We often trace the ecology of cultures across time and space, with an open mind. However, our food habits are largely growing mono cultural. Expansion of cuisines has been lost somewhere and our taste buds have started revolting against today’s moribund palate. Celebration of food diversity is no longer given importance which is a sign of losing out on tradition in the urge to embrace modernity. However, is this modernity of any use? If we lose the knowledge and culture of local cuisines, we stand to lose much more than their taste and smell. We urgently need to bring back the diversity of nature in our kitchen and flavors on our plate. Experimenting with traditional recipes originating in different parts of the country needs to be done. This experimentation will amalgamate a remarkable diversity of taste gathered from rainforests, forest, desert, hills and farms. The specific recipes, ingredients, culinary methods and eating habits of each region are actually expressions of a sophisticated collective wisdom that has evolved out of a keen study of natural environment. In a globalized world, the local is the new modern. Rigid notions of modernity often exclude diversity. But, for that, the local needs to be conceptualized afresh to chart out a life affirming map of food diversity, and biodiversity in our times. Here are 10 lost cuisines that can bring back the diversity of nature into your kitchen!
10. Jute Leaf Pakoras
Jute leaves are often known to botanists as plants that are economically important, but not as food. However, jute leaves as a snack comes as a surprise to many. Mix gram flour with poppy seeds and salt. Make the batter, add spices and fry the Pakoras. They are a very good source of nutrition and will tickle your taste buds, too.
9. Kokum Sherbet
Kokum’s tanginess can transport you to a different world altogether. It refreshes and rejuvenates you. It is a healthy substitute for other carbonated and caffeinated beverages. Moreover, it relieves you of acidity and other stomach infections. It is especially effective in summers as it cools the mind and body keeping heat at bay. Kokum is scientifically known as Garcinia Indica and thrives in areas with relatively low rainfall. It has tamarind like taste and is used as a spice in many regions. It has a distinctive blackish red color and is frequently used for flavor balance. Kokum sherbet improves digestion and cools the body.
8. Rhododendron Squash
Juices of rhododendron flower have a distinctive taste and color. They are used to make jams, pickles and squashes. The flower is enjoyed for its sour taste. It is marketed and manufactured in Nepal and Uttarakhand, India. Indiscriminate felling of the rhododendron tree signals the loss of a singular taste. The pickled flower can last for months and is also usually added to fish curry to soften the bones.
7. Amla Pickle
The ubiquitous vitamin rich Amla or Gooseberry is very good for the stomach and can heal almost all the appetite related problems. The numerous benefits of Amla cannot be replicated. Efforts to document amla’s earlier cuisines have made many people realize its true benefits. Moreover, Amla pickle is very tasty and spicy and is loved by one and all. Amla is a source of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus. It is usually stored in refrigerator.
6. Makhana Snack
Food is a way of balancing the body with the environment. The nutritious Makhana is used in pujas and rituals across north and east India. Besides this, it is also used as bread, curry, dessert and snack. Makhanas are an ode to nostalgia, they remind you of a bitter sweet memory as they are normally used and eaten on auspicious occasions. Makhana usually grows in the wild in Bihar’s wetlands and ponds. However, it has the potential to generate a multi crore enterprise. It is also said to heal cardiovascular disease and post-delivery pain.
5. Navara Stew
Food recipes are framed by contextualizing whole information about a particular food item, its nutritious, medicinal, festive and ritual importance. Rice, for example has got many varieties with different special features. The medicinal Navara variety is usually cultivated in the land locked Palakkad district. Rice is the staple of many cultures used as a source of nutrition, medicine, ritual offering, kolams, festive celebrations, etc. Rice is common in Bengal, Kerala and other South Indian states.
4. Millets and Sorghum
Extremely nutritious and drought resistant, millets and sorghum were introduced in India during the Green Revolution. Millets and sorghum were generally the staple diet of the poor which have got replaced by rice and wheat over time. They appear across central India. Sorghum can be eaten with mineral rich mahua flowers. The kodo millet has five times the fiber content of rice and can be stored for 20 years as it is resistant to pests.
3. Bamboo shoots
Bamboo shoots are used in Asian dishes and are edible. In Asia, normally bamboo shoots are boiled in water with turmeric powder and then served after removing their bitterness. Bamboo is also used as a pickle and is a delicacy served all across the world. In Japan, China and Taiwan bamboo is harvested during the spring season. Fermented bamboo shoots and fresh bamboo shoots are also eaten. Bamboos are best eaten with roasted or fried tomatoes.
2. Horse Gram
Gahat Dal or Horse Gram is another nutritious food item which is no longer prepared. It is drought tolerant and is also considered good for kidney stones. Its flavors are characterized by an inherently refined aesthetic of minimalism. As long as connectedness with food crops remains in everyday life, biodiversity of food stays. Once destroyed, it cannot be replenished or replicated. Horse Gram is recognized for its ability to address gut related problems and other issues with the appetite. It is not an important everyday taste on our tongues today and therefore we have lost all links with it.
It is paradoxical that the world over, communities are perturbed by health concerns arising due to modern agriculture such as anemia and joint pains. Conventional agriculture, on the other hand, had no room for such ailments. We need to nourish the same vegetables that we uprooted earlier. Drumsticks are commonly eaten by South Indians. Summer coolers like the palash flower’s cooling flavor are also common there. Not many are familiar with the drumstick and its environmental significance. It has some distinct qualities which make it outstandingly rich in vitamins and calcium. Also, its seeds have captured the research community’s imagination for their ability to purify water.