Culturama Magazine ~ A Fine Balance

by on August 28, 2014

Culturama, the magazine for expatriates in Chennai, features an article by Pratibha Jain in the July 2014, Volume 5, Issue 5 titled ‘A Fine Balance’ with an Ayurvedic recipe from her cookbook ‘Sukham Ayu’.

Culturama Magazine

What is Indian cooking? Is there any one parameter that defines Indian cooking? Interestingly, India with its vast terrain houses many states and many cultures, boasts of many cuisines too. Not even the simple dal is made the same way across different regions. While the soft fluffly idlis of the South and the Shahi Paneer of Punjab have global recognition, they only represent a region of India and not Indian cooking in its entirety. Each region has its own distinctive style of cooking, designed for its geographical and climatic requirements.

Yet, amidst the diversity, a thread of unity can be discerned in the common principles based on Ayurvedic concepts of health that form the building block of the Indian cooking. One such principle is that of the six tastes or essences, known as Shada Rasa. Every food ingredient, be it a spice, grain or herb, contains the six essences of sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. But these essences are not present in equal measure in food ingredients. For instance, chillies are rich in pungent essence, fenugreek in bitter essence, and jaggery in sweet essence.

A healthy meal is one which has a balance of all these six tastes. Ayurvedic guidelines prescribe that one starts a meal with a sweet dish and ends with an astringent flavour such as buttermilk or fennel seeds.

What is healthy also depends on the body-type of each person. There is no one fixed formula of health. Each person has to arrive at what is ideal for him or her based on age, body-type, lifestyle, place of stay and such other factors. While any good Ayurveda practitioner or nutritionist can guide us to arrive at that understanding, we can do so too using our intuitive capacity.

Many of us may remember how in our growing years, our mothers and grandmothers seemed to know how to treat many of our ailments. The doctor’s advice was rarely sought. The remedy seemed to be hidden in the day-to-day ingredients used in our food. Our grandmothers seemed to intuitively know which ingredient to reach for depending on the symptoms.

Each one of us needs to listen to our body, cultivate sensitivity to its comfort and discomfort, and nurture it accordingly. It is a tradition of wisdom, laying stress on holistic health and wellness as the underlying principles for Indian cooking.

Enjoy some of these simple food tips to ensure health and wellness:

  • Cook in a happy frame of mind.
  • Ensure a clean kitchen and clean ingredients.
  • Use local and seasonal ingredients in your food.
  • Balance a meal in the proportion of half portion solid, quarter portion liquid and quarter portion air
  • Say a prayer of thanks before starting the meal.
  • Stick to a simple and healthy food routine.
  • Stop eating before you are completely full.
  • Cultivate sensitivity towards your body’s well-being.

(As seen in Culturama Magazine)

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