Posted 01 November 2006 - 07:17 AM
He will be sharing here his knowledge of the food customs of his community.
About Dr. Jay Dixit
Posted 01 November 2006 - 08:40 AM
This is from an earlier piece I had written (part 1) in the Chitpavanism book (2003):
You are what you eat. There is some truth in this saying. The food not only nourishes our bodies and provides us with energy, it also affects our mood, the way we feel, the way we behave, etc. It can cause various diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or arthritis; at the same time certain foods can prevent these ailments. In the last century, we learned a lot about the importance of the basic building blocks of our food such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. A host of new chemicals are now identified in our food: antioxidants, phytochemicals such as phytoestrogens, isoflavones, isothiocynates, anthocyanins, phenols, varieties of carotenoids and pigments, etc. These magical agents in our food are the preventive drugs of tomorrow. For example, Karvand (Carissa carandus, similar to blueberries) and jamun or Java plum (Jambhul) certainly appear to be very tempting candidates for such investigation (Recent studies have confirmed this). In order to learn our culture and the dietary risks as well as benefits, a detailed inventory of our diet is necessary. It is also very important to see how we cook, combine, and eat our food.
Just a few decades ago, use of a small quilt or a doily made of dry leaves (PatravaLi) of Palmyra Palm (Tadpatra) or fresh banana leaves as a "plate" for daily meals was not uncommon. A triangular cup for liquids was called a Dron. An inch or so raised above the ground, flat wooden dais or stools (Pat) were used to sit at dinner time. Use of china or glassware was rare, although large ceramic jars were used for storage of commodities such as salt or pickles. Pewter or copper platters were also used for regular dining. For special occasions, silver or even gold platters were used (Record of later Peshwa period shows that the last Bajirao Peshwa dined every day in a large gold platter with 28 gold bowls and 28 gold spoons every day until he died in 1851). Although, today, the metal plates for dining are only found in places such as military dining rooms or prisons in the U.S., metal plates are commonly used, even today, for dining in India for its easy cleaning and durability. Unlike in a western dinner where plates are changed frequently in a multi-course dinner, these metal plates are never changed. However, we do not dine in a single large platter as few Islamic and few people from some other cultures do (For example,"Wazwan" a custom of group dinner seen in Kashmir Brahmins). In western cultures where wine is served in between two courses to clean the palate; "saffron water" was given to rinse the fingers to avoid the cross contamination of different food flavors while eating. Unlike salt and pepper shakers or a Lazy Susan floating around on a dinner table, salt, a slice of lemon (Kagadi or Kagzee limbu is a cross betweeen western lime and lemon), and varieties of spicy pickles and condiments are served at the front end of the plate. Although our diet provides a lot of different snacks and munchies to keep you nibbling in the kitchen all day long, our dinners do not start with appetizers, French style hors d’oeuvres, Russian “zakuski,” Spanish-Portuguese “tapas,” soups, salads, or Italian style anti-pasta.
The way we eat our dinners is really a “finger food style.” Although holding food in your hand may be a somewhat unhygienic practice, it does provide some psychological benefit of sense of touch. Even the vegetables with sauces or gravy are not eaten alone but always eaten as a “dip” with a small piece of bread or mixed with rice. We use no silverware or chopsticks except occasionally a spoon to eat foods of semi-solid consistency. We have no buffet or smorgasbord style service. Although our dinners start with a prayer we do not hold hands as do some other Asian, European, and American families. Similar to several other cultures, such as Italian culture, the custom of morning breakfast is also absent. Although "Nashta" similar to a breakfast was common in other castes such as Marathas, by the time these Brahmins would clean up, finish their prayers, read their scriptures, worship (Puja), etc., it would be time for a "brunch." Besides, they would not eat anything leftover from the previous super, so everything had to be cooked fresh and first offered to "god" before they would put anything in their mouth. The combination of spices, such as coriander, cumin, and hot pepper seen in this culture is similar to the one found in Cajun or Creole type of cooking found in the Southern United States. Sandalwood paste (Gandha), red ochre powder (Sindhura), and saffron were used for linear markings for decoration on the foreheads of men. (This saffron-orange color is most sacred to Hindus, and represents thousands of years of their relationship to "fire" which has a reddish yellow color. Even gold, hence, is called "Su- varna," good color, or, "Hiranya," meaning color of a golden brown deer. In ancient times, they carried the fire itself; later it was symbolized on their flag. Wearing saffron clothes or color markings on the body are considered holy. Silk symbolized purity and was considered special). Types of these decorations would differentiate Shiva worshipers from Vishnu worshipers, U shape for Vishnu and horizontal for Shiva worshipers.
Prior to the dinner they would sip a small amount of water or "Achman" and spread a small trickle around the plate. The dinner was always followed by a custom of a small slow paced walk (Shatapavali). When invited for dinner, these Brahmins would carry their own personal pewter cup and a peculiar ritual spoon (PaLi -Bhande), and they would not share this cup with anybody else. This custom was even noted in the writings of travelers such as Megasthenis from Greece in 300 B.C. and Marco Polo from Italy in 1300 A.D. in the Brahmins on the Ganges, since sharing your cup was a common but unhygienic practice in western culture at the time. They would also not share the food or transfer from one's own plate to others after being served. Before a host would sit down for the dinner, food was blessed (Vaishavadevas), and then the host would step out of the house and offer a small serving of the food to a needy passerby or even a tourist (remember, there were no services at every exit on a highway or fast food restaurants on every corner then). The dinner was not complete without a small serving of buttermilk (Tak) or plain yogurt (This probably assured a regular supply of culture of Lactobacillus in their diet.).
"Kadhichi paaL futali"
"Waran, Bhat, Limbu, Tup, Meeth
Aani Kadhichi paaL futali...futali..(.tickle..tickle).."
There is more to Kadhi than just breaking out of a heaping rice mound in that Marathi nursery song and being tickled to death. Kadhi and Phodani are inseparable from our diet. Tempering or Phodani is a unique method of adding spices to the food. In a long handle-iron-crucible (PaLi) cooking oil is heated and spices such as mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, asafetida (Hing, also known as “Devil's dung!" It smells similar to rotten eggs due to its high sulfur content), turmeric, salt, and cayenne powder, etc., are added. Heating releases a lot of flavors and volatile oils from the spices to enhance the aroma of the food. Many of our spices are "lipophilic." This means that they dissolve in the oils. They are barely soluble in water, hence they do not mix well if they are simply sprinkled over our food. Many of our spices contain aroma producing chemicals such as phenols or pyrazines (coriander, fenugreek, cumin), monoterpenes (curry leaves, ginger), diarylheptanoides (ginger, turmeric), phenylpropanoids (nutmeg, cloves), alkaloids (chilies, black pepper), glycosides (mustard seeds), etc. Several of these compounds although they are good to us, are toxic to some animals, bacteria, and viruses, etc. They have anti-herbivory, anti carcinogenic, and anti bacterial action. These compounds are dissolved in the essential oils within the spices. When heated these are released in the Phodani. Black mustard seed (Mohari) and asafetida (Hing) also contain compounds known as "isothiocynates." These potentially toxic isothiocynates (ITCs) appear to inhibit enzymes that convert certain chemicals in the human body into carcinogens. Additionally, ITCs may directly modify carcinogens, rendering them incapable of promoting cancer. Only heated oil in the "PhodaNi" can release these compounds in the food for a uniform distribution.
Many times the entire hot “PaLi” is immersed in the liquids such as “Kadhi.” This is a novel idea since Kadhi contains buttermilk, and since buttermilk splits and curdles on boiling, adding hot “PhodaNi” allows you to gently scald a Kadhi without boiling or scorching it. The benefits of this treatment include significantly destroying osmophilic and thermophilic microorganisms, inactivation of lipases and proteases, decrease in fat separation, and inhibition of oxidative changes. However, one should be careful not to burn the oil and especially not to use "Ghee" to make phodani. This produces several unhealthy harmful carcinogenic chemicals such as poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Because of the heat and humidity of the tropical weather, shelf life of most of the food is very limited in the Konkan area. Buttermilk, however, due to its high lactic acid and low fat content, has a longer shelf life without spoiling. The buttermilk also contains a higher level of phospholipids which act as natural emulsifiers. Addition of antioxidant spices, salt, and Amsul makes it even safer to eat for a long period without spoiling without refrigeration. This may be one of the important reasons why Kadhi may have become one of the most important elements of our diet. They probably also did not waste leftover Kadhi and frequently served reheated "stale Kadhi" as expressed in the barnyard wisdom in this Marathi proverb "Shilya Kadhila oot." The regular consumption of Kadhi was perhaps the most important element for maintaining the gastrointestinal health against diarrhea, dysentery, colitis, etc. Kadhi is even better than milk for children. Outside Maharashtra, Kadhi is very popular in Punjab (often eaten with pakoras), Gujarat (eaten with curried lentils or "Khichadis"), and in south India. Saraswat Brahmin eat cold Kadhi with fish and rice. Marathi word "Kadhi' and English word "curry" come from Tamil word "Karhi" for buttermilk and yogurt sauce.
It is interesting to note that in the entire world only people in Denmark make Kadhi somewhat similar to us. This is known as buttermilk porridge or "Karnemelksepap." They also make a non-heated buttermilk soup using eggs in addition known as "Kaernemaelkskoldskall." The Bavarian Wurst Haus cold cucumber buttermilk soup is somewhat similar.
