Food, Glorious Food

I just know this is going to be one of those rambling posts…don’t go away!

When I went to grad school in the US in the late 90s there was much that impressed me. Common knowledge of everyday science was not the least of them. We didn’t get hungry – we experienced a sugar-low; we didn’t need a cup of coffee or tea – but our bodies were craving caffeine. The chemistry behind food and digestion was common knowledge. I, on the other hand, had never thought of food or hunger in this manner ever.

Fancy cafés just outside the Campus walls were great places to hang out and enjoy that giant cup of java, and a mammoth cookie. There was no Starbucks where I was! And I was in Manhattan! Kansas 😉 .

When I returned four short years later, I had modified my teenage dream (though not a teenager anymore) of owning a bookstore. I now dreamed of a bookstore with a café.

Yes, America changed my dream. As it is doing for all of metro-India right now. In my opinion, the US, with it’s bindaas culture and lifestyle, appeals to the resurgent Indian like no other country does. Interaction between cultures is not new; it usually works towards the development of all involved.

While I traveled across half the world and spent a few years there before my dream altered, the present media driven change is so fast paced as to be almost sudden. Accents are changing as we slip into Levis. And our attitudes to food are changing too.

We’ve come a long way from how our mothers and grandmothers cooked and fed the family. But then our lifestyles too have undergone drastic changes. What did they know about fat and calories? Do we cook smarter today? Are we healthier today?

I have thought about these questions more since I started to write this blog. Some of the recipes that have found their way here are ones that I have enjoyed since childhood. They are as delicious as their memories, even in their lower-fat avtars. But I noticed that I was cooking the fried goodies less often; poories only once or twice a year!

While that’s all fine and dandy for a sedentary worker like me, what about my active teenage son? He’s a lean and thin fellow who is grossed out by the sight of oily tiffin boxes of his classmates (he shudders that B brings oily subzi with her parantha), an attitude that obviously we are responsible for.

Even I can take a lesson in moderation from him. Irrespective of what’s for lunch, his portion size does not change. Okay, I’ll admit, he eats less if I serve khichdi 😀 . But serve him poories, aloo paranthas, biryani, or just plain roti-subzi, he eats only till he is full. He loves mutsch but you cannot make him overeat. I did do something right somewhere.

But why doesn’t he get some of his favourite foods more often, like we used to in our childhood? He’s more active a kid than I ever was! And I didn’t turn out too bad. I’m no waif, but I wouldn’t call myself fat. Nor does TH (dare). Though I do like to tuck in on these aforementioned meals!

Is it because somewhere along the line I decided that poories are unhealthy? Are they? Made with whole wheat fresh-kneaded atta, fried in good old peanut oil, and served with station-bhaaji, and maybe some mustard-oil based pickle, why should they be unhealthy? The only unhealthy bit, by today’s standards, might be the amount of oil in that single meal. But will a weekly greasy meal kill me?

For a healthy person (with no major medical conditions):
Whole wheat atta: super healthy
Peanut oil: super healthy – unsaturated fat, zero trans-fat, zero cholesterol, ideal for deep frying.
Boiled potatoes: one of the best ways to retain all the goodness of this wonder veggie that is full of nutrients and fiber.
Spiced with cumin, turmeric, hing, green chillies, and coriander leaves (as far as I know, all super spices with health benefits some of which are being admitted by modern medicine as well)
Salt: indispensable to the optimal running of the human machine, more so in India where it is hot.

It seems to me that a brunch of poori-bhaji and similar food is super healthy even when consumed once a week 😀 . That’s what my son would like to hear.

We (Indians) are good consumers of knowledge, but we need to question the relevance and applicability of Western research to us. Let us take the example of olive oil that has gained popularity in the United States. The Indian middle-class with its love of everything ‘Westernized’ is the next big market. But, is olive oil a better choice for us? Olive oil is being pushed as the healthier cooking medium. Healthier in comparison with saturated fats like butter and lard, not in comparison to peanut oil or mustard oil!

