This year in India we have seen permutation and combinations of several international cuisines along with our food. We have tried more umami flavored dishes, consumed protein rich seeds like chia, quinoa, and flax, tried lots of gut-friendly food like kimchi, miso and even brewed our own kombucha. We also got the difference between vegan and vegetarianism right in 2018.
Trying to round up what our meals were like in the last year is difficult. We may have all started with the healthy eating resolutions, then as summer upped the heat, we rollicked into Thai rolled ice-creams, which we balanced with a sip of kombucha or a plate of tempeh. There has been more plant-based protein in our diets, thanks to chefs using tofu and quinoa in innovative ways. Veganism is steadily a conscious choice in our cities. Despite all the international flavours that we loved in 2018, it is the desi diet, like what our grandmothers followed that we have circled back to, thanks to a new focus and mass appeal of plant-based proteins.
Rujuta Diwekar, one of India’s most famous nutritionist--who has written numerous books on Indian nutrition, and campaigns for eating local on Instagram and YouTube-- reiterates the goodness of desi grains. For example, she emphasises on the goodness of the humble aliv/ halim seeds. She says, “they raise your libido, mood, oxygenate the brain and everything in between, there’s nothing these iron, folic, fibre rich seeds can’t do.” She suggests adding them to nariyal pani, or mix them in a glass of milk or “simply roll them into these lovely nariyal and jaggery laddoos.”
Shatavari or wild asparagus is another desi plant that Diwekar highlights as one of India’s medicines. “It helps the body cope up with all kinds of stresses. It works as a therapeutic aid in all kinds of degenerative diseases from cancer to diabetes. It helps boost the reproductive system in both men and women, arrests ageing and eases the meno/ andro pausal symptoms,” she says. There is a lot of healthy stuff around us, which we need to start using to improve our digestive, neural and metabolic systems. Ghee is also finding a spot of pride on our kitchen shelves, thanks to a new look at its nutritional value.
This year also got us looking beyond our plates to how the way we source our food leaves a big carbon footprint. The term ‘sustainable food’ made its way into our daily culinary talk. Climate change made a mark in conversations about food at the table as an urgent situation.
While most of us may have got a steel straw to use for our juice boxes, it is not enough to prevent the deluge of plastic that has seeped into our ecosystems. Food packaging needs to find alternatives to plastic, and even more importantly as conscious global citizens we need to rely more on food grown locally than having exotic food being delivered from far way, or forcing local farmers to grow foreign vegetables or fruits that take a toll on the native soil and water tables. This year definitely started a conversation on how what we eat affects the climate and also, how we need to curb the enormous amounts of food wastage, globally.
On a lighter note, 2018 also gave us food trends that defied logic, like videos of American teens swallowing brightly colored laundry detergent packets (Tide balls) or the ‘cinnamon challenge’ where people attempted to consume a huge spoonful of powdered cinnamon, in one go, with no-brainer reactions like getting choked. In Europe, club-goers snorted lines of chocolate to get high and party. Sweet endings have never been as bizarre.
2018 was definitely a mixed plate. We reached out to newer cuisines, learnt to cherish our own regional flavors and save the world one conscious meal at a time.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi. (Image credits: Unsplash)