Some of the daily food dishes are very characteristic for Kokanastha Brahmin diets. These include a soup (Kadhi) made of buttermilk often containing bay or curry leaves (Khadilimb); a spicy porridge made of chickpea flour (Pithale, often eaten with a pita bread [bhakari] made of Bajara, millet, or Jowar. The rest of the Maharashtrians prefer "Zunka," which is a very hot spicy variety) and a special treat if it contains finger size pieces of fresh kernel from the green pods of a horse radish or a drumstick tree with a taste similar to asparagus or steamed broccoli stems, not florets (Shevaga, family Moringaceae); a stew made of, red gram or pigeon pea (Toor), or yellow split peas (Dal) but used as a gravy (Amati) which may be laced with tamarind or dried rind of Ratambi-Garcia cambogia or mangostana, tasting similar to tangy non-alcoholic spanish Sangria (Amsul or Kokum) or containing spicy gram flour balls, similar to meatballs (Golyachi Amati). Occasionally, it contained a jackfruit seed or stone (Athali, taste similar to chestnuts, an unusual seed with almost plastic like membrane coating as if it is individually wrapped). Sometimes Pithale was also made from horse-gram(Kulith). Jackfruits were of two types: if crunchy, eaten as a fruit (Garyacha, Kapa), if mucinous, eaten as a vegetable (Barka). The taste and smell of jackfruit is described as similar to an enticing sweet fermented pineapple. Raw mangos (Biyambi) and unripe jack fruits (taste similar to chayote squash) were preserved in water and salt to be used later when needed. These raw mangos last for a year in salt water. Boiled raw mangos in salt water is a similar preparation (Ukadamba). Syrup of a mixture of tamarind and Jaggery (Chinch-Gul), a sweet and sour sauce with a taste similar to a Russian salad dressing, is very popular as a flavoring agent for several gravies, chutneys, and vegetables. Dry raw mango powder, "amchur," was used for the same purpose. Chunda is a mixture of dried raw mangos and chilies used later as a flavoring agent. Ready made paste for instant use made from green chilies, spices, and myrabolan is known as "Thecha." Spicy dried chilies ready to fry are known as "Sandagi chilies."
They also drank a soft drink or a sherbet made of Amsul called "Amrutkokum." Cooked vegetables were simple ones grown in backyards, such as poor man's umbrella, patra leaves, or elephant ears (Alu, Colocasia Esculenta, The Aroid family), lotus stems (Kamal kakadi), tender tips of the spikes of banana blossom (kelful. The nutty taste is similar to artichokes or heart of palms.), and usually some type of a squash such as snake gourd or pointed gourd (Padval), cucuzzi squash or bottle gourd (Dudhi bhopala), zucchini (Ghosale), Ivy or scarlet gourd (Tondale, Coccinia indica), okra (Bhendi), ridge gourd (Dodaka), bitter gourd (Karale, Momordica charantia, bitter taste due to the presence of quinine), egg plant or mad apple (Wange); some type of beans such as cluster beans (Gavarichya shenga, Cyamopsis psoraloides), string beans (Chavalichya shenga also known as green beans, snap beans, haricots verts, or cowpeas), Hyacinth beans (Val papadi and red velvet variety -Reshami Ghevada,), French beans (Shravan Ghevada, Phaseolus vulgaries L), lentils (Masur) or moth beans (Mataki), and varieties of spinach (Palak or Chuka), Gongura or sorrel leaves (Ambadi), collard or mustard greens or green chard (Math), Sabbakki Soppu (Shepu, Anethum foenic tum), or leaves of fenugreek or mustard leaves (methi or sarson). Mung beans and moth or dew beans (Mataki) or black-eyed peas (chawalichi dal) were curried to make "usal." From the field beans or the Indian beans (Pavatyachya shenga, Dolichos lablab L.) they obtained "Kadawe waals" to make a "Dalimbyachi, Waalachi or Birdyanchi usal." Occasionally they enjoyed "Kothimbirichya vadya" a vegetable cutlet made out of coriander or cilantro leaves, and when rolled with buttermilk-flour mixture known as "Suralichya vadya." Another similar preparation is known as "ALuchya vadya." This is very close to Egyptian or Greek stuffed grape leaves (Dolmades). However, more often these Alu or Colocasia leaves contain some irritant phenols (Khajara), and calcium oxalate crystals causing some chemical burns or scratches on your lips, tongue, and throat. So enjoy it as a delicacy, but don't gorge on them! Green young baby cashews and Bengal gram (Harbhara) were cooked as a vegetable or used in a stew. Generous use of different spicy and sweet pickles such as mango, lemon, etc., was not uncommon. They did not eat bamboo shoots or mushrooms similar to the Chinese.
Banquet menu fit for a king-Legend: (1) A pinch of salt (2) a slice of lemon (3) Koshimbir or Raita (4) Panchamrut medley (5) Chutney and pickle (6) Papdums (7) fritters (8) sweet rice (Sakhar bhat), (9) Modak and Ladoos (10) Masala rice with egg plant (Vangi bhat), (11) Purnachi Poli (12) Jalebi/Puri and dash of Shrikhand (13) Vade, Gharge, and Kurdai (14) a serving of Puran (15) Kheer (16) rice and dal (17) vegetable-batata (18) vegetable- egg plant (19) buttermilk (20) vegetable-russa/ or usal (21) Alu bhaji (22) Basundi (23) Amati (24) Sol-kadhi (25) Shrikhand
They enjoyed simple pleasures in life, such as rice with just a dash of a spicy mixture of gram flour (Metkut), rice with yellow split peas (Varan-Bhat), stuffed egg plant (Bharale vange), or an occasional treat of a relish made from a tart woodapple (Kawath, Faronia elephantum also known as elephant apple) from the forest or, if in season, roasted sorghum in an open fire (Hurda). Various salads (Koshimbirs, these are made of just about all raw vegetables; these are similar to a potato salad, where the salad dressing is premixed with the raw vegetables) and salads with yogurt (Raitas, and Bharit made from roasted egg plant, and on special occasion "Bundi Raita") or jams or marmalade made out of semi ripe mangos (Morambas) were used. Sometimes, they had slightly sautéed multi-grain unleavened flat bread with a fresh spread of butter (Thalipit), a spiced flat rice pancake (Dhirade), spicy semolina (Ukad pendhi and Upama,), or sweet semolina (various types of Sheera). The practice of drinking tea or coffee or cocoa was not present. They drank fresh unpasteurized milk in the morning and buttermilk (Tak) during lunch or at dinner time. They also drank sweetened and spiced buttermilk (Lassi), fresh coconut water, or a sherbet made of raw mango (Panhe), fresh sweet non fermented toddy or coconut sap (Neera), suagar cane juice, or a lemonade during hot summers in the afternoons and especially during soirees such as Haldi-kunku. Jaljeera is also a similar drink made of water, tamarind, cumin, hot pepper, etc. The drink is unhealthy due to its high salt content and its use is only justified after extreme degree of sweating. In K. Brahmin families, a peculiar porridge known as "Ghavan-Ghatale" is prepared as an offering to the goddess "Gauri" made of rice, coconut, brown sugar, etc., and is served on thin rice crepes.
They did not have custard pudding any day as you do today. This was only possible for a few days after the birth of a new calf when a cow produces colostrum instead of normal milk. This nutritious and high protein containing fluid was mixed with milk to solidify to produce a custard pudding (Kharvas). Various types of fudge (Vadya) made from coconut, ash gourd (Kohala- angoori petha), mango, etc., were also eaten as a snack. Some of them are laced with poppy seeds (Khus Khus, not to be confused with couscous or cus cus from the Middle East). Jack fruit and mango roll ups (Amba or Phanus PoLi) were eaten as a treat. Partially cooked or parboiled curried pressed rice flakes [taste similar to the stuffing or dressing used in a fowl (Dadape-pohe), and with milk dudha-pohe] or sago mixture (Khichadi) were eaten as a light meal or for breakfast or as a snack in the afternoon. One preparation known as "Kol Pohe" is very typical for Chitpavans in the Konkan area. This "Kol" syrup is made from coconut milk, brown sugar, tamarind, and spices. The mixture is spread on water soaked "Pohe" mixed with crumbs of Papdums. Sometimes they had just a few bread crumbs with some milk or a banana (Shikran poli). Use of finger food was common, such as Papdum. These were specially made at home by using a sap from the trunk of a banana plant or extract of ash gourd (KohaLa), which is a type of a watery squash with a nondescript taste to provide extra light consistency. Distinctive aromatic smell and taste of our Papdums comes from the phosphorus containing compound "phytin" present in Urad dal. Rice papdums (made from poha) are also common in the Konkan area. Bimle or Bilimbi is similar to a small star fruit; and pickles are made from both (Karmalanche and Bimalache lonche).Fried banana and flour balls (Sakhar-unde) are similar to the American style fried hush puppies made of corn flour. Fritters (Bhajiya) were popular and this delicacy is very similar to cooking in other countries such as French or New Orleans style beignets, Italian bigne, Greek loukoumades, Spanish and Portuguese tappas, and Japanese tempura. Toasted gram nuts (PhutaNe) and puffed rice (murmure) were snacks. Fritters were also made of unripe jack fruit, banana blossom, or plantain.
[Too boring a discussion? Troubled by a high "Fog index" score ? Take a break. Did you hear this one?] JOKE:
Mohan Ranade got onto Konkan Railway at Chiplun and was surprised to find that all other passengers in his compartment were non-Chitpavans. Very soon in a conversation the fellows got agitated and wrestled Mohan to the floor and asked, "Tell me something, why are you Chitpavans so smart?" "Not really, it is just a myth," said Mohan. "No, you must tell us the secret," the crowd insisted. "Well, it is actually because we eat 'Kadhi - Bhat' every day," said Mohan. Soon after being a lunch time, Mohan opened his tiffin and started to mix his "Kadhi-Bhat." "How much do you want for that "Kadhi- Bhat," asked one passenger who wanted to purchase that secret recipe. The fellow bought that "Kadhi-Bhat" for Rs. 500 from Mohan. As soon as the fellow took the first bite, he screamed, "I have been taken. I could have bought this stuff at the next station for Rs. 20." "See, it is working already," said Mohan.
Rice was the main staple but it was not eaten as Spanish paella or even as northern Indian Pulav, or Biryani style. There were varieties of ways of serving rice other than a few examples given above: plain (Sadha bhat), with spices (Masala bhat), with mung beans (Mugachi Khichadi), spicy samo or Bhagar (Varyachya tandoolachi khichadi. Although we use terms such as "Varyache Tandool," Kodri [Vara] and samo [Morrio] are different grains than rice), with sugar (Sakhar bhat), with yogurt or buttermilk(Dhahi, Tak, or Kadhi bhat), with spice mixture heated in oil (Phodanicha bhat), with egg plant (Vangi bhat), with coconut (NaraLi bhat), with chick peas (Gola bhat), with vegetables and gravy (Rassa, patal or rus bhaji), and occasionally when there was nothing else there was always rice with just a dash of flavoring agents (Lonacha bhat and Papdum or Tandulachi Ukad). Similar to the Chinese or the Japanese style rice was never fried or eaten as beans and rice similar to the Mexicans. The Chitpavans prefer rice slightly on the sticky side (Some time, very sticky: Gicchgola bhat).
