The UN General Assembly has designated 18 June as Sustainable Gastronomy Day. The charter says: "The decision acknowledges gastronomy as a cultural expression related to the natural and cultural diversity of the world. Gastronomy is sometimes called the art of food. It can also refer to a style of cooking from a particular region. In other words, gastronomy often refers to local food and cuisine. Sustainability is the idea that something (e.g. agriculture, fishing or even preparation of food) is done in a way that is not wasteful of our natural resources and can be continued into the future without being detrimental to our environment or health. Sustainable gastronomy, therefore, means cuisine that takes into account where the ingredients are from, how the food is grown and how it gets to our markets and eventually to our plates."
In our two-part series marking Sustainable Gastronomy Day, we spoke to a few people behind some of the best eco stays in India to see how they are incorporating these principles in their properties.
Ms Ratika S. Ramchandran, Owner, Svasara Jungle Lodge, Tadoba, Maharashtra
The goal of sustainable gastronomy would result in self-sustained regional agriculture systems, and hence, the communities would benefit from food security. The boost to local/rural economies would reap economic and social benefits, hence reducing the pandemic related trauma resulting out of demand/supply issues with food, and migrant struggles.
Some of the sustainability practices in food at Svasara include an emphasis on zero-waste.The property also adopts traditional wisdom around using as many parts of ingredients as possible. Our pre-planned weekly menus are designed keeping in mind seasonal availability of raw produce. We grow our own organic herbs, seasonal vegetables, and source fresh produce from neighbouring farms. Our kitchen team is from the neighbouring village. Hence, our flavours and style of cooking stays authentic to the Vidarbha region we belong to. Although our menus feature non-regional cuisine too, the recipes are adapted to include locally available ingredients.
We promote, and hence preserve, the cuisine of Vidharbha. Our daily lunch menus feature one 'gavran bhaaji', a local vegetable dish. The vegetables used are generally very uncommon in urban areas. Some examples include phalli (yard long beans), vaal (field beans) and laal chawli (red amaranth).
Mr Aly Rashid, Director, Jehan Numa Retreat, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Green House Bistro, which focuses on the concept of ‘farm to fork/table’ and the philosophy of slow food movement, is the newest addition to the Retreat. It is built next to a farm where we produce like cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, kale, banana, papaya, pomegranate, and more. We also grow herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary, kaffir lime, and bay leaf. Almost 70% of our produce comes from the land at the property. We also grow some indigenous vegetables like sem (Indian beans), batua (during winters), and tinda (Indian squash, baby pumpkin).
We do not use any chemicals or pesticides, everything is organically grown. Our biggest advantage is the black cotton soil. This soil is extremely good for growing vegetables. We have a team of 15 villagers from the neighbouring Prempura village who help us at the farm.
Mr Manvendra Singh Shekhawat, Managing Director, Suryagarh, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Over the years we have worked towards backward integration of our food supply chains. We invested in over 500 acres of our own farmlands which supply us with major grains and pulses. This produce is rain-fed and river-fed agriculture, with no pesticides, insecticides or inorganic fertilisers. We have decomposition pits, culture and we prepare our own fertilisers and natural pesticides and procure heirloom seeds from local communities. We also do some dairy with over 60 Tharparkar cows (native species from Jaisalmer, known for their A2 milk). They are free range and feed on many types of local grasses that we grow). We have created organic gardens at the hotels for fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs.
Between our farms and our hotels we have planted over 2,50,000 native trees, of which over 20,000 trees like ker, khejri, jaal, the ber, gonda and kumha would contribute ingredients to hyperlocal food preparations and over 20,000 fruit and medicinal plants including awla, neem, sejna, anaar for other wellness foods.
The extraordinary, people of these barren lands have taken its meagre offerings and turned it into a wealth of culinary culture and tradition. With less than 15 cms rainfall across endless patches of deserted lands, the community developed the most extraordinary relation with land and wondrous ways to sustain life. At our hotels, through our programme “Feast of the Thar”, we are learning about, documenting and curating traditional foods, methodologies, that have helped local communities over a millennia to survive famines for centuries.
We are now working towards using interesting formats of storytelling and game theory, so that our guests can develop a greater understanding of the histories, social contexts, environmental impact and health benefits of local food ingredients and culinary practices. Engaging with food, not only subliminally but consciously at deeper levels, would contribute to more enriching and hopefully transformative experiences. This, we believe, will have a huge cascading impact on demand and every stakeholder of the supply chain. Our aspiration is really that growing local food becomes most aspirational and economically beneficial for local communities.