Been wanting to write this piece for sometime now. I was able to sneak in and consolidate the information I had on hand and here it is!
The so “Super Foods” were used very normally in day to day lives of people. Modernization/Westernization/Globalization pushed them to the back seat and gave way for a very convenient lifestyle, not to mention the health effects tagged along. After spending time and money we are finding the causes for most of the health issues and diseases are our eating habits and lifestyle and bringing the food items from back seat calling them Super foods. Through this post I share my thoughts on a few of them.
Naatu Sakkarai or Refined Cane Sugar
For those who don’t know, the small towns of Erode district Kavunthapadi and Chittode are the major hubs of Naatu Sakkarai or Cane Sugar in South India. It is because sugarcane is widely cultivated in these areas and locally known as Karumbu Sakkarai. My dad and my uncle bought Naatu Sakkarai from the wholesale market and sold retail in Kangayam for almost 10 years until 1992. They didn’t continue the business because there were no buyers for this sugar and everyone wanted only the refined white sugar. I am told by my dad that the last load that he bought had literally no takers and he had just to leave them for a very very low price at a grocery store in Kangayam.
Those days, I am talking about 90’s, Naatu Sakkarai was very cheap. 65kg bag of sakkarai was sold for 450 INR in the wholesale markets then. Fast forward 20 years per kg is sold for nearly 95 INR!
One of my friends’ mother said that when she was a kid, they used Naatu Sakkarai to make tea and coffee for the workers in the field and house-helps as it was cheaper while the landlords used refined sugar. Now it is exactly the other way around !
The growing awareness on the healthy substitutes for refined white sugar has gained a good market for the Naatu Sakkarai. Many tea stalls in the Kongu region now serve Naatu Sakkarai tea and coffee. I don’t have to detail about the sweet stalls selling Jilebi and Halwas made of unrefined sugar varieties like Naatu Sakkarai and Karupatty aka Palm Sugar.
We have reached a state where every dish that is made using rice can be now substituted with one of the millets. In addition to the millets, people have started buying unpolished rice, red rice, maapillai samba rice, kavuni, etc which have higher health benefits than the regular polished white rice.
Everytime I come down for vacation, I take back ragi powder which is prepared from grinding the ragi in a mill. We know a person as Raman who comes to help my parents with gardening once in a while. He is around 70 years old and still cycles nearly 20 kms from his village to our place. One day he happened to see the Ragi that was being sun-dried and asked what was it for. When I told him that I was going to take it to Kuwait and use it to make koozh/porridge, he started laughing out loud. He was like “We poor people who can’t afford white rice eat ragi, kambu and other millets. Now you people are taking it across countries and having koozh!”. The farming that he does and the millets that he has been eating all these years is the reason behind his wellness even at the age of 70.
We have realized it very later and now going back to the millet diet. The millets which were affordable even by poor people has now become the fancy healthy alternatives of the urban crowd.
One of my friends mentioned that she tasted Kambu brownies in Tirupur. Interesting eh!
It really took me time to know that the humble drumstick leaves is known as the Moringa! Our households have been using drumstick leaves in their daily menu by using them in adais, cooked with dhal as a curry for rice and added to butter in the process of making ghee at home. Soup made of drumstick leaves is a super food that is being given to carrying and lactating mothers for years now.
The west have woken up to this a few years back and now every other social media Influencer is promoting Moringa Tea and powder like it was recently discovered super food.
This shocked me like no other because Pazhaya Saadham/ left over rice soaked in water overnight is very common and it is the breakfast,lunch and dinner in many families who cannot afford a hot meal on a daily basis. The water that is used for soaking is said to have good bacteria and rich in probiotics. It is said to have coolant properties and cure stomach ulcers.
These days super markets and online stores have started selling Probiotic water in sealed bottles and being advertised as a super liquid food! Most of us shy away from eating the leftover rice at home thinking it is something had only by the poor but now we buy the bottled probiotics from stores.
Would like to know your thoughts on the returning back to the old food habits. Please do share in the comments.