THE SUGARY AVERSION THAT ALTERED MY TASTE BUDS

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!

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SALT – IT’S MEANINGFUL PRESENCE

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.

OH MY CHILLIES – YOU ARE HOT

green chili with fire
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

green chili peppers
Photo by John Lambeth on Pexels.com

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.

Again Chillies

focus photo of round brown wooden bowl filled with chili lot
Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Pexels.com

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…

  1. Green chilli is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin A, iron, copper, potassium and a small amount of protein and carbohydrates
  2. It is rich in dietary fibre, which makes it important for your healthy digestive system.
  3. Have green chillies and own a healthy glowing skin – as it contains Vitamin C.
  4. 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.
  5. Good for weight loss – Green chillies can help in weight loss and burn excess fat by increasing metabolism.
  6. 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.
  7. Combat sinus and cold as it contains capsaicin.
  8. When in pain take green chilli. It emits heat into the body that acts as a painkiller.
  9. Green chillies on consuming cause release of a chemical called endorphins, which can control mood swings.
  10. Green Chillies are a good source of iron, ideal for those who are deficient in iron.
  11. Rich in Vitamin A and is ideal for mucous membranes. Yet another good reason to include chillies is :

    photo of assorted vegetables and fruits on rack
    Photo by iSAW Company on Pexels.com

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.

POUR VINEGAR TO HEAL, NOT TO KILL

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.

Stay Blessed!

THE DIY KINDA FOODIE

I have a weird relationship with food. Throughout childhood and college, I looked at food merely as a means of nutrition, nothing more. I had a handful of favourites that my mother used to cook very well, but by and large, I used to have a ‘meh’ kind of attitude to food, especially to ghar-ka-khana (homemade food).

My journey as a foodie began only when I met my husband, who’s the true foodie among the two of us.  I still remember how the poor thing tried to impress me by taking me to a Greek restaurant for a date, and I ended up eating nothing but boiled rice and stir-fried veges because I hated the food there! He still bears a grudge about it. But, he and my Mother-in-Law are the reason why I learnt how to appreciate good food over just food and cultivated the love for cooking in me.

I don’t consider myself a foodie even now because I have very simple requirements in food and I don’t like to dine out much, but there are times when I have a hankering for certain foods and I’ll go to any lengths to hoard the ingredients required to make that particular dish. For example, I’ve been craving Miso ramen for some time now but I cannot find Miso paste (obviously a very important part of the dish) in any food store in my vicinity. And you can’t make it at home (yes, I’ve googled up ‘DIY miso paste’ too). So I’ve had to place an order online for it, and now I wait for it to arrive. That’s the kind of foodie I am. Oddly enough, as someone who hated ghar-ka-khana, I’ve turned out exactly like my mother. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all!

Yes, I’m the ‘DIY’ type of foodie who would much rather cook/bake by hand rather than sample food at a restaurant or a food fest. For me cooking my favorite meals is like celebrating an event. First, there’s the preparation – going to the grocery store to gather the ingredients or hunting for them at speciality stores.

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Source: giphy.com

Then there’s the cleaning and cooking – washing, chopping, slicing, watching them all come together in a sweet melody in my mixing bowl or kadhai.

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Source: giphy.com

And then there is the celebration itself – serving it to your family and having the satisfaction of knowing that they enjoy it.

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Source: giphy.com

Don’t even get me started on the aroma that fills the house when the food is cooking/baking. I love it when these aromas hang around the house for hours even after the food has been sitting nicely in my tummy! I’m by no means a fabulous cook, but I  do love cooking my favorites.

Some of my friends joke that I should have been born in China or Japan or Thailand because I love anything brothy, soupy with a tonne of ginger and chicken floating in it, and – noodles! In short, I love foods that go ‘sluuuuurp’! Naturally, all noodle based foods are my absolute favourites – Miso ramen, Phad Thai, Yakisoba, Spaghetti with meatballs, simple Chicken Noodle Soup, Indo-Chinese Chow mein, or even Maggi! But the top of the list makes a relatively lesser known congee I first had courtesy of the chef on board my husband’s merchant ship – Arroz Caldo.

It’s a Filipino congee (rice porridge), roughly equivalent to chicken soup and is consumed as breakfast or when you’re feeling unwell. Its relatively simple to make IF you have chicken/vegetable stock at hand, or even stock cubes, and if you’re crazy about soups like me, you will ALWAYS keep chicken stock in your freezer to pop into any soup. Arroz Caldo consists of rice cooked in chicken/vegetable stock along with stir-fried chicken (or you could use pork, fish or shrimps), fried garlic, ginger, hard boiled eggs, topped with a garnish of spring onion, a dash of calamnsi/lemon and fish sauce. For the recipe, please head to Pilipinas Recipe. This recipe includes saffron, which in my opinion, is not necessary. I think it’s only included for the yellow color. Also, I like to make my soups healthy by adding stir-fried vegetables like carrot, mushrooms and bok choy. But you can leave them out if you like. Mind you, this congee is NOT for weight watchers.

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Image source: Pilipinas Recipe

This is the ultimate comfort food for me. This is what I crave when I’m unwell, or when I’ve had a bad day, or even when I just need to cook something good. This, along with the veges I throw in, is like a complete meal in a bowl and I can eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, I HAVE done that on some days aboard that merchant ship, when what the Filipino cook dished out was not to my liking (read squid). Gave me the creeps just thinking about it!

So, now you know what kind of foodie I am! I’m the kind of foodie who loves the process of cooking as much the eating part of it. I’m the kind of foodie who will serve you everything right from bread, cookies, pasta and dessert all made by hand, in my very own kitchen.  I’m the kind of foodie who’s idea of shopping is grocery shopping, and the kind of foodie who loves stuffing her refrigerator with things that she would like to cook.