On choosing the best cooking oil:

As long as you’re using fats and oils sparingly in your cooking and preparation, it would be fine to use any one of the following “good” oils. All of the following oils are low in saturated fats and trans fats. Some have high concentration of monounsaturated fats such as olive oil. Choose corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soy oil or canola oil if you wish to fry foods as these oils have higher smoke point. It is best not to fry with olive oil as its smoke point is only about 190C/375F (meaning it will catch fire before it is hot enough for us).

Good Cooking Oils:
o canola oil
o flax seed oil
o peanut oil
o olive oil
o non-hydrogenated soft margarine
o safflower oil
o sunflower oil
o corn oil

Mustard oil is not even on the list. So naturally, you may assume, it’s so bad it is out of competition. That is only because most of this expensive research is done in the Western world where it is has not been discovered yet. But mustard oil is even better – not only does it have all the good qualities of peanut oil, it also has the optimum proportion of omega-3 versus omega-6 fatty acids.

So, as we open ourselves to the goodness of olive oil in India we must remind ourselves that it may not be best suited for our cooking methods. How many Indian recipes can you think of that do not start with, “Heat oil in a karahi…!”

Then there is the daily warning regarding the dangers of consuming red meat, how we ought to replace it with white. In India, red meat means goat, which is the leanest of meats. You cannot cook it without adding a liberal amount of oil, unlike beef which is much fattier. I flipped burgers in the Students Union, I should know. Therefore, red goat meat is not as bad for you as you have been led to think. Besides who in India eats meat at every meal?! According to FAO, per capita consumption of meat in India is 5kg (for 2002)! An average American consumes 123kg of meat (1998 figures) in a year! So cutting back on your red meat is a relative thing. I (and my son) need to eat some more mutsch I think!

Indian goat meat is also more ethically sound than our chicken. For North India, Rajasthan is the main provider of meat. Almost 70% of Rajasthan is desert, and the rest categorized under arid and semi-arid zone, where rainfall is uncertain and never more than 450mm. In such a harsh landscape, livestock farming, especially goat rearing, is the primary source of livelihood for small and marginal farmers. Goats are reared on common lands so they could be termed free range. The less said about our ‘eggy’ industrial-farm raised chicken the better. I don’t know what they are being fed, or injected with in those cramped places.

So, we need to do our own thinking before deciding which is the healthier meat for us.

Let’s get to the maligned carbs now. Obesity is on the rise in Indian metros. McDonalds and Pizza Hut with their fast food offerings heavy on refined carbs are adding to the problem. Jostling with obesity are other newer food related disorders. Anorexia. Everyone wants to be unnaturally waif thin and we’ll try all the fads to get there. With Atkins, welcome the low carb diet trend.

I cannot imagine ever being on a low carb diet! That thali is going to look very forlorn if I take out the rice or roti from it. And I’m going to look very unhappy (which will stress me further and then I’ll need to reach out for the sugary cookie… 😀 ). Rice and wheat have been our staples forever; our systems have evolved to deal with such diets. As Barbara notes, “Asians can stay slender on high-carb diets that include a great deal of rice and vegetables, while many Americans will grow fat if fed a great deal of carbohydrates.”

So, while it may be good to replace the refined starches with whole grains, it may not be in our best interests to resize our carbohydrate proportions just because the West has concluded so. It has concluded so for its people.

Inclusion of jowar (sorghum) and bajra (pearl millet) into our diet would, then, seem like what the doctor ordered. They are our ‘survival’ grains that can grow even in areas that have not been touched by the ‘green revolution’, where water (irrigation) is scarce. It might be a good idea to stay connected to these grains also because water scarcity will soon enough be a real problem.

And what about the heart-healthy grain that urban India is being pushed to include in their daily diet: Quaker Oats? (Not to mention Kellogg’s Sugar Bombs for kids 😀 ) Oats have been certified by the American Heart Association as a food that can lower the risk of a heart failure. But has anybody researched the ‘poor’ grains mentioned earlier? Who knows it might be better for us to reintroduce ourselves to ragi (finger millet) and sattu; maybe they lower the heart risk even more. These will probably never be grown by the big agricultural corporations and therefore, their health benefits never researched.