With and without pockets these Indian flat breads are like Mexican soft shell tacos and tortillas, or the pita breads from the Middle East. Although they did not eat northern Indian style Nan or Parathas, rotis were popular. There were varieties of similar type of bread preparations: Dashami, Phulake, Gakar, Ghadichi poli, Ukadichi poli, Sat Padari poli, Sanghyachi poli, Phodanichi poli, methichi poli, and Bhakari, etc. The Bhakaris were made out of sorghum or pearl millet, but corn was almost never used to make a roti or a Bhakari. The Bhakaris taste somewhat similar to toasted dark pumpernickel bread containing rye. They even made a flat bread from the flour made from roasted mango seeds (Koy). [This is almost identical the way American Indians use to make a flat bread from the acorns from the oak trees.] On special occasions, the treat consisted of a flat unleavened pocket bread with sweet gram flour stuffing or molasses (Puranachi or Gulachi Poli ), rice and coconut dumpling (Modak, similar to the Chinese "Dim sum") on Ganesh festival, gram flour dumpling (Dind) on the day of Nagpanchami, flour and Jaggery (Dive), or dumplings with mustard leaves (Mutkule), etc. The dumplings were also made of jack fruit and rice (Fanasache Saanjane or Saandane). Khantolya, Ambolya, Patolya all are very similar preparations; except in case of Khantolya cucumber juice is used. Another preparation called “Pole” in addition calls for black gram (Udid). A sweet syrup, similar to pancake syrup or molasses (kakavi), was used as a treat. They also enjoyed Basundi, condensed sweetened milk or Kheer, often flavored with tiny chirongi nuts (CharoLi, taste similar to mixture of pine nuts and almonds or hazelnuts); a pudding made of semolina or vermicelli (shevaya)noodles; a sweet heavenly medley of bananas and vegetables (KeLyache panchamrut); Shrikhand, a thick yogurt; Jalebi, a deep fried pretzel of battered treacle; and Amarasa, mango pulp (Peshwa archives are full of such descriptions). Several of these dishes were flavored and laced with saffron and were very popular. To a western mind, all these dishes are sweet dessert like, but they are served as a main entrée- talk about carbohydrate loading (foods with high glycemic index); this type of diet could be justified only as a pre-marathon run dinner. Chitpavans prefer sweet and sour (tamarind and brown sugar or Chinch-guL ) over spicy foods and hot spices any day. They prefer "Goda or Malvani masala" containing freshly grated coconut over Varahadi (Deccan) style hot "Garam masala" and usually stay away from dishes such as hot and spicy "Khamang kakadi (cucumber)."
[ INTERLUDE: "Pi HaLad aNi ho gori"
We do not know whether you could have been transformed to become "gori" or fair skinned by drinking turmeric as expressed in that Marathi proverb; but we certainly think if not "gori" your skin would have been "glowing" with a youthful look to make you look "gorgeous." Drinking turmeric at night with a glass of warm milk containing sugar or "masala milk" with curry powder, almonds, and saffron was a common practice especially if you were under the weather, or had a scratchy throat. Even today it is a popular drink after late night music recitals or "maifal." So, go ahead and again make that a regular habit of drinking a glass of sweetened warm milk with at least a half teaspoonful or so of turmeric every night. If you can mix it in soy milk, it is even better. We do not know yet about saffron (crocus sativus), but "Indian saffron" or turmeric (although except color there are no similarities between real saffron and turmeric, turmeric is also known as "Indian saffron") is definitely "in" in the scientific world. Turmeric works wonders at different levels and sites in the body. Apart from tryptophen in milk and sugar will help you to sleep well, for those inquiring minds who want to know, here is why:
1. Turmeric contains an active reddish-yellow compound known as curcumin. This curcumin blocks hormone induced tumors, such as by estrogen. Curcumin also blocks the harmful effects of chemicals, such as nitrosamines found in preserved lunch meats, or indoor pollutants which you breath in daily, such as carbon tetrachloride found in paint, varnish, solvents, etc. It also protects you from toxic food byproducts, such as pyrolysates, and prevents formation of common carcinogens, such as aflatoxin.
2. Curcumin blocks COX 2 and lipoxygenase enzymes causing inflammation responsible for causing arthritis, heart disease, cancers, etc.
3. Curcumin blocks harmful effect of free radicals causing damage to nuclear DNA to prevent aging.
4. Curcumin blocks the cancer cell growth in early G2 phase in the laboratories.
5 Curcumin induces "apoptosis" or suicidal death of the cancer cells. Remember, it is easy to cure a cancer before even it is visible and has just a few abnormal cells.
6. Curcumin stimulates CD4+ T helper and disease fighting type B lymphocytes.
7. Curcumin blocks AP-1 enzyme required by cancer cells to promote angiogenesis required for their growth.
8. Curcumin suppresses NF-KB nuclear factor required by cancer cells for growth.
9. Curcumin in the laboratory slows cancer of prostate and prevents side effects of drugs against cancer of prostate, such as gynecomastia.
10. Curcumin is effective in the laboratory against cataracts or renal damage.
11. Turmeric ointments and poultices were used to reduce inflammation and sprains for thousands of years. It was applied to the wounds and cuts on the skin as an antiseptic. It was applied even to the severed umbilical cord of a new born baby as an anti microbial agent.
12. People have been rubbing turmeric on fish and other sea food to kill the bacteria and remove toxins before cooking for thousands of years.
All the data is not in yet for the FDA to allow all different claims, but preliminary results are very encouraging. Want to know more? Log on Medline and check under "curcumin" for the current research. There is definitely lower incidence of cancer of G.I. track, such as cancer of colon in India as compared to other countries. One of the factors may be daily consumption of curry powder containing turmeric. India is almost a solitary producer and world's largest consumer of turmeric. Unlike Indians people from Indonesia eat turmeric with rice as "nasi kuning" or yellow rice. No untoward side effects are known and people are drinking and consuming turmeric for thousands of years. So what have you got to lose? Not convinced yet? Try and put a dash of some black pepper in your drink. Piperine compound found in the black pepper enhances absorption of curcumin from the gut. In a wonder world of phytochemicals of 21st century what is discovery of soybean to the cultures of China and Japan is turmeric to India. ]
These people love sugar. Per capita, consumption of sugar and fat is probably very high in Kokanastha Brahmins. I suspect a high incidence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, arteriosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, dental caries (especially aggravated by low fluoride content in drinking water in Maharashtra), and cataract in this group; however, at the time of this writing, I do not have any past or present statistical information. There was no meat or eggs in their diet. Beef, pork, fish, lamb, or any kind of meat or game were absolutely anathema (Nishidha). Although Hindus have gods for just about everything, they neither worshipped gods such as Dionysus or Bacchus (Greek or Roman Gods of wine and alcohol) nor drank alcohol or wine. Cholesterol came from eating clarified butter (Ghee), yogurt, and milk; and saturated fats in the diet came from the generous use of coconut in practically all food dishes. Ironically, two of the holiest of the holy of their items such as "cow" and "coconut" (shriphal ) are bad for your health, especially the coconut oil rather than the nut. It is good that they did not eat beef, but the same cannot be said for the coconut. Out of precious metal group only gold was applied to some sweets and pure silver was eaten as a silver foil (leaf) applied directly over a “Pan” for chewing. This was strictly used as an opulent garnish to embellish few rich sweets and elaborate "pans."
Low yielding grains such as little millet (NachaNi), a type of grits such as Vara, puffed amarnath seeds (Rajgira), and Sago or Tapioca (Sabudana) were used on special days such as during fasting (Upvas, it is a form of penance undertaken when normal offerings to God have failed. There is no penance in which a devotee does not seek a boon or a favor, and there can be no boon without offerings or penance is a part of Hindu ritual of worship). On these special days, they also consumed starchy foods such as yams (RataLe, Discorea bubifera), tubers such as Sakriya, elephants' foot, or esculent roots (Suran or Arun campanulatum Rox or Dioscorea purpurea is similar to Hottentot Bread. We actually should no longer use the word, Hottentot, since it is a derogatory word used by the Dutch for native South Africans), and a wet or dry type of water chestnut (a rhizome, called as "Shingada," Trapa natans var. bispiriosa, similar to Taro or an Arrow root ), and Black caraway seeds (Kala jeera, Nigella Sativa). Singoda flour or kutu atta is made from buckwheat. Buckwheat is actually not wheat, hence it is consumed during "upvas." Shingadyache peeth on the other hand is made from Shingada. During holidays such as Diwali, as people do today, they also enjoyed special seasonal treats such as a fried spicy pretzels (Chakali, Kadbole, or Shankar pale), crispy noodles (Shev), doodads (Chivda), or sweet turnovers soaked in ghee and sprinkled with powdered sugar and fried strudel (Chirote, Anarse, and Karanji), and an assortment of sweets such as Ladoo, Pedha, Barphi, Halwa, Balushai, Rasmalai, Gulab jam, etc.
An assortment of our uncommon squashes and gourds ;
Snake or pointed gourd (PadvaL), ash or wax gourd (KohaLa or Kohelo), cucuzzi or bottle squash (DudhibhopaLa), Ivy or scarlet squash (Tondale), ridge gourd (Dodaka), bitter gourd (Karle), zucchini (GhosaLe). ]
Cream of rice or Sago (Kanji or Lapshi) was given to the sick or convalescent patient. "Lapshi" or cream of wheat was also made from craked wheat or bulghur. A porridge made from the roots of "Kachara plant" was also given to the sick. Crystallized ginger (Alepak), rose petal jam (Gulkand), Chavanprash (Medicinal jam containing extract of myrabolan or Aawala, is brownish in color and similar in appearance to an apple butter with somewhat different spicy taste), and raw honey were used as dietary supplements and as sources of vitamins and minerals. Many a times, Ayurvedic medicines were not packaged as tablets or capsules, and hence jams, such as pomegranate, or grape jam, were used to administer bitter medicines. Peanut or sesame brittle (Chikki, Revadi, and Tilgul) and rock sugar (Khadisakhar) was eaten as a treat or candy. Amala Petha are similar to breath mints made form dried myrabolan, ginger, salt, and sugar. Sweetened and dried Karvand today are eaten as "Konkan manuka." Pregnant women and nursing mothers were given ladoos made of edible resins (dink) medicated with herbs such as Musali, Ajamoda, Methi, Shatavari, and Satahva. Sometimes these ladoos were made of chickpea flour (Besan ladoos), or khlra of Ahaleeva, a mucinous flax seed of garden cress (Aliv, Lepidium sativum, Aliwache laadoo). Garden cress may not be a tonic as claimed in our folklore for these nursing mothers, however, it contains compounds such as isothiocynates, which are anti carcinogenic, in addition, some compounds may prevent post partum bleeding and indegestion. During travel they often carried a mixture of roasted flour of wheat, mung beans, chick peas, and spices (Satuche peeth): just add water and you had an instant breakfast or a snack. Khakhra, a paper thin spicy dried bread eaten by traveling Gujarathis was uncommon. New foreign fruits and vegetables described later in this chapter were gradually incorporated into our daily diet depending on affordability and availability in the next generations.
