There is an old saying that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Whether this is true or not, many people believed in it and wives honed their culinary skills to satisfy their husbands and all were reasonably happy. They all had satisfied looks and pleasant dispositions. There were more smiles, less frowns, little tension and plenty of relaxation.
There were set rules in all parts of our country as to which food went well with the other. For example, rice and dal (idli or dosa) was balanced with vegetables in sambhar or chutney. Channa (gram) was eaten as curry or fried or its paste on Fridays, that is, once a week, proteins in the form of chana was eaten. And this was balanced with puri or bhatura. Chole bhature or idli sambhar were complete foods having carbs, proteins, veggies, oil and other stuff in right proportions.
Each region had its own special dishes which were tried and tested. Food was always an important factor in one’s life. All this shows what an important part food has been playing in our lives. A balanced diet, as we were taught in our science classes, consisted of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and certain elements like sodium and potassium. Small amounts of rayi or garlic or jeera or kadipatta etc completed our bodies necessities of vitamins and minerals.
But today it is a painful situation. In keeping up with the West, our people are not consuming adequate amounts of carbs or oil or fat. Even babies and youngsters are discouraged from eating ‘junk’ food which is chocolates, biscuits, pastry etc which are normally satisfying or comfort food. Is it any wonder that they are growing up obstinate, throwing tantrums, going into depression or in extreme cases committing suicide?
I fully agree that we should eat leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and less of sweets. These are healthy foods which help us grow. At the same time a little bit of ‘junk’ or ‘comfort’ food is absolutely necessary once in a while to keep a balance.
Commercials sing praises of various foods but it is very true that nothing beats homemade food. One can have the same type of food cooked at home (at a much less cost) than the one we get in a restaurant. Home cooked food has one important ingredient which no other food, however good it is, can have. And that is love. Love is cooked by any member of the family. There are many men who love to cook and when this important ingredient enters it, it is heavenly.
Another important ingredient is faith. Have you ever wondered how large quantities of food cooked in temples as langar rarely cause any discomfort? It has faith and prayers intervened in it.
Effects on behaviour
A person eating simple vegetarian food is supposed to have saatvik qualities. He is said to be calm, cool and mature. Some food bring up gregariness in people and they stir up a fight at the drop of a hat. Tempers are short and flare easily whereas some people are cool and calm in any situation. A study of their food habits will reveal the cause of their natures. That is why it is said that you are what you eat. Eat well and you are good, eat badly and you have all sorts of physical and emotional as well as mental problems. Think before you eat and forget what the West says. Our ancestors are the best examples for good food. They studied, experimented and handed us a legacy of food which is in tune with our geography, our climate, our genes and our habits. Be Indian, eat Indian.
By Dr. Veena Mohan Adige