Shall we, then, ignore the nutrients behind the food and think about larger ethical issues? In our rush to mimic the affluence of the West we have picked on the superficial aspects only. The widespread awareness about food and its connection to land and people is reflected in the common American citizen’s involvement in ideas such as Farmers’ Markets and Community Supported Agriculture that are becoming strong movements, while we are moving from the weekly rehri bazaars (street markets) to the air-conditioned supermarket to buy our bananas.

These are ethical questions which we can try to answer or ignore. I just want to put them out there.

But I do think we should think about food as we always have. Food is not just nutrition for the body; it is nourishment for the soul. Take a little time with your food: while cooking, while eating. Listen to science; but listen to your senses more. Science changes everyday, reversing directions often.

Have some pakoras, some mithai, and that lime pickle. Life’s short – make sure you taste everything.

Are you still with me? I can’t leave you without a recipe just right for a party with old friends! Come, have some poori-bhajiA Mad Tea Party is one year old!

(To be continued tomorrow…)


Published by Anita

A self professed urban ecologist!

52 thoughts on “Food, Glorious Food

  1. Bee, you never miss one do you?!

    But can you believe that amidst all this wisdom that Anita just spouted, there’s no recipe?! I do believe that she’s following the path charted by no-one but yours truly! She even linked to my lime pickle! O.M.G.!!

    Jokes aside, some of these were questions I asked on DH a couple of months ago in a slightly different context though. I wondered why India needed to go global for food when the same things – better tasting, that too – were available locally. Why not learn from the mistakes of the West instead of following in the footsteps several years later.

    I’m totally with you on everything in moderation is just fine and dandy. Given that we exercise or are involved in similar physical activity at least 3-5 times a week, we’re really fit to go. Our grandmothers were healthier for it. But then also remember that the stresses they faced were different from the kind we face. We live in a wired world of instant gratification. Our senses are constantly bombarded with some kind of stimuli. As are our children. Look at what Xth Std kids have to endure. And worse still in XIIth Std. It’s not surprising that teen suicide rates have increased in the past decade.

    I think we transfer the stresses from the lives we lead into the food we eat. What we eat is more within our control; therefore it is only natural that we focus on it and try to beat it to death by ‘going healthy.’

    Most health studies have a race component and it is important to take that into account rather than accept the recommendations at face value. I am reminded of Andrew Weil’s essay on Food and Cancer recently. There is a nexus between soy and breast cancer yet Asian women who eat more soy have lower rates of breast cancer. If the study is worth a read, they need to have taken race, ethnicity and habits into account.

    But before my comment becomes longer than you post, here’s wishing A Mad Tea Party a Happy 1st Anniversary! A cocktail would go very well with those pakodas and some Sangria with the poori bhaji. What? 😉

    Looking forward to tomorrow and more such brilliant and thought provoking recipe-less posts from you!

    And she doesn’t want my recipes?! 😦

    But, jokes aside, you make this Party rock, Manisha!

  2. A very Happy Birthday to you err…to your blog 😉

    Wonderful points Anita ! And so very true…I always feel guilty when I get a chocolate chip cookie, but really wonder how Indians inspite of our non-scientific way of thinking are a lot more healthier !! I myself start to feel a wee bit fatter after eating that cookie 😀
    I don’t see us Indians voicing the greatness of our food culture on a global platform with enough confidence to make people listen. We are always doubtful and critical and so the instant jump to the other side of the wall. There is so less exposure to it… just the creamladen saag paneer and the overcooked chicken tikka masala 😦

    Modern science is much flawed; and nature works in ways too complex.

    All cooking styles (ingredients and methods) are a result of local conditions and we have adapted to those. They are all good, just not equally suited to all.

  3. this is becoming contagious – posts without recipes. and manisha started it.

    She’s a bad girl, and I’ve told her so (many times). 😆

  4. Fascinating! And what an interesting teenager you have…! Now I’m off to see if I can find some poori-bhaji here in Melbourne!

