Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1869)
Now, the use of culture is that it helps us, by means of its spiritual standard of perfection, to regard wealth as but machinery, and not only to say as a matter of words that we regard wealth as but machinery, but really to perceive and feel that it is so. If it were not for this purging effect wrought upon our minds by culture, the whole world, the future, as well as the present, would inevitably belong to the Philistines. The people who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being very rich, and who most give their lives and thoughts to becoming rich, are just the people whom we call the Philistines. Culture says: “Consider these people, then, their way of life, their habits, their manners, the very tones of their voices; look at them attentively; observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure, the words which come forth out of their mouths, the thoughts which make the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having with the condition that one was to become just like these people by having it?”
We all love to change the traditional ways of making food but what we don’t expect is that we are introducing new elements in the game of food. Food is chemistry and what we do to it has repercussions to the end product and to our health. However, it is fun to experiment and to explore creative foods and ideas. The problem is that traditional recipes come to us with rules and restrictions and we need to know when and why to make changes to them. Or not. Like cooking spinach with a fat and an acid to make sure the iron is absorbed in the body- something that I did on a regular basis. So this changed when I put spinach in a smoothie with a banana and yogurt. There was no fat or acid added. Spinach, a green micro-nutrient was a total loss to my system and to the process of setting up a new routine.
And consider dal or lentils.
A nutritionist I follow on instagram gave me some details on lentils. She posted about the lentil cheela with lots of vegetables and that got me thinking to how when my father suffered with kidney and liver problems and the doctor suggested eating less toor dal or any dal (lentil). He was a mid-life teetotaler, so alcohol was not the reason. The nutritionist said this about the dal intake- “…Ayurveda has already prescribed ways to prevent the ill effects of lentils. Think about our dal ka tadka with asfoetida, garlic, cumin and chillies or sambar that is made with tamarind and a tadka or the various fermented lentil preparations. The oxalates and purines in lentils are associated with oxalate type stones in kidney but if lentils are cooked according to Ayurveda prescribed ways and one consumes enough water, there is no need to worry.”
Thank you Sangeetha Khanna for this, and I would suggest you follow her blog and posts for more interesting information on food and nutrition guidance.
Memory, nostalgia are a part of food.
One of the socio-psychological infrastructure of a community is it’s food practices and rituals. The rituals, mores related to it, have a binding quality. At the same time these are the reason for oppression in many ways. But how are they oppressive? Lets break it down in a way where one can dissect and examine it.
Food is an integral part of a life as it provides the nutrition needed but also a social fact wherein it is consumed in an environment that has the companions, significant others that participate in the process. If the food is bought, it has a easy albeit a monetary value but is also a matter of affordability and can be seen in two ways. If you can afford to buy optimal, nutritious and good food, then you belong to the high income economic bracket. If you are unable to buy it but instead buy sub-optimal, low on nutrition, cheap food then you belong to the low income category. There are variations to this which can be explained but that is another write-up.
Food interrupts lives on a daily basis and this interruption is something of an ongoing challenge. It is in a sense oppressive as one is always having to think of food for the self, for the offspring and maybe a partner if that is available. First it is in this sense about tastes, likes and dislikes of all the people mentioned second it is about tradition that may or may not be healthy and third, it is about preparation- which is all work with a set agenda. This is an interruption because it keeps one away from engaging in otherwise useful pursuits. (And yes, there is an argument to be made for making this interruption a useful pursuit in and of itself).
Some of the tropes that come to mind, growing are stories around food, festivals, rituals, ways of life that are still the binding factor for families and communities.
Food is about the nostalgia and at the same time a battleground for oppression.
“…food sits at the intersection of biological or material and symbolic aspects of human life. Food is essential for life because we need its energy and nutrients as biological creatures. But the nature of our humanity lies in our social practices, and thus our ability to sustain ourselves involves more than nutrients. What we eat is a “sign of membership, social status and spiritual worth. Eating the same food as others is a mark of belonging… The practice of feeding a family involves, meeting, what Stone calls “communal needs” which include “community, solidarity, a sense of belonging; dignity, respect, self-esteem, and honor; friendship and love” .
Food is a social act, in essence, it is about sharing and belonging. The very nature of cooking then starts with pots and plates, meant not just for a singular consumer. Eating alone however, is not an anathema but the process of cooking and eating has come to mean a bit more than sustenance and hence the challenges of sustenance eating. The contradiction is within the logic of food- you have to eat together as humans but you have to eat within your limits.
At this time of thanksgiving in the United States and the onslaught of food-voices and choices from every possible avenue- it is a nice reminder to put things in perspective and to register this holiday for what it is.
The physical body over the mental- which comes first? Is it the chicken or the egg? Or is it easier than that? I practiced the mental well being for far too long and got hit by the lack of the physical care that was needed. Hence the effort to get to the core of it and understand how both are connected.
