Know and Learn to Appreciate Specialty Indian Cooking the Traditional Way
Indian cuisine and food preparation is undergoing a sea change and traditional methods of cooking have been done with but this also spells doing away with many ingredients and processes that spell health in every element. My peppy octogenarian mother-in-law holds onto her values to the level that she demands that every bit of her cooking has her signature in it and no ready-made store-bought powders are ever used in her preparation. Initially, when I came to know about it, I wondered why red chilli should be bought, dried in sun and powdered when we can get it ready-made.
She does the same for dhaniya, sambar, rasam and she has specific ones for vathakuzhambu, morkuzhambu everything so carefully made, roasted in slow fire and sent to the flour mill to me made into a powder. She will not forget to give a kilo of rice to make flour with an instruction to get it done first before powdering the others. The logic is the previous ground powder in the machine should not mix with the one to be ground and the rice flour takes it all away. This rice flour will be used to make kolams. A minute stunned with her explanation, I was in awe at the thought process and dedication that goes into her cooking. Nevertheless her homemade powders taste much better and have unique aroma not seen in any ready-made products. No wonder everyone who we bring in to taste her food look forward to coming home again for her food.
Cooking is all about balance and when we use the ready-made powder it is difficult to control the taste. Secondly, lot depends on the level of roasting and the time given to cool the ingredients before grinding. Roasting to the right level releases the oils present and improvise the spice presentation and aroma in the food. Turmeric, Cumin, fenugreek, mustard, pepper, and asafetida have excellent health benefits and our ancestors have made it a part of our cooking to ensure we do not overlook it. Nowhere in the world can we find such healthy ingredients designed to take care of our health if we cook food in traditional manner as defined by our ancestors.
Of late, due to lack of communication across generations, the importance of these spices and their effect on our health has been overlooked. Many families find color of turmeric disgusting and do not buy it. Ghee, branded as rich in fat, is not part of kitchens today. Many homes find asafoetida not really worth it. So net, our cooking has been transformed to suit independent tastes albeit the healthy elements built into it. Take for example, Curry leaves. Curry leaves promotes hair growth and keeps away balding or graying. This is the secret behind no coloring or dyeing of my septuagenarian and octogenarian relatives. The list can go on and on. To record and help us understand the importance of spices in cooking and also rejuvenate the traditional cooking methods, we are starting a series on traditional vegetarian recipes. When we explained to them about our initiative, our peppy ammas were so excited that we too got caught in their peppiness and enthusiasm. On a stricter note, they told us to be aware that no ready-made powders can be used and everything will be made from scratch. Get set, ready and go!