    I have the recipe for you now, in case you didn’t!

    And he eats spinach too!

  5. hi anita
    lots and lots of best wishes to you on completing such a successful one year of this awesome blog…keep up the good and creative work…i appreciate your thought provoking writing but ya missing some sure shot wondrful recipe in your this particular post…never mind 🙂 will keep on visiting till you celebrate next anniversaries of this mind-blowing superb blog !!!
    Anita…you rock !!!

  6. Anita, brilliant that was a fantastic article and I am off to have some mithai and some Pista Kulfi (since that is my favorite) on you birthday. Congratulations!

    Olive oil used in Indian cooking is one of my pet peeves, it is fine as long as it is used for cooking pasta the minute it over steps to Sambhar I am not ok with it. Maybe it has nothing to do with nutrition but that is how I feel.

    Also on jowar and bajra can’t agree more, some of our water problems are invariably linked to growning rice and wheat or other cash crops – where a crop of jowar and bajra for everyone involved the farmer, the land the animals would have been a much better choice.

    Whenever I or the kids munch on Kellogs cereal one thing that never fails to come to my mind is that the Danes banned several of Kellogs cereals because of the harmful amount of vitamin enrichments they have.

    Go girl, party! And down with them Sugar Bombs! 😀

  7. I heart tea parties, especially when they are zany, MAD 😀 and so, here’s to my favorite tea party 🙂

    Happy B’day to this great tea-party!!

    and i heart your puttar ji 🙂 i wish i could have that kind of self control!!

    and i heart you too, Anita! keep bringing more madness to us, dear!

    hugs and mucho love,

  8. Great post! I am American (and not Indian at all), but I eat pretty much a traditional Indian diet most meals every day. Like you I go light on fried foods, but I don’t think they are all that bad. Mostly I don’t make them because I didn’t grow up eating them and consequently am pretty bad at frying things well (I did have deep-fried bitter melon chips last night though…). And I eat TONS of rice.

    My theory is that healthy whole foods in moderation, even if fried, or salty, or starchy, are not bad for you. I mean how far wrong can you go if you start with good basic ingredients? How much can you screw up vegetables or well-raised meats? It’s the processed foods that I think are trouble. Who knows what is in those. We pay for that “convenience” with our health.

    I love olive oil, but I would never use it for cooking Indian cuisine – just Medeteranian. The taste just isn’t right. Likewise, I use mustard oil for Bengali food, but would never use it for Tamil food. etc etc…Part of the respect for the cuisine is knowing what its core “rules” are. Indian food is so wonderful, tasty, VARIED and tasty. I am always disappointed that in the US we only seem to know bland, oily Northern-style restuarant food.

    “…not Indian at all” LOL! And totally agree with your “how much can you screw up vegetables!” too.

    I too follow that cuisine-specific oil rule, that is why I have been urging many of my non-North Indian friends here to give mustard oil a chance 😀 . North Indian, mainly Punjabi/Mughlai is the food that came out of the home kitchens first, and crossed the shores first. For the longest time most North Indian knew little about South Indian food beyond idli-dosa. But now the blogosphere lets us get into each other’s kitchen’s for easy healthy everyday fare.

  9. PS – I am not Asian, and eat tons of carbs (mostly rice) and am quite thin. My theory is that if Americans ate rice the way Indians or East Asians do they wouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s that we seem to think it’s mainly a vehicle for carrying fatty sauces. When I’m eating Indian or Thai, I eat lots of rice, lots of veg, some meat (maybe), and enough spicy things that I don’t need lots of huge fatty sauces. Yeah, some cosonut milk-based things. But coconut milk is easily processed by the body. Anyhow, I don’t get the whole carb-phobia. Most of the world relies on rice, and they aren’t as obese as Americans.

  10. Hi Anita- totally agree with you about moderation being the key- esp in today’s world where we’re faced with the task of having to reconcile the inconclusive with the contradictory- confusion is all that ensues.
    Kudos to your son for practising it sooo early!! More power to moms like you 😉

    Oh, and happy birthday!! And wishes for many more to come!

