We only need alternatives when we think that what we have is not good enough. The dal-chawal and roti-sabzi that we eat is great, but our grandmas never indulged in nutritionism and sold us the idea of eating a certain food based on a single nutrient. The idea was to always eat in a sustainable way, to follow a food pattern that is region and season specific, something that the nutrition scientists are talking about now. The world over, nutrition bodies are also saying that the food of the poor in one continent becomes that of the rich in another. So the kale of the poor European farmer and the quinoa of the poor Peruvian/ Bolivian is the food of the rich in London, Paris, New York. While burger and fried chicken, the food of the poor in the US, are the foods of the rich in countries like India. Superfoods are foods that are local, versatile and blend with the ecology of the region you belong to. So in India we have the banana, ghee, turmeric, nutmeg, jackfruit, ragi, sugar cane, ambadi. In fact, my most recent book is Indian Super Foods and it lists 10 different super foods native to India.
On the contrary, most people are relieved to know that ghee and cashews are not the villains that they were made out to be and regularly share how they lost weight or achieved better blood glucose control after incorporating these in their diets. But is there skepticism when they first hear it? Yes, and I welcome that. We must learn to question health professionals and not just believe their word because they have some degree or no time to answer our questions. The main reason for a bad reputation for ghee and cashews is that people who give us health advice – doctors, dieticians, trainers – have no clue about how food grows or have a single paragraph in their text books on agro-ecology. They sound more like spokespersons of the food industry than anything else. We were systematically put off ghee by using these influencers and converted to consumers of refined vegetable oils first and then of virgin olive oil. So people to whom ghee is native are scared of it and a start-up in the US was recently in news for making millions selling it. Back home, our farmers have given up rearing indigenous cattle, as they don’t find good money for full-fat milk. The economics of this aside, the United States Department of Agriculture, in April 2015, declared cholesterol as a nutrient that is no longer of concern for over-consumption. So if you quit ghee over fear of cholesterol, USDA is now singing your nani’s tune and saying, beta ghee ...
The first myth that people believe in is that the more spices you add the tastier the food becomes. The second myth about food is that a lot of people think overcooking some food items like green leafy vegetables is very necessary to properly cook them but this is untrue. Basically overcooking destroys the vitamins in these items.
Pressure-cooking food is not really good. It destroys a lot of nutrition in the food so never bring any food item to boil on at a pressure-cooker temperature.
So the one food secret that I was personally amazed to find out was about vanilla pods. Every vanilla pod is hand pollinated. They take a toothpick and pollinate each flower by hand so every vanilla pod is a labour of love.