Thursday, December 02, 2010

Small and white

Idlis were never my favorite food when I was growing up. I complained a lot when these were made, although that didn't seem to stop my mother from making them. And then I grew up, moved away etc. As with most things, absence did make my heart fonder for  idlis. By the time I was a grad student, a plate of idlis with hot sambar and spicy coconut chutney was among my top food desires. Sadly this wasn't a desire that could be fulfilled often, given our crazy schedules and lack of culinary knowledge and equipment. We did buy the instant idli mixes occasionally when we made it to the Indian store but that was rare.  Mostly we stuffed our faces with cereal and bread.

Then I got married and acquired an electric grinder and a good blender (mixie) too. Suddenly I had the equipment. I still didn't have the time or more importantly the motivation. The thought of cleaning up after the grinder did its work was somehow a huge mental block. In addition, I had absorbed some of the 'diet' wisdom floating around and was trying to up my protein levels. Seen from that point of view, idlis seemed hideous - just blobs of flour, a veritable eating disaster. So I even had a good reason to back up my laziness ;-). So we stuffed our faces with a different kind of cereal (made with soy protein isolates and other such trash) and  bread that tasted simply terrible. The things we ate in the name of nutrition!

These days idlis are back in favour in our household. Why, you ask? Long story. Basically we are trying to eat more 'real' food and less processed stuff sold as food in the grocery store. To hell with all the other things - high fat, high protein, low fat, whatchamacallit. It's just another way of looking at things...a view that might change if things don't suit us. For now though, this is the view and the grinder is back at work.

If you are one of those protein conscious, idli-shunning, cereal guzzlers - here is a link that might make you pause between your spoonfuls of cornflakes.

Basically the author (who seems to know his stuff) writes that traditional ways of preparing grain reduces the level of toxins and anti-nutrients which are present to some degree in almost all grains. This renders them more nutritious and digestible. What traditional methods? Grinding and fermenting specifically seems to have been common among several traditional cuisines (such as ours). Fermenting action by the bacteria fills in the missing amino acids and elevates the protein quality considerably.  Pretty smart of our ancestors to have figured that out, don't you think? Yet another reason to not discard our traditions, just because the western ones seem more right..

No comments: