Bon Appétit!

ANIKA SHARMA

My fondest childhood memories have never been about food. It’s probably because my side of the family comes from a “non food-obsessed” background. The food in our house was about basics – three meals and the occasional snack. The kitchen was never the center of the house. Mind you, the food was always healthy. In fact my mother was very particular that she served us the right mix of carbohydrates and protein, but it was simple food. I have no memories of my mother sweating over the kitchen stove to make us a special treat or cooking up a storm. We ate to live and not the other way around.

So I grew up believing that there was more to life than spending endless hours in the kitchen. After all I was a woman of the modern world – out to break some glass ceilings of my own, rise up the corporate ladder and prove a thing or two to everybody. And if along the way marriage and children happened, so be it.

Marriage and children did happen. And perhaps by chance, I got married to this man who came from a completely food-obsessed family. In their house, their days started and ended with food. My motherin-law loves to cook and frequently experiments with new dishes. Holidays and special occasions in their house were all celebrated with “food gusto” – special home-cooked dishes and aromas filling the house up. To my husband, even today, a good meal is always one that is made at home.

I, of course, was still not convinced about food and its power. Then I spoke to my Italian friend – a woman of the world, but she always has her stove going. It does not matter what time you drop into her house – she will always have some fresh homemade food ready – rich multi-bean soups to Tuscany vegetables to fresh homemade pasta. In fact, she actually believes that if only everybody was well-fed with good, rich, homemade food, there would be less fighting and violence in the world!

She probably has a point. So I tried it in my own house. I started making homemade food – simple stuff – some fresh lentils, a green vegetable and some homemade bread. My family’s reaction was unbelievable. First and foremost, no matter which part of the house they were in, as soon as the aroma of the food started sweeping across the house, they all quickly graduated to the kitchen. Which was strange…it was one of the few times that the family was together, without television’s overwhelming presence. They also ate on time for a change – the fresh food went from the gas top to the dining table and so did the family members. My husband usually likes to unwind, have a drink, watch some television and then eat – which means he never ate with the family and by the time he ate, it was almost midnight, every night! Now, with just the fresh food sitting there, with all of us eating it, he too joined us without being told to.

I was a transformed person. Not only was my family eating fresh, healthy food, the qualities of which we cannot shout from the rooftops enough, but also I had somehow got my family back. They surrounded me. And while we were in the kitchen, we chewed on raw carrots, ate cucumbers and lettuce – stuff we would not have eaten if it were staring in our faces from the dining table.

The ancient Indian scriptures say that if you make the same thing, no matter how simple, with your heart and soul into it, it would taste delectable vs. if you simply made it as a chore. I have seen this working. It is true. Today, I, who could not be woken up early by a herd of trumpeting elephants, get up early in the morning to make fresh food for my children, pack lunches of homemade food, garden-picked salads and yogurt with no additives. My day is made when my son comes back from school with an empty lunch box, with yummy written all over his face.

Food – the dictionary takes the romance out of the concept by defining it as: Material, usually of plant or animal origin, that contains or consists of essential body nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, and is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth, and maintain life. Something that nourishes or sustains in a way suggestive of physical nourishment: food for thought; food for the soul.

What’s important here, however, is the word nourishment. I have found for myself that fresh homemade food not only nourishes the body, but also the mind and the soul. I actually have a “family,” thanks to food. We have, hopefully, reduced our cholesterol levels, thanks to eating at home. Add organic to that, and we hope that with all that we are investing, in terms of money, time and labor into this, we will, in the course of time, be able to give all big, scary diseases, boot in no time. Or at least work towards it.

Today I have learnt the joys for myself and as there is enough evidence about homemade food’s superior nutrition, I will not waste any paper here. Being a friendly person, I really like the fact, that just like my Italian friend, if somebody was to drop in unannounced, I would have something homemade ready…or as I call it – soul food. George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” He sure knew what he was talking about. Bon appétit!

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