  11. Dear friend,
    this writing of yours is truly an eye opener – or rather made me connect with the thoughts that we bury in our sub conscious mind- A true example of what you’ve written is my entire maternal family, they’ve eaten rice all their life (each one is over 50 now and all under 50 KGS!!!) – the weekly fried ‘appalams & Vethals’, the occasional pooris, sweets, and even the daily afternoon fried snack with tea – dad loves the guju farsaan,but i’ve never seen them fill the vaati to more than 1/3rd with the farsaan-
    They enjoy everything but within moderation….they are actually full of sympathy for me that I cannot (or do not) enjoy all that they do in my ‘young’ days – when I have (touchwood) no problems other than being a few pounds overweight….or having a traditional South Indian leading actress figure LOLLL

    I sometimes blame the society / press for conditioning me thus, or sometimes blame myself for allowing my mind to be conditioned.

    I cannot recollect the last time I ate something fried (which i do quite often, just dont deep fry at home- such a hypocrite bah!) without that little twinge of guilt…I would give anything to unlearn everything I have learnt to enjoy my traditional food without thinking what it is doing for me, and with faith in the heart that what my ancestors have eaten for years and remained in good health till their 80s is surely good enough for me (with a little moderation to make up for the reduced labour in todays’ times)

    I will come back and read this a few more times….

    Truly a marvelous piece of writing, absolutely thought provoking…and before I forget

    Many hugs for completing one year of blogging….I must say I’ve enjoyed reading you probably more than you enjoyed writing

    Dear friend, you are not alone! It’s this dilemma that prompted this post. I saw my FIL (who will be 80 next year) lose over 10 pounds, become more active, and improve his appetite (he beats my teen son at every meal!) by just increasing his yoga practice to an hour…but he does it 365 days a year! He like seconds of all deserts…

    The media blitz has become more intense since we won the Miss World/Universe crowns a couple of times (all a well thought out scheme by the cosmetic and beauty industry, I assure you). It has spawned multi-million dollar industries where there were none. Just like they did in Argentina – where the poorest keep money aside to go to the beauty parlour. We’ve lost sight of fitness. And girls are beginning to dream of crowns from kindergarten…

    It is a topic that we, as a nation, must debate and find answers that are right for us – health wise, as well as ethically. Thanks for the kudos…let’s keep the ball rolling.

  12. Happy Birthday Anita. I sent you a text message last evening, but I got a failure notice this morning. I read it through and through and I totally agree with you on most counts. I can’t say much about the meat bit as I’m not experienced in that area.

    And I agree with Manisha too. There are things which are banned in the west now, but India will continue to allow – transfats for instance. And to a great extent, we are suckers for all things western. Even things that they dump on us.

    I do have muesli and corn flakes in my pantry, but what do I have for breakfast? More often than not, it is dosa, idli, poha, upma or eggs. The same stuff I grew up on.

    Moderation is key. Burn what you eat so you can eat what you enjoy. And you can learn to enjoy what’s good for you.



    Moderation is the key! Moderate exercise too. Let the food nourish.

  13. Happy birthday to ‘the Mad Tea Party’!Wow what a thought provoking article..and i too am as confused as you are. when i smear a generous helping of ghee on my little one’s roti i feel guilty but i remember my grandma’s words’our body needs lubrication’! in this age of zero family doc insists on consuming at least some oil!
    and its just a conincidence that i am posting Bhajji recipe today!

    When putting ghee on your little one’s roti remember the brain is all fat! 10-20% of our calories must come from fat. Modern medicine may club all saturated fats together (not long ago all fat was just fat), but Ayurveda considers ghee a ‘good’ fat when consumed in moderation (ah, that word again!). Enjoy your bhajji. 😀

  14. Hi Anita,

    I’m totally with you and eagerly awaiting part 2 0f your post! You’re right, we have to start thinking in context about these diet trends.
    There’s nothing more satisying and scientific than a Indian meal. I’ve always taken the portions served for granted , ie at weddings you get a miniscule portion of pickle and fries and it’s relegated to an obscure corner of the leaf ! We’ve sort of lost that perspective.
    Your post struck a chord because I’ve followed the same approach with my childre. We do have intervals of indulging in all the wrong foods and the weekly pizzas etc are highly celebrated,but the bottomline is clear !!

