I come from a family where we make our own pickles; mango, red chilli, green chilli, chick pea, carrot, lime, lesava, kair, etc. We have never got a store-bought jar of pickle till date. Till a couple of decades ago, we even made papad, khakhra, ketchup, jams, potato and banana wafers, etc. at home. There was no McDonald’s then, and the only types we had seen or eaten were the homemade fries.
I remember there was a particular ketchup brand called ‘Volfarm’ which claimed it didn’t use pumpkin as was the case with other ketchup brands. And people believed it. In those days, Indians were a trusting lot. If a TV commercial showed a man wearing a white doctor’s coat lauding a particular toothpaste, oil or biscuit, we never thought that the brands would be lying to us. We fell for them, left, right and center.
Then came the instant noodles that changed the way Indian kids ate their snacks. Earlier, when a child told her mother, “Mummy, bhook lagi!”, she would say, “I will cut an apple, or I will make dosa/parantha for you.” Later, it became, “Just 2 minutes!”
When we had guests at home, we offered them tea, coffee, lemonade, aam panna, and more such refreshments. Then came the colas, and every home started storing at least a crate of these drinks. It was much easier and convenient to open a bottle of cola than make tea or coffee and serve to the guests.
This is how, little by little, the food habits changed in India. Luckily for us, we have seen the transition happening. We have seen that pickles and papads can be made at home, it needn’t necessarily be bought from the store. And, this is some knowledge that I want to pass on to my daughter who thinks she can get anything she wants from the nearby kirana store, super market or as she loves to say ‘order it from Amazon’. She is not wrong to think that, but what she doesn’t know is that homemade food is still the best because we put the best ingredients and make it with love and care.
And so to change her perception or to make her fall in love with homemade foods, we have introduced a few changes in the way we eat food. We make at home some of the foods that we bought from the stores:
It was the first thing that we made at home. My husband used to travel to Israel a lot for work purpose, and would bring back huge containers filled with a variety of hummus. We were so much in love with this flavourful chick pea paste, that we decided to make it at home. And in the first attempt itself, it turned out quite nice.
Being close to Mahabaleshwar has its perks, we get some really great strawberries in the season. One year we got a huge bag of luscious strawberries at unbelievable rates. Staying in France I had seen my roommate’s moms sending awesome fresh apricot, strawberry, mulberry, cherry jams. As such we were put off by the thick jelly like consistency of commercial jams. So, we decided to jam it. It’s been three years and we haven’t got a single jar of commercial jam. I put only sugar and lemon and that’s it. Also, the quantity of sugar was 350 gms for 1850 gms strawberries, and it was still amazingly sweet and tart!
This one’s the easiest of them all. In less than 10 mins, you can have a jar of peanut butter ready for your breakfast serving. All you need are roasted, saltless, skinless peanuts. I still like to light roast it for that extra smokiness. Now, in your mixer, add 250 gms nuts, 1 tbsp organic honey, 1 tbsp groundnut oil, and a pinch of salt. See, I told you it’s as simple as that!
We were a big fan of salad dressings, and our refrigerator door was lined up with an assortment of bottled dressings from Thousand Island to French Vinaigrette, Ranch, Caesar and Italian. One day, we just decided to throw them all away. We didn’t want bottled poison on our fresh salad leaves. Now, we make fresh dressings out of mustard, honey, lime, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc.
I have tried orange marmalade, but it didn’t turn out right. I need to give it another try. Also, it’s been on my mind for some time to make my own ketchup. It’s the season of lovely fiery red tomatoes. Let me see if I can do it justice. I know it’s not much and I have far to go, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Most people associate home food as boring. We call it clean eating. Because we know we have used the best and fresh ingredients good for the body and soul, not to mention the earth too. A few years ago, my husband and I challenged ourselves to refrain from eating outside for 30 days. In those 30 days, we ate no outside food, no packaged or processed food. We even baked our own bread, and being the festival of Diwali, we made our own sweets (chocolate barfi, besan ke laddoo, parwal ki mithai. We ate anything and everything that we made at home, and didn’t shy away from adding ghee, butter, cream, cheese wherever required. And the surprise of all – both of us managed to lose 2 kgs at the end of the month. That’s the power of clean eating.
However, let’s be practical. It’s not feasible to eat at home 365 days, after all we have our social life to respect too. Also, we cannot just throw away all the dressings, noodles, pastas, just like that. I agree, we cannot. However, what we can do is minimize their consumption. And introduce gradually homemade substitute for them, and once we appreciate the taste, stick to the homemade stuff more often than not.
Clean eating is not a fad, it’s a way of life. Let’s embrace it because in this food space of pollution and contamination, it might just save us.
Anshu Bhojnagarwala is a mommy blogger whose parenting blog https://firsttimemommy.net/ is featured as top 10 parenting blogs by BabyChakra. She is mother to a talkative but equally cute 6-year old, Aanya. She believes in the power of homemade food and clean eating, and is spreading awareness through her blog.