Indian Wisdom and Meal Planning

In India, basic cooking and eating wisdom are passed through generations verbally or through practice. I remember that in my childhood, way back in the late sixties, my parents always prefer to buy seasonal vegetables and fruits only. Since we have a big kitchen garden, most of the veggies come straight from there. A huge crop of potatoes and onion was always there for consumption in our kitchen pantry. I guess it was very rare when these two vegetables were ever bought. Fruit trees like guava, papaya and pomegranate were there but a single tree was not enough and hence fruits were bought from the local mandi. Though in those times, there were not any exotic vegetables or fruits available. Indian markets were not so developed as they are now and there was almost nill access to anything which is not seasonal. It was a small town in the state of Haryana in North India, and not a metro city, hence most of the fresh food available was locally produced. Only in-the-season veggies and fruits had made entry to our household. I remember my father saying that if you buy things out of season, you are paying more for unhealthy food. It’s like investing in diseases rather than in health. 

As I came of age and set my own household, these wise thoughts stayed with me. I always buy fruits and vegetables which are in season. But as the Indian economy developed, we started having access to raw food items from across the world. I will not lie but yes, I tried everything which is available but over a period of time, I came to the conclusion that whatever is fresh and seasonal is best for health. It saves both taste and money. 😉

Now with so many environmental issues, I think it becomes more important that we buy local and seasonal. This way we decrease our carbon footprints too.



Our ancient wisdom of Ayurved has very clear guidelines to maintain good health through all seasons. India has six distinct seasons and has a vast variety of seasonal vegetables. Ayurved tells us to eat the seasonal for better immunity and health. We already know that the external environment especially due to change of season, affect our health and the same happens when we do not eat in sync with nature, it is likely to result in compromised immunity, unhealthy weight gain or loss, poor skin or hair quality which results in making one prone to lifestyle diseases. Ayurved propagates the way of life in relationship with nature.

With industrialisation and development, humanity has found ways of making plant-based food available around the year. Now with huge cold storages and increased agricultural production, we find all the vegetables and fruits round the year. But there is a huge difference in taste and nutrition in fresh and cold storage vegetables. Personally, I prefer seasonal vegetables though once in a while, I use my favourite veggies offseason either store-bought or frozen. And I always regret the decision.

 

The body craving for food changes with the season. In Summers, I love to eat food that is light on the stomach and cools the body. Vegetables like tomatoes, ghiya/ bottle gourd, bitter gourd, tinda, bhindi (ladies finger) etc are there on the table. Buttermilk and curd is “hot favourite” to keep cool. Daal (lentil) and rice is also my favourite as it takes no time to cook :). Fresh seasonal fruits like watermelon, musk melon, mangoes etc, are favourite. They are juicy and have high water content to hydrate the body. Since in this season, as per Ayurved, Agni, the digestive power is at its lowest, hence the easily digestible foods to be taken. 

As the rainy season sets in, craving for fried foods like pakoras, bhajias and spicy food sets in. Salty, sour and oily foods are the star of the season. We love to have thin hot soups also. Curd and buttermilk take a back seat. I guess it’s due to humidity-induced coolness in the weather. This is the season when not many fruits are available. It’s just the last few of mangoes, jamuns, lichi and phaalse. All these are my favourites. Jamuns and litchis are found in abundance while jamuns and phaalse are not so often available. These are available is only twice or thrice in a season. In the rainy season, we avoid un-cooked food as due to high humidity, the chances of food getting spoilt are high.  

As the winter sets in, it’s time to enjoy hot meals that is sweet and spicy. Foods like saag - Makki roti, gobhi-alu, beans, leafy vegetables or hot milk jalebi are hot favourites. Somehow, I avoid eating salads in winters but love to eat juicy fruits like apples, grapes and pineapple. Sugar cane, jaggery and sweets made from jaggery, til (sesame seeds), groundnuts and other nuts are hot favourites. I usually prefer single dish sumptuous meals as it’s easy to make and less time-consuming. I turn into a lazy bone as far as cooking is concerned. Thanks to the social changes, now we have many home chefs available where I live, I have much peace of mind and a satiated soul.

Meal planning is affected by two major factors - availability of ingredients and pricing of food items. Since tomatoes, potatoes and onions are a must for Indian cooking. There are phases when these items are not available in abundance in the market. There can be many reasons. But I will not indulge in the reasons. I will keep myself about managing cooking without these essential items. If tomatoes are not available, I replace them with curd while making potato curry, or with tamarind if I am making Kabuli chane. Any veggie can be made without tomato by using an appropriate tempering. Indian cooking is versatile and there is nothing essential without which a tasty meal can not be created. There is always something else that can replace it and still have something tasty and different. I love Indian cooking for the simple reason that there are no rules. It's all about estimation, availability and the most important ingredient - LOVE !

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Comments

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