    Your knowledge of and approach to any subject u choose to write about is simply amazing..why don’t you compile all of them into a book !?

    Moderation is really the key..and thanks for all the compliments!

  15. And could you share your views on Til oil (Sesame)?

    It is again a very good oil, though expensive. I always make my Andhra-style pickles in sesame oil! 😉

  16. Hi Anita,

    Congratulations for completing one year of blooging. Gr8. Your blogs are so refreshing with an added advantage of getting new recipes & some good tips in bargain. Everyday I look forward to reading your blog, it makes cooking so simple.

    You article is very thought provoking. Do not know when we will stop aping west. We have so much goodness of spices in our foods that it balances the effects of oils & all. It is true that excess of everything is bad. So excersice moderation & have that fav. Gol Gappa & aloo tikki to arouse your taste buds(atleast they r far better than burgers & pizzaz’s)

    Oooh…home made burgers and pizza are to die for! and you have better control over what goes into them! 😉

  17. Happy First Anniversary, a Mad Tea Party; to you too Anita! 😀

    I’ll write more after I catch up on the comments- one looked really, really lengthy…

    TLO in her element… 😆

  18. Happy Birthday! Anita a good post for an anniversary. Another thing is vegetarians feasting on rich foods like fried items and sugar loaded stuff just because they don’t eat meat when they actually should be eating fresh veggies and fruit. I call it psuedo vegetarianism.

    Yup, a non-vegetarian diet might be healthier than that!
    (and where have you disappeared to??)

  19. (continued) I totally agree with Diane, in that I dislike the taste of olive oil in anything east of the Mediterranean. Peanut oil tastes darn good, and is high enough in monounsatured fat for me.

    Traditional, everday Indian fare is soooo much healthier than the everyday American diet of many- even with its touches of ghee, coconut oil and milk, or oily achaars now and then. (Does anyone eat dishes like murgh musalam or <mirchi ka salan on a daily basis?!) I am personally acquainted with certain Americans who can go for many days without consuming any vetetables other than french fries! And I’ve known parents who served their children frozen pizzas and “TV dinners” daily.

    I dropped many extra pounds when I began eating Indian foods regularly; I also eat rice constantly. When I pair it, as I usually do, with complex carbs in legumes and vegetables, it makes for a healthy meal, and provides the amino acid complements. So, do go ahead- make pooris and pakoras now and then and be festive; I set aside one day a week that I give myself carte blanche for anything I find myself in the mood for: deep-fried, Moghlai, cookies… 🙂

    Before the machines came along into this world, oil was a very precious thing, and sugar too. I like to remind myself of those days.

    But of course, you will say that; you were an Indian in past life and you know it! 😀

    And urban Indian diet is beginning to mimic the scary American diet you mention!

  20. awww… anita, a happy birthday to your lovely blog.. I came to yur blog from yur postcard to jaybee, and was instantly hooked… thank u for such a true and thought provoking write up… my milk is on the stove and am going to make the zamodod this afternoon 🙂 and my mum says her fav pic from the blogosphere is yur punjabi pakoda kadi one…. hope you blog for many many years to come…. bring it on aaloo puri… (with halwa, no?? – its the ultimate killer bfast in our house) 🙂

    Those Punjabi kadhi pics did turn out very good! Any time I look at them I get an urge to make it!

    Party on…

  21. Hi Anita,

    A refreshing and wonderful article! Thanks and congrats on completing a year! Keep posting….


  22. Hi Anita,

    So many points to seriously think about. I have always enjoyed eating rice with sambhar and fish curries with coconut, just like my healthy relatives. I cannot imagine a meal without rice and I don’t eat chapathis regularly.