The inevitable dawning of common sense
For a number of years for me, the refining of the thought process to understand a social problem (as a sociologist) was to me a far critical issue to work towards. It has become my default setting for the longest time I could remember. The idea of “seeking help” was not an option to fix this lack of understanding- if it came about. I always knew that the most nonsensical of the problems has a solution, if only one reads more about it or finds ways to newer understandings and the truth as I seek it would unravel in front of me.
The mind-body connection, or the physical-body problem in the form of high BMI, is a new one that life has dealt in a fashion that now cannot be ignored. This is a warning sign of what’s more to come soon. On the other hand, the lack of a right mind-set that makes you look like a dim-wit in a certain circle, like your class mates in the Sociology class, was a warning sign. I clarified my ideas and concepts by reading more and more, to arrive at an understanding that not only made me “wise” but also got the grades I was looking for.
The Tibetan monks who came from Hubli, Karnataka had this to teach today at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health. How to do a job well, to focus on one item at any time and breathe in with it, taking it all in. They are mindful of creating the mandala- they focus on the process. The process consists of first making a draft of the mandala with the outline on the surface. Then using colored sand, pouring it into the cones with holes at the ends. Then you inhale and exhale lightly, settle down by bending into a comfortable position and start tapping the sand onto the design. You orchestrate your hands to move the cone a few millimeters a second to create the pattern- and all this while continuously breathing. This is an ongoing process for 6-8 days to create a beautiful mandala.
The whole point of this activity then is to do a job well and wait for the beauty to come through (or not). This is an example for how any piece of work needs to be done. The end result may not be a visible product like the mandala here. It could be a small task taken to it’s end, accomplished well.
After creating the mandala, there is a ceremony done to celebrate its beauty and the aspect of working and accomplishing something together. The monks then let go of the beauty in the mandala by sweeping the sand up- the work is done and done well. The essence of it is gathered while creating it -it is this essence which we find common in the doctrine of mindfulness. It is knowing that what needs to be done is a “do-now”. It is the “do-now” that one needs to focus upon, this moment. The rest will follow through.
(Picture Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16371236)
Target Numbers for Asian Indians to Prevent Heart Disease
Non HDL Cholesterol less than 130 mg/dl 
(Total Cholesterol-HDL= Non HDL Cholesterol)
LDL-Cholesterol less than 100 mg/dl 
HDL-Cholesterol greater than 40 mg/dl for males and greater than 50 mg/dl for females 
Blood pressure: less than 140/80 mm
Waist Circumference: less than 35″ for men and less than 31″ for women
What is HDL cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein is a part of the total cholesterol measurement. It is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. The recommended level for men with diabetes is greater than 40mg/dl and for women with diabetes is greater than 50 mg/dl.
What is LDL cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein is a part of the total cholesterol in the blood. It is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. LDL should be less than 70mg/dl for those with diabetes and/or heart disease.
Dietary Recommendations to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol level
The National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III recommends:
1. Adjust caloric intake to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
2. Choose a diet low in saturated fat (less than 7% of caloric intake), trans-fat (less than 1 % of caloric intake) and dietary cholesterol (less than 200 mg/day) by consuming a diet high in fish (especially fatty fish), non-fat dairy products, small amounts of lean meat and/or lean meat alternatives e.g. dry beans e.g. rajma, channa, soybeans (like edamame), lentils (daal) and tofu.
3. Include food sources of plant sterols & stanols. At the recommended dosage of 2 gm per day, plant sterols reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestine by up to 30% and reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol by 10%. Plant sterols have the same chemical structure as animal cholesterol which blocks the absorption of cholesterol eaten in the diet as well as
cholesterol manufactured by the liver.
4. Increase intake of viscous (soluble) fiber to 7-13g daily e.g. oats, fruits such as strawberries, apples, vegetables such as okra, eggplant, brussel sprouts and legumes such as lentils. Soluble fiber can lower LDL cholesterol 3-5%. It is recommended that adults eat 21 to 38 grams of total fiber daily.
Source: Indian Foods: AAPI’s Guide to Nutrition, Health and Diabetes
Edited by RANJITA MISRA Professor & Research Director, Texas A&M University
As one sits through the day at a screen without movement (like I have for the last two hours, looking at the clock) and wonder at the amazing technology- I also lock up the circulatory system Continue reading “movement”
What is heart healthy and why? Understand what it means to stay healthy! Be proactive about testing for diseases- know your challenges with genes and with your environment. Be equipped to deal with it. Coming soon- engage with your fitness calculators to enable better eating and working out. Know when to exercise more and do it. Find out about fitness classes around you and take on the extra work during the holidays. We all have the time to do it if you get it all together.
Sometimes I jot down a recipe in any form and place and use it aplenty later. It becomes a staple because someone loved it a lot. And that’s how I roll when I look for favorites- I ask my family or friends for a recipe and they share it or I write it down. This tawa masala recipe survived my two iPhone notes-app and lived through a toilet bowl flush- almost. Then I salvaged it into an email folder that still survives- technology! Continue reading “Tawa Masala”