In the past few years, I’ve developed an interest in cooking. I binge-watched the Great British Baking Show and practically worshipped Ina Garten. But after months of churning out pastas and pies, I began to miss the foods that were most familiar to me. I reminisced about my grandmother’s cheese filled paratha and fresh poori we had during our Indian Thanksgiving. So one day, I called my grandmother over and asked her to teach me how to make chana batura. She pulled out her infamous silver spices tin native to Indian cooking and threw the spices in without any measuring cups. After an indeterminable amount of time, the smell of turmeric and onions filled my home, and we dug into the fruits of our labor.
Although many Indians love the food of their homeland, many of them have also suffered the consequences of consuming large amounts of ghee and fried foods in the form of cardiac disease and diabetes, two of the biggest killers in the United States. Many of the diets focused on mitigating these diseases are based on Western foods. If you look through the recommended recipes on the American Diabetes Association website, the closest they get to a culturally diverse recipe is a burrito bowl, which isn’t even an authentic Hispanic dish.1 On the American Heart Association website, none of the foods labeled “Asian” are at best Americanized imitations of Asian dishes.2 Although there are some less well-known websites that list out diabetes-friendly recipes based on culture, the majority of health diets do not take into account the cultural diversity of hospital populations in this country.3
I called my grandmother a few weeks later to ask her whether there were dishes in Indian cuisine that were considered healthy. She said that most Indian dishes were highly caloric because people there were more concerned with having enough to eat rather than eating too much. This could explain why in times of excess, people who are eating large amounts of fattening foods are suffering the consequences. Still, there were some dishes she knew about that seemed promising. She mentioned that when there was someone sick in the household, they were fed a mixture of yogurt, rice, and lentils, a high protein dish that used minimal butter.
Could it be possible to balance our food culture with maintaining a healthy diet? Can we make changes that preserve flavor while sacrificing the less savory, fatty ingredients? Throughout this blog series, I will interview people from various cultural backgrounds to determine their “health foods’ and analyze the historical background and nutritional value behind popular recipes. At the end of this, I hope to better understand what it means to “eat healthy” from both a cultural and nutritional perspective.
- American Diabetes Association. www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/cookbook-recipes. (accessed Nov. 20, 2017)
- American Heart Association. www.recipes.heart.org. (accessed Nov. 28, 2017)
- Eating Right Ontario. www.eatrightontario.ca (accessed Nov. 23, 2017)
- Image: https://petitworldcitizen.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/img_1678.jpg