I learned about this very intriguing ingredient only recently, on a work trip to Pithoragarh, Uttarakahand, two years back. I too wanted to know how much of a buzz it was going to provide. While it is borne on a plant more famous for its associations with the hallucinogen marijuana, the seeds are not psychoactive. They are, in fact, a commonplace pantry ingredient in the mountains.
The hemp plant, domesticated in China as far back as 2800 BC, is quite the wonder-crop and can be used to make rope, paper, fabric, biodegradable plastics, and even construction material. Did you know that the word ‘canvas’ is derived from cannabis? In the 17C and 18C it was a very popular crop, even mandatory in many states of the United States. In 1794 George Washington recommended, “Make the most you can of the hemp seed and grow it everywhere.” Till 1985 India had no narcotics policy. The NDPS Act enacted in 1985 under pressure from the USA still includes within it a special provision relating to cannabis that allows its cultivation for industrial purposes and for obtaining seeds.
Some people will warn you against eating it while others will tell you that it is another superfood that has all the 20 amino acids we need, in addition to the right mix of the fatty acids. But, if there is one thing I know about the magical properties of food it is that we don’t really know enough. We are only beginning to scratch the surface on how our health is tied to food and nutrition, hardly enough to make the kind of claims that science so frequently does. Just look at how we have flip-flopped over the last half-century on carbohydrates and fats. Unfortunately, in India too we have started to over-analyse our food, breaking it up into its constituent nutrients in an attempt to eat healthy. It seems to be a losing battle. I wish it wasn’t a battle at all.
I’m glad we had that poori-party when we did! All that frying, as it turns out, was not such a bad idea at all! I even went so far as to say I needed to eat more red meat! “Because food is not just fuel for the body, it is nourishment for the soul.”