The French and the Japanese take enormous efforts to make sure that their food is not only prepared well but is also attractively presented. We make no effort or give any thought to the presentation of the food outside our traditional mold and monotonous thinking. Ours is without any new “artistic style” but also without any “frills.” The only additional pleasure is from the aroma of the tropical foods and flavors, and occasionally enhanced by the incense and the music. Many times our overcooked food looses its natural colors and produces a uniform blend of unappetizing color. Our cooking is geared towards producing a blend of flavors rather than maintaining the unique identity of individual flavors. Overcooking most of the time without any lids on the pots and pans also releases odoriferous molecules in the air filling our entire homes. Good, if it is the smell of the Basamati rice; however, most of the time it is an unpleasant mixture of all. Not very long ago people in England found Indian cooking smells so nauseous that they would not consider living next to an Asian family. Our women also keep most of the spices for convenience in a circular metal container called "masala dabba." By keeping the spices in the powder form most of the aromatic volatile compounds and oils escape over time, allowing most of our spices to become without any health benefit and flavor or aroma just like a saw dust. If possible spices should be kept in a dry and a cool air tight environment without grinding as long as possible. Grind only a small portion at a time and not make the whole year's supply at one sitting. Design of this "dabba" also needs to be improved to make each cell or the compartment to be airtight.
For many of us it is an avoidable temptation to go past the "Chitale Sweet Home" in Sadashiv Peth in Pune and not indulge in the Chitpavan version of Maharashtra's unique "Sabudana Khichadi." Chitale's recipe of this warm, moist, and fluffy mixture is a gastronomic heavenly delight. While the spices and different flavors melt in your mouth, the wonder and the excitement remains of not knowing when you are going to bite into that proverbial lurking hidden "Mirachi" to receive a sharp sting on your tongue to bring you back to earth: Mirachi lagali! Mirachi lagali! But the credit to make "Sabudana" popular in India goes to Kerala ruler in Travancore in 1880, named "Vaishakam Thirunal." Sabudana or tapioca comes from the tuber of the plant known as "cassava." This plant came to Kerala from Brazil, Mexico, or Africa brought by the Portuguese and other traders in the late 1700s. But the tuber contains toxic cynogenic compounds and hence it was not popular. At the time famines were very common in India. Thirunal was exploring ways of preserving and providing food during famine. It occurred to him that since cassava tubers can be left safely in the ground until needed it would be pretty good food for an emergency during food shortages. He himself gave demonstrations of how to leach toxins from the tuber before eating the tapioca starch and promoted the cultivation of cassava plants. Although the famines are long gone, today, our calorie loaded Sabudana Khichadi with or without starvation can easily compete with New York cheesecake made out of Philadelphia cream cheese to make anybody fat just by its smell!
The French also use varieties of extracts such as vegetable and meat stocks or consommé and sauces as “liquid spices.” In most of our cases, unfortunately, we throw away these nutritious liquids rich in rare minerals, vitamins, etc., e.g., while making “Shrikhand” by hanging the milk solids in a fine muslin cloth to thicken, we throw away the nutritious whey. Our typical cooking utensils are few: a wok (Kadhai), hot plate (Tawa), a round wooden board and a rolling pin (Polapat -latane), upside down knife (Vili), flat quern of the mortar and pestle type (Wata -varvanta), few open pans, a large long handle crucible (PaLi), and a pair of tongs (Chimata). Most of our pots and pans and cooking utensils show lack of innovation, however, two kitchen gadgets stand out. One is a safe and efficient serrated circular disc shaped coconut grater mounted at the tip of an upside knife (Khavani on the ViLi); the other is a special hot plate used by the Karnataka Chitpavans with seven circular grooves to increase the surface area while cooking a thick and spicy pancake (Appae). Today, although it could be fashionable and eco-friendly to eat on a banana leaf or a "PatravaLi" made of "Tadpatra " rather than on a styrofoam plate, remember, however, not to heat the food in a microwave oven placed on banana leaf or a Tadpatra. In ordinary circumstances these leaves are water repellent, however, in a microwave oven microwaves can release undesirable chemicals from these leaves into your food.
Our fruits such as jackfruit, mango, or papaya are tropical fruits and have a strong aromatic smell. If you eat these fruits at room temperature their smell suppresses the taste sensation, and hence you should always eat them after refrigeration. Refrigeration suppresses scintillation of excess smell molecules and these fruits taste better when they are cold. That is why a mango ice cream tastes better than a real mango. On the other hand the fruits such as apples, peaches, plum, pears, or even tomatoes you should never refrigerate and always eat them at room temperature since they have a poor aroma. Our ancestors also always hung the mature banana spikes free in the air and often wrapped a burlap or canvas around them to trap naturally released ethylene gas to promote ripening. Banana "hands" or clusters of 5 or 10 should always be kept on the table touching their heads and tails and not on their back to avoid bruising. All of our tropical fruits after they have sufficiently ripened should be separated from their skin and stored in a refrigerator in sealed airtight containers. Refrigeration significantly slows the enzymatic reaction of ripening process to "locks in" desired degree of ripening and avoids spoiling of these fruits. This is very useful especially when these fruits are suddenly cheap and plenty in the season.
These Brahmins also did not eat garlic, onion, or leeks. This custom goes way back as far as the Vedic period and references are found even in Manusmruti recommending avoiding these substances by Brahmins (Chapter five, verse five). It is unfortunate that this society failed to understand the importance of garlic or onion in the diet. Garlic contains chemicals such as allyl sulfides, these chemicals prevent production of phase I enzymes in the carcinogenic process. S-H radicals in onion also act as anti carcinogenic agents. Garlic contains a natural antibiotic (allicin) which is claimed to have anti-viral and topical anti-microbial properties for the gastro intestinal tract. It is interesting to note that although the Brahmins did shun away from these food ingredients, for other castes, such as Marathas, or for the very poor garlic and onion were the main staples in a ploughman's lunch and occasionally the only ones with bread and water! (Lasun chatani or Kanda- Bhakar). These Brahmins were also forbidden to eat mushrooms, and if they did so they were threatened to become outcasts (Manusmruti Chapter five, Verse nineteenth). It is also interesting to note that since our spice "asafetida" or "Hing" contains sulfur and has same pungent odor as onions, these Brahmins would make generous use of asafetida when some recipe called for the use of garlic or onions. Special unique mouth watering food preparations from the Chitpavans from the Karnataka region are described later in a separate section devoted to them.
Is Kokanastha Brahmin diet good for you?
· Too much indulgence in sugar and refined carbohydrates with high glycemic index (GI) in regular diet, parties and in snack foods resulting in harmful effects of insulin.
· Consumption of rice with high GI values containing high amylopectin rather than use of rice such as Basmati with high amylose content
· Use of fruits such as mango, papaya, and banana with high GI values rather than fruits such as cherries, apples, and berries with lower GI
· Consumption of Ghee (clarified butter), use of saturated and trans fatty acids or hydrogenated oils such as Crisco (Dalda). Use of rape-seed or safflower (Karadai) oil sometimes containing toxic agents such as erucic acid.
· Poor supply of omega-3 fatty acids
· Heavily salted, preserved, and oily pickles
· Custom of persuasive gluttony
· Too much indulgence in milk products triggering allergy and some autoimmune disorders.
· Generous use of fresh, dried, and or roasted coconut, coconut milk, etc.
· Rich use of fresh vegetables, salads, and fruits
· No use of animal protein, saturated fats, and cholesterol (except obtained from milk products and coconut)
· Balanced macro and micronutrients
· Balanced combination of low and high GI foods
· No alcohol
· No processed or preserved food or very limited use
· Rich in spices and herbs containing aroma, flavors, antioxidant, anti carcinogenic, and with some anti-inflammatory properties
. How can we improve our diet? See under the chapter on Vegetarianism.
[ INTERLUDE:] Too serious discussion? Take a break. Did you hear?
Not knowing how "hot" a pickle Madhavrao may prefer, he was asked in a "Pangat," "Do you prefer a green chili pickle or a red chili pickle?" "Don't worry," Madhavrao replies," I am color blind."]
[Even today, significant traditions of Konkani diet are maintained. In a typical Konkani or Malvani, dinner two types of Kadhi are served. Solkadhi is a purple mixture of Kadhi and Amsul. Curried lentils or sprouts (Usal) and Vade are also served. These Vade are not like vegetable cutlets or Idali, but are like circular donut shaped fried bread or puff pastry (Puri), similar to Mexican Sopaipillas. See below.]
As the Chitpavans came out of the isolation from the Konkan region over to the "Desh," their diet became more in line with the main stream Maharashtrian "Varahadi" style diet. Today, except for few slight variations in the recipes of one or two of their dishes there is no significant difference between both of them. "Athali" disappeared from their Amati, and presence of "Amsul" became less frequent. Sol kadhi disappeared from their dinner table. Cow's milk was replaced by the water buffalo's milk. The availability of freshly grated coconut became rare. Wheat chapatis became the main staple rather than rice. Although the mangos were still freely available on the Deccan, the supply of jack fruit was infrequent (The Konkan railway now may change that situation). Over the last few decades new culinary entries have arrived on their plate such as Vada -Pav, Bhel, Misal, Pani-puri, Ragada patties, baked goods, south Indian dishes such as Idali-Dosa, Vada-Sambhar, Dahi-Vada, and Samosa, etc. The onion and garlic are now ubiquitous, and a few even consume mushrooms, fish, mutton, eggs, and alcoholic beverages.
