Friday, May 31, 2013

Food Myths and Mysteries

Food is centric to all cultures. India is no exception. There are many beliefs related to food that I struggle to wrap my stomach around.
Chikoo Fruit
As summer is here, I've received no shortage of warnings regarding "heat" foods. Heat foods are foods that are said to increase your body's core temperature, or so I'm told. Heat foods can be beneficial at times, for example if you have a sore throat, you should eat a boiled egg, because it will draw heat to your throat and sooth the pain. In the summer months, however, heat food should be avoided, so as to spare your health. Heat foods include, but are not limited to; eggs (specifically the yoke), chicken, mutton, mangoes, chikoo fruit (which I consider a meal on the go, and like to have it when I'm hungry but don't want to eat). Also on the list is ginger (in every curry), coriander, capsicum (green pepper), coconut, dates, guava, jack fruit, grapes and coffee (derr).
Because these foods are said to increase your body temperature, it is also believed consuming them will result in acne, fever, sleeplessness, indigestion, constipation, and irritability (I'm generally irritable when I'm constipated).
Now if you want to cool off, you can lean towards the staples, such as watermelon and cucumber which are mostly water and will aid in hydration and will keep you cool. That much I don't doubt. But also included in this list is papaya, bananas, pineapple, tomatoes, corn, cauliflower, curd/dahi which is somewhere between sour cream and plain yogurt, sugar cane (the juice is made fresh by vendors on the street and is amazing), and turmeric which is made into a powder or paste and added to curry. I don't know about you, but for me, when it's 115 degrees outside, eating some corn isn't up there on my list when it comes to cooling effects.
Meetha Paan
In addition to heating and cooling foods, you have things which will aid in digestion, which is a very centric theme around here. I'm constantly having things thrust at me with the statement "Eat/Drink this. It helps with digestion." I must look constipated. most probably from all the chicken and eggs I eat. While I value the importance of things that aid in my digestion, I'm unable to connect the dots and understand exactly how the following items would help: coconut water, lassi (a watered down milk beverage sweetened with sugar, sweet pan (Meetha Paan which is a mixture of coconut, fruit preserves, rose petal preserves, and spices, wrapped in a betel leaf and topped with a cherry).
Coconut water I'm not a fan of, but lassi and paan are nice so I don't mind. For many Westerners, a dinner out to an Indian restaurant will not require any digestive aids, but here, with the mass quantities of rice eaten multiple times a day, every day, some help can be required.
I did some research on these theories which lead me to believe that this was largely the Chinese influence. I don't know what to think of them. It's not a concept I recall from my Western up-bringing and one I struggle to embrace, regardless of it's strong following by seemingly everyone here in India.

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