for diabetics – Including green chillies (the tiny ones especially) in the diet is best to control the increased blood sugar level and it also helps to balance it.
- Combat sinus and cold as it contains capsaicin.
- When in pain take green chilli. It emits heat into the body that acts as a painkiller.
- Green chillies on consuming cause release of a chemical called endorphins, which can control mood swings.
- Green Chillies are a good source of iron, ideal for those who are deficient in iron.
- Rich in Vitamin A and is ideal for mucous membranes. Yet another good reason to include chillies is :
Loaded with a capsaicin-a chemical compound that makes chilli peppers taste hot — you can eat them raw, fried or in a roasted form along with salads and as a side dish in your main meals. It tastes awesome!! Trust ME!!!
Chillies taught me a lesson
Over and over as I ponder on chillies, it reminded me that the over usage of chillies can burn our tongue that finally, all taste seems fake. It’s important that we don’t add too many chillies beyond our requirements. When I became a mother, every notion about taste changed – I minimized so many things like chillies as I wanted my kids to enjoy what they eat. I knew they won’t be able to eat if I had too many chillies.
It was then that I realised like chillies, we need to be minimal in many things we use or with the circle of friends we have. An overabundance of anything in life does not make life richer.
Final thoughts on my chilli Love
If you have nothing to eat at home, no curry enchants you, then all you need to do is just fry salted chillies and then have it with plain rice.
Vinegar is an extremely important ingredient in some of the oldest as well as the newest food items. I remember, when I was a small kid, I used to watch my Grandma making all kinds of Achaar (pickle). She used to soak all the raw mangos, lemons, berries etc., in the vinegar and then dry them in the sun. Afterwards, she would cook them into different kinds of pickle according to the fruits – Mango pickle, Berry pickle, Lemon pickle and so on.
When I grew up, I understood the use of vinegar to marinate raw meat and then cook them after some time. And when I visited restaurants, I found vinegar with green chillies soaked in a bottle which are usually used as sauce or added flavour to soup and other dishes as salt, pepper etc.
When I started taking interest in cooking soya sauce and vinegar were my favourites. As I know they would cover up my follies if any and bring the taste in them.
I was curious to know about some more uses of vinegar in our life and I was shocked to find them in numerous amounts when I searched on the internet. I have mentioned a few below:
- Vinegar, as we know, is an effective preservative. It works by making the food more acidic, which deactivates its enzymes and kills any bacteria in the food that may cause spoilage.
- Vinegar has anti-bacterial properties because of which it helps as a deodorizer.
- Vinegar is used in food items for various purposes. It is used in salad dressings. It is used to marinate meat to add flavour to the fry or curry or any dish that we try to prepare.
- Vinegar is claimed to help diabetics control their blood sugar levels.
- Some test tube studies say that vinegar can kill cancer cells.
- Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent. It also helps to wash fruits and vegetables clean. It helps in cleaning our skins as well. Many people use it during bath too. Vinegar can be used like this in varied cleaning purposes because of its antibacterial properties.
- Vinegar sometimes is recommended as help to weight loss because it may help you feel full.
- Vinegar neutralizes the sting of minor burns and helps them heal more quickly by reducing the swelling. It also helps to cure pimples and acne.
The list can just go on and on… But there’s a glitch in it.
As I was discussing the uses of vinegar with my colleague in the office today, he was saying that they usually marinate meat with a spoon as vinegar might burn the skin. Vinegar helps as a mouthwash but if we use it without the knowledge of how to use it then vinegar use would be fatal than useful. We can not chew anything with our teeth if we use raw vinegar as a mouthwash.
The time, the quality and the quantity are very essential in every aspect of our life which we need to understand. If we don’t understand it then we suffer or let others suffer.
There’s a Bible verse that I found which made me smile and also gave me wisdom. It reads, “…like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart”.
Remember? Above we saw vinegar helps the wound to heal quickly but if it is not used according to how it should be keeping the quality, quantity and time then the suffering of the wounded would be extreme.
A question popped up in my mind, “Is my counselling sometimes feel like vinegar on the wound to the one hurting?”
Sometimes parents and elders taunt their younger ones to correct them. It is definitely helpful at times while they reprimand but when it is done regularly as a habit then it spoils everything.
Be careful! Pour vinegar to heal, not to kill.
Honey Glazed Walnuts ?? Yes, yes. Heard you. They are delicious and healthy. But so are honey glazed chicken, honey glazed carrots, sriracha and honey glazed broccoli. Browsing these recipes is like food porn, watching the ingredients bring the dish to life while salivating almost makes me full sometimes. If one has to ask me what is that one versatile ingredient that you would want to experiment with while cooking, my answer without a doubt would be honey. It can be added to any vegetable or meat to bring that twist. Have you tried honey with a bitter gourd? If you love bitter gourd, you should try this.
My morning routine starts with a glass of warm water with honey and lemon.
It gives the required kick to the morning. Lemon is refreshing, and the honey helps boost energy. For many years of my life, my morning beverage was coffee, but once I replaced it with lemon and honey water, I saw dramatic improvements in my health.
Honey acquires its characteristic taste depending on where the bees collect the nectar from. If the honeycomb is an area where Neem plants are more, one could easily taste the bitterness in the honey.
Honey improves our immunity, which helps us fight a lot of diseases. Are you anemic? Have a tablespoon of honey a day, and you would see improvement in your hemoglobin levels. Honey also is an excellent remedy for cough. Honey was considered a medicine in ancient times, and in India, it is still part of many home remedies. A mixture of honey and ginger juice helps heal sour throat. Honey has antioxidants that can prevent cancer, heart diseases, and in some cases, can heal wounds.
I was watching a food show a couple of days ago where they said that honey is not recommended for infants less than a year old. I was curious to know if this is true because, in our households, we do give honey to newborn babies. After some reading on different websites, and this is what they say, “Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can germinate in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness.” So, let your kid be of a year old before you start giving honey to them.
Do you know how to check if the honey you are using is authentic and not adulterated with sugar? Take a bowl, add a tablespoon of honey into the bowl. Add a quarter cup of water to the bowl and gently swirl the bowl. After a few rounds of water on the honey, the honey would look something like a honeycomb. If the honeycomb shape is not formed, you can be sure that the honey is not pure. This amazed me when I tried it. Honey is so versatile, can get along with any food item, helps us stay healthy and all of this while maintaining its own authenticity. This is so important for us humans to understand from honey, honey bees, honeycomb or I must say, the honey-making process all in all teach us to be selfless, have a meaning for life, help others and be kind without losing our own self-identity.
The glob of precious honey that I had poured into my mouth at Ace’s was the life’s work of hundreds of bees, a unique floral ode collected from thousands of blossoms in a poetic foraging ritual – Holley Bishop