I often wonder how I made it through school. I am not referring to academics- but nourishment. I thought then I had eaten healthy, but now sure my food was not laden with corn syrup, sugars, an overabundance of sodium, trans fats, artificial colors and flavors and partially hydrogenated fats? Of course, these additives also often double as preservatives allowing for longer shelf life; cutting down on cooking time, need to hire actual cooks (As in the AOL videos segment from the film, Supersize Me.) and cooking skills altogether. But what’s left to nourish us after our canned beans, Spaghetti-O’s, cereals, and other commercially made foods have collected dust in our pantries until just before the expiration date?
I began thinking about this when I returned from India. I had been in India two years and not eaten a canned or ready-made item in that time period. Even, once in the only way I knew how to help an elderly lady who was unwell was by offering her a can of tomato soup. Of course, I had to buy this from a foreign import store- at four times the cost I would buy it for in US. She told me she would not eat that. (Incidentally, that soup can became a souvenir for her, placed high on a shelf, collecting dust.) She had two reasons for this- one, no can opener in the house (in fact, no one I knew had can openers), and two, she said, eating food with preservatives would make her more sick. I did not understand this because when I was growing up, eating these canned soups seemed to nurse me back to health, just as the commercials promised.
However, when I came back to US, I went back to my old way of using partially or fully prepared foods. Within days of returning, I would say I felt very heavy and digestion was sluggish. I became constipated, burped more and found it hard to maintain energy throughout the day. (I guess, also eating three servings of spaghetti with sauce in place of the three course sambar rice, rasam rice and curd rice did not help, either.)
It was at this time I understood why Patti (Tamil for grandmother) would not eat ready made food while sick. This statement comes from a woman who mostly likely ate ready made food maybe less than 10% of her 70 year life. And, a person like me who grew up on such food for 23 years giving it up for two years to eat it again and get sick, the irony!
(Photo left: Typical homemade South Indian breakfast Pongal (Rice/dhal porridge) with Sambar (vegetable stew) and vada (lentil donuts). Photo by Krishna Kumar.)
This whole experience forced me to think of what I eat and how often I eat it. I am very careful about the food I eat most of the time. Of course, living in the going-out-to-eat culture in America, I do go out to eat, and occasionally at fast food restaurants. Even, then, I am limited due to my vegetarian diet. Even in this self-made limitation, I feel not one ounce of denial, as those who try many fad diets proclaim in magazines. One of my key philosophies with food (or anything, I hope) is “take it in moderation.” In this case if ready made, convenience, restaurant, and fast food are all taken in moderation with the home cooked meals, then I think my diet is balanced, healthy and quite nourishing and energizing.
Thank you for reading.
Related Posts/Sites: Watch Supersize me on Google Video.
Recipes: Thick and Savory Sambar (South Indian Vegetarian Stew) Pongal (Rice and dhal porridge)
A Thought for Food and Food For Thought - Vedic (Ancient Indian/Hindu) Thoughts on Food and Nourishment
● The Three Commandments
● Anna Shuddhi
● Sattvic Food
● Rajasic Food
● Tamasic Food
● Anna Shuddhi and
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