    A south Indian friend recently “advised” me to eat sambhar with wheat bread as I would be cutting out refined carbs out of my diet and would be doing my body a favour! Yeah, right! Olive oil in Indian cooking is my pet peeve too.
    Congratulations on your anniversary!

    Tell her that polished par-boiled rice, which is what is common (as far as I know) in the South, is not all that unhealthy!

  23. Happy birthday to you Anita’s blog!:))
    You have a teenage son!Good to know.My girl just started driving(I have a Ulcer and chest pain now!:D) and hates Pooris too.She likes Parathas, and any Indian food with chicken but do not like most veg food.
    I have Olive oil,do not like the smell when heated but oksy in salad dreesing.I don’t count calories either,eat small portions of everything! Life is too short not to try and enjoy food and life.
    Looking forward to Poori bhaji:)

  24. That was so informative ans entertaining to read from start to finish. I was so engrossed reading till end. Looking forward for part-2. Congratulations!!

  25. That was a very thought provoking article Anita. All those ideas about healthy food are based on the food habits of western world. Its time someone researches food habits of us desis.
    When I was in the US as a grad student, I put on oodles of weight even though I tried it all – eating salads for lunch, hitting the gym regularly , reading nutritional labels on everything i bought, i even went on the south beach diet. But the scale inched up progressively. Now, one year of being in India has led to the riddance of a lot of that adipose (phew!). All I did was eat healthy ghar ka khaana and of course exercised. Maybe it was the frequent eating out while I was there, or maybe its all the sweating out here. I have yet to figure out the reason!

    Blog kis Vohurwoduk chuv hath hath mubarak. Lasiv te faeliv in the years to come.Keep it rolling!

    You must have been a rich grad student then! I lost over 10 pounds in the first couple of months (and most of it stayed off while I was there)! Also, my studio was a good 20 min walk from my on-campus apartment…so I did walk 40min-1 hr everyday.

    Shukriya marah! Bas, thoi thavyiv ath… 😆

  26. Hey Anita,

    Happy birthday to your blog! i have recently discovered it and am sure to be hooked on to it…

    Looking forward to many many more years and lots of food secrets to share with you and others…


  27. OMG!!! I wrote about the same thing a few days ago. I feel so strongly about this topic. How wrong can we be with our diets? We go back a few thousand years with the same type of food habits. Moderation is the operative word to keep in mind. Great post. Hits the nail on the head right on.

  28. Okay, so I have tried the mustard oil, and it has (to me) a strong flavor of bitter greens. Does this go away with high heat, or is it something to be calculated into the recipe? (Or have a bought a poor quality product?)

    If the answer is that I incorporate the flavor into the recipe, does that mean that it is best used on floury things like dals and pakora, or does it complement vegetables more without having too much of similar flavors being overwhelming – like with wine, where a sweet wine with a sweet dessert makes both taste less sweet.

    Thank you for humoring me. 🙂

    Hi Livia: Mustard oil is usually heated to smoking before tempering or before adding greens or any vegetables in a recipe. This mellows the flavour of the oil, which otherwise has a pungent smell. The less refined the oil, the more pungent the smell and deeper the colour. In India, cold pressed is the preferred kind. Dals usually get a tempering in ghee though North Indians don’t mind their pakoras and even pooris in mustard oil!
    Since you are new to this flavour I would recommend you use it to prepare N Indian veggies where the spicing melds with the pungency of the mustard oil. For me it is the preferred medium for cooking greens and all of Kashmiri cuisine! Try it and it will grow on you…as Pel warned!

  29. As long as it tastes like it is supposed to, I’ll go ahead and experiment.

    At my grocer, none of the bottles were even labeled as food grade. According to the owner, they have to be labeled as for massage only in order to make it into the country. Since it’s the most respected Indian grocer in the city, I’ll believe him on that. They all seemed about the same golden color.

    I’ll let you know more as the experiments continue.

    Thank you.

    So, what’s the verdict?

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