Today, the Chitpavans similar to everybody else in the world struggle to make their food choices from the jungle of the world of ever expanding fast food such as the Burger King, the Pizza hut, the colonel Sanders, and how can one forget those McDonald's golden arches. This is described in detail in the chapter on globalization of the culture. However, before we get ahead of our story let us examine the impact of the foreign foods of the past few centuries on our diet.
- Chetan, Termz and Sharad Bailur like this
Posted 01 November 2006 - 08:47 AM
Foreign Cross Cultural Influence
Explosive radical dietary changes
Tobacco, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pineapples, tomatoes, papayas, cashews, chicoos, guavas, cayenne chili peppers, paprika, bell peppers, corn, cocoa, strawberries, lima beans, cherries, sunflowers, missionary figs, pumpkins, passion fruit, litchi, grapefruits, beets, carrots, eucalyptus, tree tomato or Tamarillo,avocados, vanilla, celery (Ajamoda), sage (Kammarkas), allspice, cassava (pellets known as Sabudana), goose-foot or epazote (kadavoma,a spice used in Kannada), and even peanuts are not indigenous to India and were introduced from around the early 1500s onward in the Konkan and Goa area on the west coast by the Portuguese and other Europeans only in the last few hundred years. The Portuguese claimed to have introduced over 300 new species of useful plants to India. These Portuguese were like little busy bees cross pollinating the entire world from east to west! Several most prized and popular vegetables in our diet belonging to the cabbage and mustard family, such as cauliflower, cabbage (kobi) and Kohlrabi(Navalkol, Brassica oleracea), were developed in England and introduced by the British. Several of these were the produce from the new world discovered and domesticated in the pre-Columbian period in the South and Meso (central) America and Europe.
It is kind of understandable to have initial suspicion for these never before seen foreign foods. Then there may have been curiosity, slow acceptance, and experimentation. These foreign foods and produce were slowly incorporated into our diets evolving over the next several centuries modified by our eating habits, and hence, there are several differences in ways these produce are eaten e.g., potatoes are not eaten as mashed potatoes, tomatoes are never baked or grilled or used as a curry based sauce on starchy dishes as you see on Italian dishes or on pizza. Corn, being mostly of poor grade, remained as an animal feed and is never eaten boiled or as cream of corn or as corn bread. Corn starch is also never used. Although generous use of pineapple is made in curried dishes in Britain and Thailand, its use in Indian curried dishes is strikingly absent. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower are not served for once just as broiled or steamed vegetables or with butter. Since we never developed cheese technology, cauliflower is not eaten as cauliflower-au-gratin. Although we make salads of just about everything we never eat cabbage as coleslaw or sauerkraut. Produce such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and cayenne peppers were rapidly assimilated into our diets, but a few took a long time, and some are still not fully used. I am just now noticing in India sugar beets and carrots being served as a salad. Maybe some day we will catch up to pumpkin pies and strawberry shortcakes.
In those days, many people would not eat tomatoes, since earlier they were considered to be poisonous, and red tomatoes were confused with being made of blood or meat (Tomato plant is also related to other poisonous plants like belladonna and mandrake). Probably similar was the case for the red, bloody appearing sugar or red beets, dripping with reddish juice (first developed in Germany), and new reddish-orange carrots (developed by Dutch in 1600's). Understanding of the major food groups was very limited, and people did not know very much about the differences between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food products until well into the middle of the twentieth century. Prior to the seventeenth century, understanding of food groups was not much different in India than in Europe. European classification, such as foods with dry, wet, cold, or hot properties was not much different from the Ayurvedic foods producing usna, kuf, vat, pitta, etc. After the chemical concepts developed by German physician Paracelsus, significant changes occurred in Europe over the next few centuries, such as sugar in the diet moved to the end of the dinner in Europe, unlike in our diet where still it is the main course as described in details previously. Since white potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) were introduced by the Portuguese, the term "Batata" for potatoes used in Marathi is the same as the term used by the American Indians for potatoes in America, first learned by the Portuguese from the discovery of the Americas. Marathi term "Maka" for corn comes from American Indian word "Maize" introduced by the portuguese. Marathi word "Ananas" for pineapple comes from the Portuguese word "Anan'as." In 1418, Portuguese established the first successful colony for the Europeans outside west Africa in a small island called "Madeira" officially beginning the era of colonial expansion. The Portuguese started to make sweet "Madeira wine" on this island. The Marathi generic word for wine or alcohol "Madira" comes from this Portuguese port wine "Madeira" imported to India. Indian-Goan restaurants are also found in Portugal, e.g., Casa de Goa family-run restaurants in Lisbon. With the Portuguese came the addition of lattice designed verandahs to our homes, however, it took an additional two hundred years before Chitpavans finally could relax and sit down and enjoy a cup of tea sitting in their own verandah when it was no longer a taboo to do so.
The magic of Vinegar: the Portuguese and the British created two new recipes from curry masala by mixing it with vinegar - Vindaloo and Worcestershire sauce. Vinegar was made from coconut palm in India. The Portuguese added vinegar to a masala and created "Vindaloo" dishes (mixture of Vinegar, spices, and garlic) in Goa; however, this did not become popular in our diet. Indians in general do not find acidic taste of vinegar in the curries very appetizing. Today, Vindaloo dishes outside Goa are most popular in Britain. Today, Indian restaurants dominate the British landscape. Curry houses, balti restaurants, Indian take-aways (American slang - to go) account for 2.5 billion pounds of trade in Britain. The curry is now a national dish (more popular than traditional "fish and chips"), and chicken tikka is England's favorite sandwich. The Vindaloo sauce is addicting, in Twentieth Century Fox, a sci-fi comedy fiction production, "Red Dwarf series 7: Tikka to Ride, 1998, the last man in the universe after he loses his 10 year supply of chicken Vindaloo returns to earth for a refill. In 1998, Alex James from the British singer group "Fat Les" wrote "Vindaloo" "Football (soccer) World cup '98'- British national anthem" and declared that "Vindaloo" has replaced roast beef and become the number one "national dish" of Britain. And the British football fans during the World Cup in France in 1998, cheered.....Vindaloo! Vindaloo! Vindaloo! Vindaloo!
What Mcllhenny's famous Louisiana Tobasco hot sauce to every American household and restaurant, or Kikkoman's soy sauce to all East Asians, is Lea and Perrins' "Worcestershire sauce" to every English dinner table in Britain. However, the origin of this sauce is in India. As the story goes, Lord Marcus Sandys who served as the Governor General of Bengal in India during the British rule was hooked onto a spicy tamarind and jaggery sauce (spicy chinch - gul) made by his Indian cook for his steaks. After returning home he surely missed that sauce. In 1835, he went to a local chemist "Messrs. John Lea and William Perrins" and asked them to make him a sauce from his Indian recipe. Messieurs Lea and Perrins made a concoction substituting some ingredients such as vinegar, molasses, etc., to utter dislike of Lord Sandys. The order was rejected and barrel was discarded in the attic by mistake to "age." Accidentally, when they retasted it several months down the road, while spring cleaning before throwing it away, to their surprise now it had a marvelous new taste. So Lea and Perrins' world famous "Worcester Sauce" for meat, poultry, and seafood was born in England in 1838. Later name was changed to Worcestershire Sauce. In the U.K., Worcestershire is pronounced "woost-ur-shire" and Worcestershire Sauce is referred to as "Worcester Sauce," pronounced "woos-tah." In many other parts of the world, however, it is referred to as "War-sest-uh-shire" Sauce. And can you believe, originally it was also touted as a "hair tonic" to grow luxurious hair! It was also an original ingredient of the popular drink "Bloody Mary" in the United States. Several new imitations of this sauce are now found all over the world. The British "Empress of India" sauce by Sutton and Tapp's sauce are very similar. Almost all of the American commercial brands like Lowrys, Heinz, and Kraft's still contain original "tamarind and molasses" formula. Next time, when you splash that American imitation A1 steak sauce on your steaks and hamburgers on your barbecue grill, take a pause and think: it has a connection all the way to that original Indian "chinch- gul" or Konkani "ambot-tik."
The British influence on our dietary choices mainly permeated in the entire society through their initial influence on institutional cooking, e.g., in army messes, elite boarding schools, clubs and gymkhanas, etc. Some popular dishes at collector's "Dak" bungalows were fusion of Indian and British cooking such as "country captain's chicken" (a dish containing Indian masala and palm vinegar), or cabbage foogath (popular in Goa), or bread and butter pudding flavored with "Madeira" instead of sherry. Many of these Anglo-Indian dishes were not created but were accidental discoveries. In several cases the story is almost the same: in several British officer's homes, after serving the "sahib" poor cooks would take the leftovers to feed their families. After finding sahib's food to be too bland, these cooks would "doctor" those recipes with Indian spices and new dishes were hence created. In America, almost identical situation created "soul food" of the Blacks. The Black slaves created these recipes from the leftover food of the masters by adding the spices and fresh "African" vegetables grown around their huts.
We started to drink tea in Maharashtra just in last few decades. Prior to the arrival of the British, tea was grown by a few Singhop hilltribes in Assam and was locally known as "viridis." By 1833, the East India Company had lost the monopoly on tea shipping from China. The British started the tea plantations as they conveniently called "tea gardens" in Assam, Bangladesh, and Sri. Lanka. Rest is the history. Today, India alone produces 1 billion pounds of tea per year and approximately 14, 000 cups of tea are consumed per second (or, approximately 1.2096 billion cups per day) all around the world. However, remember every sip of that wonderful Darjeeling tea you enjoy, somewhere there is a woman doing a back breaking job of picking tea leaves in a huge basket on her deformed back while climbing a steep hill at least at 60 to 70 degrees gradient in those "gardens." Well, so much for the "romance" of those British tea gardens.
By early 1600s farmers in Europe knew that turnip, cabbage, rhutabaga, collards, mustard, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, Asian cabbages, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts all can cross breed. Although these cruciferous vegetables had been planted over prior two thousand years in cool climate around the Mediterranean sea, now the race was on to develop and improve over mother nature and to create high yielding new fruits and vegetables. In England of 1586, cauliflower was known as "Cyprus of coleworts" imported from Cyprus. Over the years this was significantly improved. By crossing cabbage and turnip "Kohlrabi (Navalkol)" was created in Germany and was grown in England from 1837. With the British came these new and improved vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi to India. However, these plants love cool temperatures of the temperate zones and initially were a disaster. However, over the years new hybrid, heat and disease resistant varieties were developed. Today, a few of the largest hybrid cauliflower heads weighing over several kilograms are grown in India. Although today Britain produces nominal amount of cauliflower, India now has become the number one producer of cauliflower in the world, coming in with a yield of 4.7 million metric tons per year; and India is also the third largest producer of cabbage with a crop of 5.6 million metric tons per year.
