Food is a topic of much discussion these days. Umpteen channels on the television talk, discuss, present and even produce insane competitions;all on food. There are millions of blogs and websites all over the internet bursting with tantalizing food and bulging with information. There are hundreds of opinions churned out every day about what food is good and bad for you. There are umpteen lists about "Five Foods to Never Eat" and as many about "Five Foods to ace an interview". You would think "Five" would be an easy number to handle ? Naah.
All around me there seems to be a Food bubble. And I do hope earnestly that the bubble does not burst. I am enjoying it.
But as much as I love this gastronomical propaganda I must admit I am also highly confused. There is too much information which is hard to assimilate and even trust these days. There is too much of competition about making food faster, prettier, healthier, better and while one day that means oodles of butter, on the other none of it.There are studies being churned out faster than the dollar bill and when it comes to food it is hard to ignore them even in my standard lackadaisical mode. Why my family's health might be affected by the brand new study, that still smells of fresh ink and crisp paper hot from the printer. My child might grow up to be a psycho because she was deprived of Himalayan acai berry juice as a toddler.
Local or Organic, Paleo or Vegan, Chinese Study or American, South Beach or Calangute, your garndmother's or mine ? The questions are just too many. And honestly if you notice the core of each of these studies and sum them up it might just be what your Mother had been saying all along and you blindly ignored. Ahhh, what does she know after all. Now grandmothers might be more knowledgeable.
When I was a child growing up in India, food was not a media darling. Few recipes in the Sunday newspaper and a couple of half hearted food pictures in the Bengali magazine was all we had to be satisfied with. Glossy magazines like Femina did not talk about food. News Magazines like India Today stayed far away from recipes and if at all, talked about the dearth of food or the high price of it. "Eat it, all of what is in your plate. Food is precious and there are people who are doing without it" was my Mother's common refrain.Food was revered and recipes were all hand me down or shared with neighbors. My Ma would sometimes cut out of recipes from the Sunday papers and with years they would begin to look like fragile parchment.
Food was a mainstay of the middle class household though. Starting with the morning bazaar routine, getting fresh supplies of seasonal vegetables and fish every day, cooking 3 meals from scratch each day without fail was the norm. We discussed food with love and passion, as something to be cherished and thankful about. Each time my Thama lamented the milk that the milkman got, comparing it with the creamy, almost reddish hued warm milk from the cows in her parent's home in Munger, we collectively sighed. When my Baba said that nothing tasted as good as his grandmother's ghee parathas and mohonbhog we imagined days dripping with drops of grainy tassar silk ghee.
My Ma's cooking usually bordered on the healthy where it was never oily or too spicy for comfort. Yet it was flavorful, always had a vegetable, a fish and grains. The vegetables and fish changed along the season, the dishes varied from light to rich with the temperature. Meat was cooked once a week. I lived my entire childhood yearning for an omlette made with 6 whole eggs which she steadfastly denied spreading the quota over the entire week instead. She or none in her generation stopped to think if it was right to feed this or that. The everyday diet was naturally balanced.
All her life my mother's food style remained the same unlike mine which jumps from no-grain in one week to brown rice only in another and raw salad one day to junk food the next. While she lived with maybe three main kinds of grains, my pantry has branded as well as un-branded packs of brown rice, quinoa, daliya, couscous, semolina, flax seeds, wheat germ and other un-inventoried item which I amass because the recent study said so. Needless to say I forget about many of them.
I don't know whether her style was correct or whether it worked because the raw food products then were not maligned by harmful chemicals. I am not justifying anything, all I am saying is it was much more easier to think of food and plan a meal then. There were set choices.
Now,every week we run around three different grocery stores. For what purpose I do not know. Organic spinach and strawberries from Whole Foods, flax seed from Wegman's, Bitter Gourd and hot green Chiles from Patel Bhai. And then someone comes and says "Local is far better than Organic" and so I again run around, driving 35miles, getting Zucchini from the farm stand which said "Local Produce". In between I have spent an hour debating whether the more expensive wild caught salmon is less contaminated than the farm raised.Thankfully Organic Milk and Eggs is now mainstream and so we can get that anywhere but now they say Milk is not at all necessary for the diet anyway so there my precious 265 hours were wasted.
Finally when I am home, drained both physically and financially I decide I need some rest and order a processed cheese artisan pizza from Domino's, glug down a splenda infused coke and try to think of the most edible way to cook the couscous so that I can contribute more food to the world wide web.
Of all the "gyaan" that is out there I probably like Michael Pollan's Twelve Commandments best.
Minimal processed food. Cook more.
Eat at the table. Though I don't follow them strictly, they make sense.
But here is where I stumble.
"Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food".
Ideally eating what my Grandmother recognized would have been right because I guess that is what my body was suited for but then came globalization and messed it all up. I eat pasta and broccoli in abundance, and I am guessing she would too if she lived with me in the US. Also when I eat some of what she ate like this "Potol" I am actually committing a crime by not eating "local". I have no idea where my Patel Brothers get their potol from but I am sure it grows nowhere in my backyard.
Potol was a vegetable I was never fond of but summer heat brings back memories of patol and grandmothers. I however did not buy potol again, twice in one summer is enough I decided. This recipe of Doi Potol -- PointedGourd in a Yogurt sauce is a recipe sent by my Mother. I haven't cooked it yet but the recipe I see is pretty universal and might go well with even eggplants. So that is what I am going to do with this recipe next, cook it with eggplants. You can do the same or if you have access to plentiful potols you can make one more dish with the same boring veggie.
1. Potol - 6 pc
2. Onion - half
3. Yogurt/Curd - 1 cup
4. Green chilli-- 4/5
5. Cumin/Jeera powder - 2 tea spoon
6. Ginger - 1 table spoon
7. Turmeric Powder - 1 tea spoon
8. Chilli powder - half tea spoon
9. Sugar - 1 tea spoon
10. Salt- according to taste
11. Garam masala - 3 elaichi, 1/2 " dalchini, 4 cloves
12. Tejpata - 1
13. Rosun - 1 koya /1clove
Prothome potol take bhajar moto ga ( body ) ta cheche niye ektu haldi & salt lagye bheje nite hobe. Then potol ta tule rekhe in that oil, garam masala & tejpata phoron debe. Then ote onion & rosun debe and ginger paste & sugar diye bhjte hobe. Now 1 cup doi ( curd ) haldi, lanka & jeera powder diye bhalo kore phetiye nite hobe. Onion bhaja hole or modhye ei curd diye debe and gas sim kore bhalo kore nere niye ote potol guli diye nara chara kore salt debe. Tarpore jal ( water ) diye dhaka ( lid ) debe. Potol boil hole green chilli long size chire (cut ) ote diye namiye nebe.
Scrape skin of potol/parwal and toss in salt and little turmeric powder.
Heat Mustard Oil in a Kadhai.
Fry the patol lightly, remove and keep aside.
Temper the same oil with Whole Garam Masala and TejPatta.
Add the finely chopped onion and garlic and saute. Next goes in the ginger paste. fry with a tsp of sugar till onion is soft and browned.
Meanwhile in a bowl add the yogurt, Cumin Poder, Chili powder and littel turmeric powder. Beat well.
Once the onion is done, take the kadhai off the heat and slowly add the yogurt. At low heat cook add the fried potol and mix well with yogurt and masala.
Add water for gravy, add salt, cover and cook till the potol is done. Once the potol is done add the green chili and switch off heat.