‘Why have you ordered multi-grain atta?’
‘I thought we had switched to multi-grain.’
‘That was last month, now its mono-grain. But multi mono-grain. Wheat, bajra, jowar on weakdays, ragi, sattu, madva on weekends....’
We are also non mono-oil. Our kitchen has mustard, groundnut, sesame, rice bran, palm, sunflower, safflower, olive, coconut, cottonseed, corn, and castor. They are all virgin and come out of a drizzler. My mother, a spry 75-year-old, brought up on Parachute, almost dropped the coconut oil bottle when she saw its price, Rs 1,100 a litre (it would have shattered, too, since we have switched from plastic to glass bottles). Our juice is cold-pressed, milk is raw, honey is wild. All wildly expensive. A trip to the specialist food store sometimes means redeeming a couple of mutual funds. The reasoning being, it is better to fatten the grocers now than hospitals later.
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Bengal Sweets Corner makes its second lot of bread pakodas around five in the evening, in the dense and dark oil left from the morning, which adds that extra zing. Around the same time, Rainbow Bakery (both near Outlook’s head office in Delhi) gets its fresh trays of chicken patties, glistening with grease slithering off your fingers. It’s the hour the Madrasi stall fries crispy, golden vadas. They must be still making them, but my soul has flown far above these frying cauldrons. My companions at the pre-evening hunger pangs at office nowadays are chia seeds and fox nuts. It used to be fried peanuts and potato wafers with cocktails in the evening. Now, it is sauteed Swiss chards and roasted steel-cut oats. The drinks themselves have come down from six a day to two a week, which is just as well, because you can’t swallow more than that with baked Kale chips. There is no question of a hangover after this, but to be on the safer side there is always the pick-me-up shot of ginger-turmeric-lemon-pepper-clove-cinnamon decoction at hand.
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We are also off processed sugar. So goji berries have replaced gajar halwa for dessert. If chomping on these berries leaves me unsated, there is a bowl of sabja seeds afterwards. What are they? Remember those tiny, pearly, cottony balls they put in kulfi-falooda or nannari water? There is no kulfi or falooda, of course. It’s like feasting on the sesame seeds off the bun of a juicy burger.
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But, happily, some past sinners have turned saints. Till the other day cashew nuts were called cholesterol pills; now we start the day with cashew milk. The new thinking on keto diet is that ghee is good and butter is better. Yesterday, eggs gave you heart attack; today, egg yolk is better than its white (our eggs are tan brown, orange middle, laid by free-range, happy hens with full fundamental rights, Rs 30 apiece).
But sometimes I wonder if these superfoods are having the opposite effect and making me a wimp. Is it the mercury in fish, bromide in bread, lead in lobsters, antibiotics in chicken, urea in vegetables, cadmium in chilly powder, DDT in cereals, arsenic in apples, sulphur in sauces that shield us Indians from going belly-up?
Satish Padmanabhan is Executive Editor, Outlook