It would be naive to say that the British and the Portuguese "introduced" several foreign vegetables to India. Actually several British were homesick eating Indian fruits and vegetables. These new trees were planted initially mostly around their homes just to have a "home cooked" meal for them. Many British soldiers hated Indian food; e.g., they have described mango as a "bad rotten peach with a smell of turpentine." Many of these fruits and vegetables initially did well only in cool climates such as Mahabaleshwar, Matheran, Simala, Kulu Valley in Kashmir, or Uttakmand. The British planted apples, peaches, pears, apricots, plums, etc. in the Nilghiri Hills in south India. The British improved native Fragaria indica native strawberry in Mahabaleshwar area and introduced new varieties. Jerusalem artichoke came from the United States exclusive for the use of the British. Although carrots were known in India from ancient times, the British improved their cultivation.
As we have seen Indians never had soups. The British in Madras demanded that their cooks make some soup for them. The popular "Mulligatawny" soup which you see today in the Indian restaurants was created by these cooks using the formula of "Rasam." Mulligatawny in Tamil means "pepper water" (milagu + tunmi). For "English Christmas Dinner" peacock replaced traditional turkey. The British also hunted for the "Indian truffles" (Genus Melanogaster) on the hills of Konkan. These truffles are not as good as the French ones. While "Poona sausage" containing ginger, and red chilies was popular in Poona troops, the "Bombay duck" and "Bombay pudding" are misnomers. The "Bombay duck" is actually a fish (Bombil) and is still popular in Britain. It is interesting to note that many British found Christian servants to be untrustworthy than the native Maratha. Mrs. Bartley, in Indian cookery "General" for young housekeepers, 1901, describes "Marathi" style recipe for "Masur dhall." The recipe of "Sandhurst curry" is actually a copy of "Marathi" style mutton curry.
The East India Company, in 1833, shipped some apples from the United States to India. However, the biggest sensation was not the apples but the packing "ice." They got more money for the American ice than the apples! In 1836, official business of cutting the ice from Wenham lake in Massachusetts and shipping it to India was started. At the time it was cheaper to ship the ice than make it in India! Prior to this date saltpeter was used to keep the things cool. In 1860, Schweppes Indian Tonic water came to India, and initially contained "quinine" and was used as treatment for malaria. the American style "Army Navy store" was opened in Bombay in 1891, and some American merchandise, and the British canned goods were now available to those who could afford the price tag. A small bakery started in Delhi in 1887, eventually became the "Britanica Biscuit Co., and is still popular today. And can you believe, a group of nuns in Meerut, in 1884, started the first Italian "Macoroni, spaghetti, and vermicelli" factory. Although Indians have known about the vinegar (Sanskrit: sirka) for thousands of years and used it as medicine; they never used it as food! The British Monarch George V ate curry for lunch almost every day of his life and the British love affair with Indian food continues until this day and look no further than current British PM, Tony Blair.
Our Khichadi (Khichari) becomes Scottish Kedgeree:
The first earliest British interaction in India was with the "Konkani and Marathi" people and their culture. The British Jesuit, Thomas Stevens came to India in 1579 and stayed for 40 years in Konkan and Goa and wrote several letters about us to his father in England. Stevens died in Goa in 1619. The Scottish Kedgeree originated in India. The British came in contact with the west coast and learned the recipe of Khichadi in the early 1600s. Instead of rice and dal and a spice mixture, the British substituted "fish" for dal. Eventually fresh fish was replaced by smoked Haddock as seen in today's recipe (A voyage to Suratt in the year 1689, by Rev. F. Ovington). Initially Kedgeree was a breakfast food, but now it is popular at any time of the day. Interestingly, the British did not find Indian food to be very hot in the early 1600s. Hot chilies were unknown in India at this time. And at the time the British also used fingers to eat food as the use of fork was not common in Europe. The British did not find even the Indian custom of chewing "Pan" very offensive, since in Britain custom of serving "voidee" a spice mixture after dinner was common in the early 1600s. IndianKhichadi is well-known even in the Middle East and is known as "Kushari."
Ever wonder where this word - party or Christmas "punch bowl" or drinks such as "Hawaiian Punch" come from? Although Hawaiian Punch developed in 1934, contains seven juices, "Punch" actually means five as in sanskrit word " pMca " and it is a mixture of five things: arrack (hatbhattichi Daru), sugar, citrus juice, rose water, and spices known for thousands of years. East India company merchants introduced "Punch" to the western world in early eighteenth century.
Shevagyacha shenga become substitute for asparagus:
Attempts to grow good asparagus were unsuccessful for the British in India since this plant likes somewhat cool temperature. The British found the nutty taste of drumsticks to be an acceptable substitute for the genuine asparagus in vegetable dishes, salads, foogaths, etc. Although we use only the beans of this plant in Kadhi or Pithale, the British also ate the leaves and the roots which are very pungent as a substitute for horseradish. Corollary: Indians overseas should use asparagus, or broccoli stems as substitute for drumsticks or try canned drumsticks. Canned drumsticks are popular in Britain even today. Although Indians make fritters of different vegetables the British created their own version of "banana fritters" by mixing mashed ripe bananas in the batter.
Indian chutney and pickle become British "piccalilli"
Along with routine ingredients of chutney, the British added vinegar and "piccalillis" were created. In 1694, in the original recipe these chutneys are described as "Indian pickle." Pickles are now made from A to Z or from apples to zucchini, not to mention in between oddballs such as from cranberries, kumquats, shallots, peaches, rhubarbs, Yankee tomatos, etc. James Allen Sharwood in 1889, started "Sharwoods" to make Indian chutneys and pickles. In 1947, it received the "British Royal Warrant" as "Manufacturers of Chutney and Purveyors of Indian Curry Powders." In the mid 1950s Patak started a pickle company in Lancashire, England. Today, the global chutney, and piccalilli market is hot and huge; several other companies such as the Branston, English Provender Company, Heinz, etc., compete for their share. The Chitpavan manufacturer Bedekar has been less innovative in creating new varieties and tastes to the emerging global market and shares a tiny percentage of this world market. "Uncle Ben" the fictitious African-American character created by Gordon Harwell for his company "Converted Rice, Inc." who knew nothing about the pickles, would have been surprised to find that his Texas based company now also competes in Britain for the share of the "Chutney and Piccalilli" market.
Our Indian "Kadhai" becomes "Balti" in Britain: Jalfrezi and Balti
Although tomato based curry sauces such as Jalfrezi, Balti, and Rogan Josh are not very popular in India, they are a craze in Britain. The term "Balti" perhaps originated in Birmingham. The term "Balti" originates from the Indian cooking vessel similar to a wok known as "Kadhai." These Balti restaurants were originally very cheap and the term "Balti" meaning a "bucket" perhaps was a derogatory and snooty word in British slang meaning "something cheap cooked in a bucket" or a cheap stir-fry. Birmingham is full of well-known Baltihouses that are generally found in the Sparkhill or Sparkbrook areas of the city. Balti is now a true British phenomenon and currently there is a beer even named as "Balti beer." The original Rogan Josh sauce called for the spice "rattan jyot" a reddish bark of a tree from India. Today, tomatoes and paprika makes it red in Britain and the United States. Forget about those olden days of the British food tasting like the Elmer's glue (Marathi: Khal or dink) or a Royal post card. Today, Britain is no longer a culinary wasteland. As they say, the British once conquered India by gunpowder but forever became captives of the curry powder. Forget the days of Typhoid Mary, today, "Chutney Mary" is now one of the upscale restaurants in London.
With the invasion of the foreigners such as Dutch, Portuguese, Danes, French, and English came the art of baking bread, cakes, pastries, etc. The Portuguese also were the first to bring yeast to India. The Marathi word "Pao" for bread comes from the same Portuguese word for bread since Portuguese were the first to introduce bread to us. Although the British claim to have baked the first cake in India in a bakery in Thalasseri (Tellicherry) in Kerala by a trader named Murdock Brown around 1683, I have a serious doubt to this claim since other Europeans were in India a few centuries prior to arrival of the British. The British may have the cake, but I do not think they were the first to eat it! The Saint Augustinian order of nuns of the Convent of Santa Monica in Velha Goa still carries out the tradition of the Portuguese favorite desserts making generous use of Indian coconut and mango. Portuguese also helped to develop "feni" a local cashew wine. The Portuguese also introduced soups to India: "caldo" (Chicken soup), "mergol" (soup made of rice, coconut, shrimp, etc.). Conversion to Christianity was sometimes by tricks along with brutal force. These priests, desperate for “success” in conversion of the natives would drop a piece of bread in the water wells. Taking advantage of the ignorance of people, they would declare that those who drank the water of these wells had eaten the “body of Christ” and were now Christians! Syrian Christians, two thousand years ago introduced a dish called "Piralen" in Kerala made of lamb, spices, and vinegar. This was one of the early introduction of use of vinegar to india. In the 1700s the French introduced the New Orleans style "boudin" sausage, crispy French bread, crescent shaped croissant, and custard caramel in Pondicherry area in India.
Nancy Johnson from New Jersey invented the hand-cranked ice machine in 1846, and soon ice cream became a worldwide sensation. With the British ice cream came to India, and today, some unique flavors such Mango, Pistachio, Cashew, however, are only popular in our neck of the woods. Prior to the arrival of the ice cream, frozen ice-milk type desserts like "Kulfi" were known to us. Mogul emperors in the 15th century would crate chunks of ice from the lofty peaks of Himalayas or from the nearest snow capped mountain of "Choori Chandni - Ki- Char" to old Delhi and freeze the mixture of milk solids, pistachios, and saffron to make "Kulfi." Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, in Monticello in Virginia, in mid 1700s, used almost similar technique to preserve the ice collected in the winter in the under ground insulated wells to be used in the summer time. Almonds were introduced to Indian cooking by the Moghuls in the 14th century. The Moghuls also introduced Tandoor style cooking and brought biryanis, pilafs, samosas, kababs, kormas, baked breads, and rose water, with them. Their original samosas were pastries filled with dried fruits, nuts, minced meat, etc. In India, curried vegetables and meat replaced the filling. Similarly, our currently popular baked "curried vegetable or non-vegetable patties" sold in Pune or Mumbai area bakeries are a curried replacement of the apple or cherries sweet filling in the turnovers or baked patty shells in the western countries.
