Cooking Right

Sunetra Roday was the chief guest at the Republic Day function in Jan 20. Sunetra ji’s main talk was on eating healthy and eating safe. In her story she mentioned Chintu, Pintu and Mintu. Chintu brings poli bhaji in his dabba. Pintu brings Varan Bhat, but Mintu brings Maggi noodles, wafers, chocolate, cream rolls. Mintu falls ill all the time. His teeth are bad. He can’t concentrate on studies and his grades are bad. And finally he gets to be hospitalized and is given bitter medicine and injections. Moral of the story: avoid junk food. She talked of rainbow food. You need to have fruits and food of each colour of the rainbow. Recommendation was that every person should eat two fruits everyday. It could be cheap things like banana, papaya, guava or amla. Instead of milk she prefers dahi.

When it comes to eating safe, it is self hygiene that matters a lot. Not only do we need to wash our hands but we also need to dry your hands, otherwise infections spread. Nails should be cut once a week, say every Sunday. Don’t eat food on which flies are sitting. Don’t pick up food that has fallen down to the ground. Wash your vegetables. Cover your food.

The best part of the session was Sunetra’s charcha with the teachers at the end of the function. We sat out in an open air circle. We were joined by our trustee, Vijay Chheda, who cycled down to the school. Maam talked of doing a health campaign in our school. She has published a book on food in school, which has sold 8 lakh copies. She has promised to gift one book to the school. She talked of new school regulations which don’t allow junk food shops within a 50 metre radius of a school.

The topic turned to samosas, which was the snack that we had handed out that day. The danger in samosas is the oil quality. Reused oil can be carcinogenic. Komal mentioned that she uses used oil for lighting diyas. Sumitra ji’s recommendation was that you put in less oil, for example use only a quantity adequate for frying 3-4 samosas. And you keep on adding oil as you keep on making samosas. Whatever oil remains, has to be consumed in the next 4 to 5 days. She felt that instead of adding all the used oil in a single vegetable cooking, you should keep on adding a small quantity over 4 days in your cooking and finish it off.

We then switched to cooking utensils. Anaemia is the biggest problem facing women. She warned us about the use of aluminium in cooking. Iron vessels are the best. For making fodni or tadka, we use a small iron utensil. Her advice is instead of just pouring the tadka into the dal, we need to actually dip the iron vessel into it, so that some of the iron transfer happens. One interesting tidbit related to iron: poha is better than rice, because it is flattened using iron rollers, and some of the iron transfers to the poha. Another taboo that she mentioned was non stick. She was quite gaga about stainless steel cookware. If at all, you want to use aluminium it should be for roasting. If you are using an aluminium cooker, you can use stainless steel vessels inside the cooker.

She gave us an interesting trick for rice. We need to soak rice for an hour before we cook. For dal you need to soak 2 hours before. And then all it requires to cook the rice is one whistle in the pressure cooker. Immediately as the whistle happens, put off the gas. It also makes life simple, as you don’t have to count the number of times the cooker has whistled.

We then moved on to water consumption. It is recommended that you have 8 glasses of water a day. She talked of an interesting way in which she infuses water with flavours. Take a 1 litre glass jar and add two slices of lemon, cucumber, ginger, and a few leaves of pudina. As you keep on drinking from this jug, keep on replacing the water so that the jug is always full. This water can be used for 24 hours, after which you have to throw away the fruits and the water. Must try it some time.

Komal has a problem increasing her weight. She’s got hyper thyroid. My recommendation was to reduce her wheat consumption drastically and increase jowar and bajra. Also her intake of protein is quite limited. Maam’s advice to her was to have Shikaran Poli every morning. And add some besan to her aata, so that some amount of protein is going in in every meal. You can even add dal in your bhaji to increase protein intake. If your meals is protein alone, then the protein gets converted to calories – and is not used to build the body.

Nisha’s question was related to food and mood. Mam said that mood does affect food. But beyond that we didn’t get any answers. I guess we will have to find our own answers to this question.