So who’s coming over for dinner tonight? 😉

 

Featured Image: HomeMaker at Pixabay

“I AM NOT HUNGRY IF YOU ARE GOING TO COOK”

I am from that population of Indian middle class women/ girls, who were/are never allowed/forced/asked/ had to enter kitchen before their alliance was fixed.  Studies were of paramount importance in my life then.  So distanced I was from kitchen even in a single room house that I was capable of burning even water if I was asked to boil it (I request you to not to take it too literally 😁).

The crux is I was miserable when it was about cooking. From choosing the wrong ingredient to choosing wrong technique, from overcooking to undercooking, I have been there done that all. If a person can overload something as simple and basic as instant noodles with salt you can imagine her expertise in spoiling the food and taste. Yes, that was me.

One instance from my “cookbook” (since it’s mine I can serve only incidents which are luckily not accidents and not recipes)  that I would remember till my memory power is intact and would like to share with you all on this page.

That was in the year 2004, I went to my friend’s place and was very hungry. I told her the same.  Within no time she rolled out flat bread (roti) for me and served along with a curry (a combination of a lentil and bottle-guard, a kind of vegetable). It was very delicious and pacified my hunger.  I was in awe of her culinary skills. So inspired she left me that I have decided to wear an apron and enter the kitchen.  Requested recipe and with head full of imaginations that I would dish out something sumptuous and receive praises from my family I reached my house.

It was Sunday, I announced that a delicious meal is on its way, I am going to cook today. Mom gave her consent and I debuted in kitchen.  Got the spices right, chopping done and everything gone into the process.  And I started off with flat breads. Aroma of spices soon engulfed the house.  I was so happy that I am on right track.

Before I could submerge myself into that feeling my flat breads started turning out to be burnt (not every single piece, but only a majority of them😂). I said to myself “it happens in trials” and turned to my curry and opened the lid. Appearance seemed so-so, not very pleasing. “Okay let everyone taste it first, sometimes appearance may be misleading” this is how I assured myself that everything will be fine.

As everyone was hungry I had to hurry up serving them. And my eyes were fixed on their faces to catch their unadulterated reaction to what went through their tongues to stomach. 😥😫 These emojis might explain you their plight then. The lentil was undercooked and spices almost left them with upset stomachs. Horrible is the word to be precise.

My brother, typical he is started pulling my leg. In fact he was right when he said “In which part of the world is this called FOOD? Thanks for making us fast dear” and left my parents in splits and made me frown. My father was more encouraging and said “Keep on trying, it’s just the beginning”.

That surely lifted my spirit and I requested for one more chance and wanted to try a new dish in the evening. Everyone, especially my brother was taken aback and turned to my father and said “Please save us from going to bed in hunger, please cook something that has your signature (my father was a great cook)”.

When I insisted on being given a chance my brother declared “I am not hungry if you are going to cook”😔.

That day gave me a lesson for life “Don’t try to sprint before learning to walk or else be ready to fall flat on face”

I could have started with little help in kitchen rather than taking a huge leap of cooking an entire meal that day😀.

Do share your kitchen experiences/nightmares, whatever they are. I am all ears 😀.

A TALE OF A FOODIE

A kitchen always fascinated and attracted me. Nevertheless, My early days of being in the kitchen were to just eat and relish the taste of yummy food that my mom prepared for me. It was a routine for me to wake up to the aromatic realm of food prepared from the kitchen. I actually recollect the good old days when my mom woke me up with just the smell of a morning tea.

Being born in a traditional south Indian family – my home always smelled of South India delicacies like Sambar, Rasam etc. My holidays morning were awakened by the fresh smell of coriander leaves which my mom put in the Sambar which is bubbling on the stove. I always adored the way she cooked, imagined that one day I would be a fine cook like her.

I was mocked many times being a foodie. I ignored many and actually crushed many of the faces in my dreams when they tease me being a foodie. A good appetite is for the blessed ones – And I consider myself blessed for the same.

Even though I had small and fine encounters at cooking at home even before I got married. The real encounter scared the hell out of me like every other newlywed. Still, I just walked into the battle room like an unmatched warrior with the hope to accomplish my reign in the Kitchen.

It was a long struggle for perfection and imperfection for a while. Thanks to those who were patiently waiting for me to deliver perfect un-burned and well-balanced food on the table. Like all, I never enjoyed cooking then, as it was just a burden on my shoulder.

Things changed when I actually got to get good appreciation, a kind gesture that actually motivated me to cook better. My journey as a foodie propelled to become a more like a chef now. I enjoyed the aroma that actually filled in my kitchen while I cooked. Bringing the fresh memories of my mom’s kitchen.

I knew cooking was truly an art- I wanted to be an Artist then.

I took the baby steps in learning new methods and even started baking for my kids. Repetitive failure attempts and lots of wastage and finally I enjoyed the “true joy of cooking“.

Being a foodie, I luxuriate in relishing every taste my tongue could find. I loved experimenting all kind of cuisines. Fresh and new tastes always excited me. Even though I am scared of eating different varieties because of few uncanny incidents, I enjoyed watching all kind of cookery shows.

I recollect my days when actually I ended up cooking things I see on TV but yet landed up in totally unmatched dishes on a table which looked not even close to what it looks in magazines and online portals. I finally convinced myself that food colors are not my cup of tea- it is just Photography skills ;P.

Serving is my joy when it comes to food. I cannot see anyone starving or go empty stomach, hence cooking turned me completely into a mom. I actually transformed into someone who can actually eat half or even sleep empty stomach by letting others fill in well.

Being a foodie completely changed my life aspects.