Few of our indigenous (?) plants to west coast of India: these were the only few things available for the Chitpavans and other Indians before the arrival of the foreigners - rice, chickpea, pigeon pea, black gram, mung bean, rice bean, cowpea, eggplant, cucumber, radish, taro, yam, mango, orange, tangerine, citron, sugar cane, coconut palm, sesame, safflower, tree cotton, oriental cotton, jute, crotalaria, kenaf, hemp, black pepper, cardamom, gum arabic, sandalwood, indigo, cinnamon tree, croton, and bamboo.
Although the Puranas are unreliable for historical accuracy, appearance of different new plants and fruits in Sanskrit language and various Vedic texts gives a clear idea of evolution of this culture. Initially Aryans knew only about Barley. As they interacted with other ethnic cultures in India their vocabulary grew. In the early Vedic texts there is no mention about rice or wheat etc. The words such as Haridra for turmeric, Chinch for tamarind, or Tila for sesame seeds, Nariyal for coconut, Phanas for jackfruit are distinctly either Munda or Tamil origin. Initially they hated these foods or people who ate them, e.g., a community described as "Nishadas" was literally made of people who ate turmeric. They despised mustard. The mustard seed was something you rub on your hands and feet or the dead body and throw in the fire to dispel evil. Sanskrit word "Dahalimba" for pomegranate comes from the Persion fruit "Dulim."
Along with okra and tamarind several other plants came from Africa from antiquity to as recently as in 1800s. Some came with the earliest settlers of Maharashtra prior to Arayn settelers. Some came with the African traders. Some came with the Siddis. Even 40,000 years old engraved ostrich eggs are found at Patne in Dhulia District in Maharashtra. Maharashtra's core staples "Bajra, Jowar, and Nachani" were unknown in Maharashtra just prior to four thousand years ago. Along with these staples came several others such as mung beans, thuvar, gourds, etc., from Africa. From Molukas came spices such as cloves, nutmeg. Coconut and sugarcane came from New Guinea. Curiously, all the food items permitted to be eaten on the days of our fasting or "Upvas" are of foreign origin. Everybody knows the meaning of the proverb, "Puranatali vangi" meaning a lie or something ficticious, since egg plant (wange) is not mentioned in the Puranas. The earliest written reference to our popular foods such as Shrikhand and Puran poli is found in "Manasolhasa" written by the king Someshwara in 1130 A.D. Our "Jilabi" comes from Arabic "zalabiya" or Persian "zalibiya." Our proverb, "Manat mande khane" comes from the sanskrit word "Mandaka" meaning a large Paratha stuffed with sweetened lentil paste.
Unlike other Europeans who use vinegar for pickles, our pickles are vegetable oil based. These pickles were stored in ceramic jars called “Barani.” The Marathi word Barani is Malayalam in origin. Chinese introduced these jars in the Cochin area and are known as “Chin Barani.” In fact, the island of Cochin or Kochi in Kerala (consisting of older areas known as Malabar, Travancore, and Cochin) was probably established by the Chinese and literally means “small China.” Remnants of this culture are still seen in this area in the form of Chinese fishing nets with cantilevers or the use of tall hats by the local fishermen. That stone barbers use after shaving- Chinese introduced the use of that stone (pumice) after shaving in the Cochin area. They also started a few of our other customs here. In a traditional Hindu temple, as you enter, you ring the bell to announce yourself to God (as if He does not know!). Anyway, the Chinese, in lieu of this introduced the use of firecrackers as you enter the temple as an offering to the gods. (This is still practiced today in Kerala). This custom later spread to other festivals and made its biggest hit during Diwali celebrations throughout India.
The Portuguese also improved the quality of several of our produce e.g., mango (Alfonso, Fernandine, and Xavier varieties) and citrus fruits (although Indian sweet lime or Mosambi is not as good as Valencia oranges), by improved grafting method (Garcia D' Orta, early sixteenth century, Goa). Vegetables, such as broccoli, turnip, asparagus, and rutabaga, probably did not prevail either due to the lack of preference, failure of the adequate compatibility of curry base spices, or due to diseases such as, clubfoot disease, and unfavorable climate. Largely, the Portuguese, and to a smaller extent the British, influenced our choices of vegetables; on the other hand, produce developed by other countries, such as broccoli (developed in Italy) or red or sugar beets, and kale (German Origin), were slow to come to India, since Germany and Italy had no colonies in India. Similar was the case with Brussels sprouts, you guessed it, as suggested by the name were developed by tightly packing cabbage leaves in Belgium. Belgium had no colonies in India and hence "Brussels sprouts" never made it to India. There was never a true healthy cultural exchange between European cultures and the Indian population, and Indians were very traditional and were less innovative and less interested in the experimentation in their "curry based" cooking preferences. So, although these new masters learned a lot about curry spices, they never successfully introduced spices grown in Europe and around the Mediterranean such as oregano, rosemary, dill weed, savory, tarragon, celery seed, thyme, basil, marjoram, and juniper berries in India. As a result, Indians never learned to use these flavoring agents in their diet. And perhaps even if Indians had taken a liking to the mildly fragrant western mint type spices these could have simply grown in India as the climate for their cultivation is similar to Mediterranean region. The net result would not be a profitable trade for the Europeans. Now a second invasion in the choice of our produce is coming from the U.S.A. This includes new and improved hybrid and genetically altered fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, corn, etc. Wild rice (Zizania palustris) with grains of absolute black, brown, yellow, and red colors which grows predominantly around the great lakes of the United States and Canada was never introduced in India. Similarly, Hopi or Flint blue, or other multicolored ornamental but still edible corn varieties, or naturally colored cotton such as two species from South and Central America, G. barbadense and G. hirsutum, are unknown to most of the people in India.
. Our "Lal Mirchi" or Cayenne pepper comes from the Central and South America and the West Indies. This is so named because of its origin in the Cayenne region of the French Guyana. Eucalyptus trees came to us from Australia, brought by the British in 1853 in the Neelgiri Hills of Tamilnadu. The species most commonly planted throughout the world for industrial purposes are Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus grandis. Since new findings indicate eucalyptus oil to be harmful to the lungs, demand for this product in the western world has sharply declined. From the Mediterranean region came fenugreek and fennel. There are only two important plants which came to us from Africa: okra and tamarind. Okra and tamarind came from the region of east Africa from the countries such Ethiopia, Sudan, etc. But when it came to India is unknown. Perhaps Siddis may have brought it to India. However, genetically Indian variety of okra is slightly different from the west African, Turkish, and American plant. Indian cuisine is somewhat unique in the entire world in mixing of the spices in the curry powder. One curious thing, however, is the striking similarity between the "Berebare" spice mixture of the Ethiopians and the Indian "masala". Whether the first African settlers in India brought this "formula" to India or whether Ethiopians or Siddis learned about the mixture from the Indians and took it to their home country is an intriguing question. Regardless, however, this shows strong cultural exchange. Although cardamom is used in India for "masala tea," cardamom is almost never used as a spice for coffee in India as routinely done by the Arabs for coffee. Arab traders brought coffee to southern India, where coffee is most popular. Today, the largest consumers of cardamom are from the Middle East countries, and although cardamom originated in India, today world's largest producer of cardamom is Guatemala. Americans make "pumpkin pies," Indians make "pumpkin bhaji." People in India have been no more creative in making use of a pumpkins than the Americans. Americans "carve" a pumpkin during halloween and we write nursery songs in Marathi about old woman ridding inside a pumpkin..."Chal re bhopalya tara tur "(whatever that means!). But our counterparts and former immigrants from India - the West Indians in the Caribbean have created several delicious dishes such as pumpkin soufflé, curried pumpkin soup, pumpkin pies, pumpkin russa, pumpkin halava, etc.
One would think that fruits such as Sitaphal (A. squamosa), Ramphal (A. reticulata), Hanumanphal or Lakshmanphal (A. Cherimola) must have been with us forever in India just like an apple pie or the hot dog dear to his or her heart for every American. Alas! However, this is not the case. The Ramayan neither makes mention of these fruits nor does any other old Sanskrit literature. First mention of these fruits appears in Materia Medica of India published in 1877. All these fruits belonging to "Annona" family clearly originated from Peru or Ecuador region. When Portuguese arrived in 1498, however, these plants were already in India. How is this possible? Similar is the case with primitive maze and pineapple. These produce originated from Mexico and Brazil respectively, although not in the remote past, but they were present in India prior to 1498. There must be some prior communication between these countries well before the discovery of the New world by Columbus in 1492. Although the Romans mention about "corn" in ancient times in Italy, we know that this is not true. The Romans had very limited vocabulary and they used the same term "corn" as a generic substitute for all different kinds of grain. However, "Jungali" maze is found in Sikkim region. Motifs similar to maze or pineapple are found in Indian carvings in Ajanta and few other temples in southern India. The fruit guava originated in Peru in South America. The origin of the Marathi name of this fruit same as the name of the country itself as "Peru" is unknown. In some northern Indian languages pineapple is also known as "Ata." In Manila in Philippines the word "Ata" or "Ate" and in Mexico word "Ata" or "Athate" signifies a pineapple. These produce may have come to India in the past from the east. Perhaps there was a communication from the Mayans to Incas to Polynesians to Maoris to people in India in the remote past. Although the Harappan hieroglyphics remains undeciphered, it has shown some resemblance to the script of the Easter Island which is west of Chile.
Myristica malabarica or Bombay nutmeg and its kernel mace (Jayphal and Jaypatri) grown in the Konkan area are slightly of inferior quality than the Indonesian variety. After 350 years the winds of trade are changing again. In 1667, while the French Eastern Indies Company was busy making Surat as their main trading post in India, in the U.S.A. "New Amsterdam" became "New York" and the British relinquished the "Run" island in the middle of group of the spice islands known as "Banda Islands" of Indonesia to the Dutch. As they say, "The British lost a tiny nutmeg, but got the Big apple." The readers are recommended to explore fascinating stories and the books regarding how the world's most expensive real estate in Manhattan was bought for next to nothing. Since the spice and seed is the same thing for nutmeg, the Dutch made every attempt to corner the market by making sure that nutmeg is not grown anywhere else in the world by coating nutmeg with lime juice before selling, burning other people's trees, etc. But the trees were eventually growing all over the world. Today, the tiny island of Grenada is slowly edging upwards to become the number one producer of the nutmeg by knocking Indonesia down in this competitive world market. The torch is now passing from the east to the west. Although we grow few cloves in the Konkan area, we do not "smoke" cloves like the Indonesians. Indonesia is the world's largest producer of cloves and world's almost half the production of the cloves goes up the smoke. The English term "curry powder" is a misnomer. A curry powder does not contain an extract or the powder of "curry leaves" (Kadhilimb, Murraya koenigi). The curry powder simply means "Indian masala." There is some similarity between the spice mixture from Thailand (kaeng prik), or Indonesia (bumbu), and the Indian curry powder, however, this is due to the Indian influence on the culture of these countries. Although combination of spices such as coriander or cumin along with other ingredients is seen in few spice mixtures in the world such as from Persian Gulf region (Baharat), Ethiopia (Berebere), Egypt (Dukka), etc., the unique combination of coriander, cumin, and turmeric with other spices is only seen in India in the entire world. A few products came to the new world from India. Prior to the arrival of Columbus, there is no record of coconut in the new world. Portuguese introduced plants such as mango, sugar cane, cardamom, and coconut to the Americas from India.
In 1605, the Portuguese brought tobacco plants to west coast of India to Kaira and Mehsana in Gujarat and people in India literally put their own twist around these leaves and made a mini cigar known as "Bidi" and mixed it with their "betel nut leaf - Pan" and made a "Gutka." On the west coast of India, Indians found two leaves from the forest: Tendu leaves (Diospyros melonoxylon) and leaves of the Flame of the Forest (Butea monosperma). These leaves are unique, since they can be rolled like a paper without breaking even when they are dry. By rolling dry tobacco, a poor man's cheap cigarette: a bidi was born. Bidis contain about 50% more nicotine (21.2 mg/gm) as compared to the unfiltered cigarette. Today bidis come in all different tempting flavors such as mint, cherry, mango, strawberry, vanilla, etc. Many of these bidi factories use child labor. Many Indians prior to the arrival of the Portuguese were already hooked onto chewing a "Pan" as is discussed in the next section on our social customs. Portuguese helped addition of one more ingredient to a pan: tobacco. Gutka ingredients like chuna (lime), kat (catachu), supari (areca nut), gambier (titanium oxide, a cheap substitute of catechu), and tobacco cause submucous fibrosis of the mouth and about 5 to 7 years exposure can cause cancer. Today, approximately 9 million such cases are reported in India. Gutka is more serious problem in India than smoking, alcohol, or drug abuse. Although there are some restricting laws, it is freely available on the black market.
Several of our popular flowering plants in our garden also came with these new invaders, such as dahlia, lilies, pansies, petunias, impatience, daisies, gladiolas, carnations, and varieties of roses (roses mostly developed in Britain). Most of these plants were brought in from overseas by the new rulers to decorate their homes and gardens to make them feel at home. Although the masters have left, foreign flora and fauna remains. Recently, while driving in the Panchgani area near Mahabaleshwar, I noticed a whole side of a mountain, as if on fire behind some old British homes, full of red poinsettias in the forest. This probably is an example of plants from the unattended garden going out of control into the wild and disturbing the ecological balance. I always wondered why these Europeans never introduced olive trees on the west coast? Again, olives are mostly grown by the Spanish and Italians in Europe. Do you see the connection? No colonies: no olives. And no Valencia oranges, no pizza, no spaghetti, no macaroni and cheese, or calzones. I am not an agricultural expert, but Maharashtra seems to be the right soil for olives. This time, for a change, we are going to have to get those olive trees by ourselves. However, today it is not that simple to just plant them; a very careful study of ecological impact is necessary before any such consideration. I did find a few avocado and allspice trees in Goa area. Obviously once the rulers left, these plants did not become popular. It is about time for us to be creative in our gastronomic skills. We should explore and look into culinary ideas whose cultures did not touch the Indian shores. Try some Balsamic vinegar from Italy for "Koshimbir" for a change, or try to find the right Indian spices for broccoli, or how about cooking that "Kobichi bhaji" in red cooking wine by just lightly steaming it instead of making a mush. Or create an Indian style vegetarian "sushi"...opportunities are endless.
It is better to be beautiful than to be good....... Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)
We know that dietary habits of the African Americans, after they were brought to the Americas radically changed when they were exposed to European foods rich in salt, fat, and carbohydrates -today's root cause of rampant obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, etc., in this population. Earlier, we have seen that Kokanastha Brahmins love carbohydrates and starchy foods and sugars; on their dinner table, the main course is the sweet desserts (a dream culture of every child!). Did the introduction of cheap, easily grown, starchy, fatty, and hazardous products such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, sago, peanuts, and tobacco worsen their health, since they were the first to receive this onslaught of foreign produce? Did indiscriminate plantation of these fruits and vegetables bring unknown germs, diseases, sensitivity, allergies, etc.? Did these plants disturb natural ecological balance and replace other natural plants?
Overall, on the other hand, it appears that these people tremendously benefited, without leaving their home, from the cornucopia of the wonderful produce of the world delivered right to their doorstep. Their mundane vegetarian diet once had very few choices of vegetables as described in the several previous pages. It was now supplemented by the fruits and vegetables rich in different flavors, aroma, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients for the diet of subsequent generations. Apart from the fact that all fruits contain some supply of vitamins A and C and fiber, several of these "new foods" have phytochemicals with strong anti-carcinogenic properties, such as cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower (indoles and sulforaphanes), pumpkin, tomatoes, coco, beets, sweet potatoes (Beta carotenoids, lycopenes, isoflavones), cashews (quercetin, campferol, selenium), cherries (monoterpenes), papaya (folacin, boron, papain), strawberries (ellagic acid), pineapple (bromelain), black or green teas (catechins), peanuts (resveratrol), etc. For better or worse, everywhere these European expansionist went, to places such as the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, similar changes were taking place. Today, most of the favorite vegetables found on the dinner plate of Kokanastha Brahmins did not exist in their diet just a few centuries ago.
- Chetan, Termz and Sharad Bailur like this
Posted 02 November 2006 - 12:20 AM
'' Black mustard seed (Mohari) and asafetida (Hing) also contain compounds known as "isothiocynates." These potentially toxic isothiocynates (ITCs) appear to inhibit enzymes that convert certain chemicals in the human body into carcinogens. ''
Are you talking about Phase 1 enzymes (Cytochrome P450's)? If these are inhibited by isothiocyanates, then the precursors may not form carcinogens, but the precursors may not be removed by Phase II enzymes and could circulate in the bloodstream, or be stored in fat. Will not the danger be that the isothiocyanates knock out the beneficial (absolutely necessary) functions of the cytochromes with a buildup of non-metabolised chemicals (any, not necessarily carcinogenic), maybe to toxic levels? cf statins and grapefruit?
Posted 02 November 2006 - 01:45 AM
The phase i and ii enzymes work together in tandem though they have different modus operandi. But the idea in having "balanced food" or a diet is to try to supress as much phase i enzymes while increasing phase ii. I am not aware of any non toxic cumulation of chemicals. I have just heard, not seen yet, a National Geographic article of somebody just a volunteer analyzed for all the known residual chemicals over 300 residing in his body (after spending over $30,000 for lab tests), would be interesting to see.
Posted 02 November 2006 - 08:48 AM
If you want to enjoy the flavor (taste) of mango, you have to suppress the aroma. The stronger the aroma the fruit has (most of the tropical fruits do, as they compete for pollination by smell), lesser is the stimulation of lingual nerve as compared to the olfactory sensation. Try to eat a Durian with and without refrigeration and see the difference.
Posted 02 November 2006 - 10:10 PM
Thanks Dr. Jay,
The phase i and ii enzymes work together in tandem though they have different modus operandi. But the idea in having "balanced food" or a diet is to try to supress as much phase i enzymes while increasing phase ii. I am not aware of any non toxic cumulation of chemicals. I have just heard, not seen yet, a National Geographic article of somebody just a volunteer analyzed for all the known residual chemicals over 300 residing in his body (after spending over $30,000 for lab tests), would be interesting to see.
but the function of phase I enzymes is to introduce (by oxidation, reduction or hydrolysis) a hydrophilic moiety into an otherwise hydrophobic molecule. The phase II enzymes hook on a large hydrophilic group onto the hydrophilic functional group produced by Phase I enzymes, making it water soluble. So without the phase I enzymes, phase II cannot function properly, and the hydrophobic toxins are stored in the fat rather than excreted by the body. This is well known for PAHs found in tobacco smoke and burnt food, and the usual 'environmental pollutants', PCBs and chlorinated pesticides, and the dioxins, for example. But it is also true of carotenes, in particular b-carotene, an extremely hydrophobic hydrocarbon which will build up in the body fat unless metabolised to retinol.
The good thing about phase I enzymes is that they help in the detoxification of dangerous xenobiotic chemicals, but in so doing, can creat potential carcinogenic free radicals which challenge the liver. Only by having a properly functioning phase II enzyme system can the risk from the phase I process be mitigated.
So the question really is:
do we store away potentially harmful substances (out of sight out of mind! ) or go ahead with a slightly risky process that stands a good chance of elimination of those toxins?
I know which I would choose.
Posted 02 November 2006 - 10:15 PM
but the plant has already been pollinated because it has produced fruits, you probably mean 'attracted by smell, eaten and distributed by animals'.
If you want to enjoy the flavor (taste) of mango, you have to suppress the aroma. The stronger the aroma the fruit has (most of the tropical fruits do, as they compete for pollination by smell), lesser is the stimulation of lingual nerve as compared to the olfactory sensation. Try to eat a Durian with and without refrigeration and see the difference.
Posted 03 November 2006 - 06:15 AM
I think in the case of durian you are certainly right, suppression of aroma is beneficial. I've only eaten it once, and didn't seem to be as disturbed by the poopy smell as many folks report. I'm actually reticent to buy durian hereabouts, though, because I really don't know how to pick out a good one.
Anyway, next time I've got some aromatic tropical fruit I'll see if a stopover in the fridge makes it more delicious. The problem will probably be getting truly aromatic tropical fruit.
(Mango ice cream is still not better than a fresh mango. )
Posted 05 November 2006 - 06:22 AM