FUNDAMENTALS OF COOKING
दीपो भक्षयते ध्वान्तं कज्जलं च प्रसूयते।
यदन्नं भक्षयेन्नित्यं जायते तादृशी प्रजा॥ चाणक्यनीति॥
(Just as) lamp eats (destroys) darkness and produces (black) soot, in the same manner (quality of) food (man) eats daily, has an influence on his offspring's nature.
जैसे दीप अन्धकार का भक्षण करता हैं और कज्जल उत्पन्न करता हैं, वैसे ही (मनुष्य) जिस प्रकार का अन्नसेवन करता है, उसी प्रकार की उस की संतान जन्म लेती हैं।
2. Cooking is a scientific art and only an artist can create a work of art, which is enjoyed by all. It is a pity that in this land of Ashana Kalpa – the scientific treatise of cooking and eating - we take pride in imitating the West and deride our grandmother’s recipes. Our earlier venerated books are full of these descriptions. The Mangal Granths of Bengal (Manasaa Mangal, Adwait Mangal etc) are a rich depository of many excellent recipes. We all know about the story of Nala-Damayanti, but remember it only as a love story. How many people know that King Nala was an excellent cook? When he faithfully tried to accomplish the task assigned to him by Indra, Agni, varuna and Yama (who were eager to marry Damayanti) of persuading her to marry one of them, the Gods were pleased with his sincerity even though Damayanti did not agree to marry them. They offered him a boon. King Nala wanted to learn the method of cooking that gives health & strength (from Indra), taste (from Agni), how to cook with or without water (from varuna) and keep away decease and death (from Yama). When misfortune befell him, King Nala worked as a cook in another King’s palace. There the other King asked him about the secrets of his excellent cooking and King Nala had to reveal it. That’s how it came to be known to all.
3. Cooking methodology in India has various divisions:
1: As the physiochemical agent meant for nourishing and sustaining the body, all food belong to one group. When not cooked properly or eaten without proper considerations, it is the cause for disease.
2: Based on its potency and digestibility (veerya and vipaaka), they are mainly of two types: ushma veerya and sheeta veerya and laghu and guru, though there are other types also (mrhdu, teekshna, guru, laghu or pichhila/vishada, snigdha, rhksha). They can overpower the effect of rasa. When disagreeable to the body, they create two types of diseases: aggravate the existing problems (nija) or create new problems (aagantu), which may not be apparent immediately. Further, it gets divided into two types: useful ingredient that nourishes the body (saara) or toxic waste (mala).
3. They affect the balance of the body in three ways: vaata, pitta, kapha, which arise due to the digestibility (vipaaka - after the rasa is processed by jaatharaagni) of katu, amla and madhura rasa respectively. This induces first of the three causes of decease: vishama indreeyaartha sannikarsha. Also the food has its own prabhaava – effect, even when the rasa (guna), veerya and vipaaka are equal. It is like wearing a gem stone, which has its effect on the person wearing it.
4. Based on the mechanism of eating, food is divided into four categories: chewable with teeth (chavya), suck-able with lips (choshya), lap-able with tongue (lehya), and drinkable with throat (peya). When the different items are taken together, it is called bhakshya and when each item is taken course by course, it is called bhojya. Each of these could have many varieties. For example, drinkable with throat (peya) can be swarasa, kalka, kwaatha, hima or phaanta. Similarly, kwaatha can be aasava or arishta.
5. Based on the method of cooking, food is divided into five categories: powdered form (Chhattuka), sugar based (ladduka), oil & spice based (modaka), sour taste base (kaanjika) and boiled (anna). The ingredients are a combination of the five fundamental constituents of Nature: pancha bhuta (prhthwi, ap, teja, marut, vyoma). They are necessary to ameliorate the effects of different seasons, which are treated as five for the purpose of cooking (Hemanta and Shishira are taken together as they have similar effect on the body only varying in degrees). Thus, the time of the day is also divided into five categories: praatah, saangava, madhyaanha, aparaanha and saayaanha. You don’t like in morning what you like to take in the afternoon, etc. The pancha bhuta have characteristics of sthirataa, dravatwa, ushmataa, gati and apratishedha respectively, which exhibit the properties of guru, snigdha, teekshna, rhksha, laghu respectively. These have different characteristics.
6. Different fundamental tastes (rasa) are only six in number. They can’t be more or less. The solid constituents (prhthwi) of our body can be deformed by fluids, heat or gases (ap, teja, marut). Combination of any two of these creates a rasa (ras gatou). Space (vyoma) is inert. Thus, it makes three rasas. Fluids can be deformed by heat or air. This makes two rasas. Heat can be affected by air. This makes one rasas. The total is six. Ours is carbon based life that is sustained primarily by water. Sweet taste is said to be a combination of prithwi and jal. Chemical formula for sugar is C6H12O6, C11H22O11, etc. or x(C + H2O), which proves it. Every ingredient of cooking has a mixture of these tastes. For example, neem and bitter gourd also contain sweetness, though their dominant taste is bitter. After chewing it, mouth retains the sweet taste. Garlic contains 5 tastes. Hence it is called rasona (rasa una meaning deficient in one taste).
7. There are seven styles of cooking in different pots: bharjanam (dry frying in a pot or on heated sand), talanam (frying with oil), sweda (baking/heating to take away moisture), pachanam (boiling), kwathanam (soup), taanduram (heating in a tandur), and putapaaka (heating from top and bottom). The food gets converted into useful ingredients that nourish the body (saara) or toxic waste (mala) in seven phases (sapta dhaatu). Thereafter the toxic waste gets eliminated completely and the remaining pure element (shukra – both of men and women) gets converted into oja that provides the immunity system to the body. Impurity of oja due to unnatural sexual habits is AIDS (oja kshyaya). Pure oja gets transformed to shape our mental faculties. The concept of Aamish – Niraamish (different from veg - non-veg) is based on this principle. Our internal body temperature is constant within a range of 380C. Once the food breaks up and enters our stomach, it is exposed to this heat. Digestion process takes about 5 to 6 hours. Thus, any food that remains non-toxic at 380C temperature for 5-6 hours after breaking up; is called Niraamish, as what the body absorbs from it is nutritious. Hence it is good for health. On the other hand, broken up food that is fermented at 380C within 5-6 hours is called Aamish, as what the body absorbs from it is toxic. For this reason, milk of Deshi (not Jersy) Cows, which is animal product, is Niraamish, whereas plant products like onion, garlic, kalamba saak and black gram etc are called Aamish as after cutting/grinding it, it gets fermented at 380C in a few hours.
8. There are twelve considerations (pravichaara) for deciding the Menu. The same menu is not suitable for different times of the day or season or for different persons of different health and age groups or for the same person with different physical conditions like relaxed, tired, sick, etc. The preferences of children are different from the young and the old. The preferences of a sick or tired person are different from a healthy and relaxed person. Etc. The preferences for morning are different from those of the noon or night. The preferences for winter are different from those for the summer. Etc.
9. The chemical properties of the ingredients used for cooking (dravya guna) are of 20 types, of which 10 (guru, manda, hima, snigdha, shlakshna, saandra, mrhdu, sthira, sookshma, vishada) are guna and the other 10 (laghu, teekshna, ushma, rhksha, khara, drava, kathina, sara, sthoola, pichhila) are their opposite guna. Unless the cook knows it and balances the ingredients based on their chemical properties and tastes, it will have an adverse effect on the body, besides not being too tasty. For example, when we mash boiled potatoes (and other vegetables) we should add a little bit of mustard oil (may be fried chili for those who can take it) and a pinch of additional salt to make it tastier. Without the additional salt it would not taste as good. Similarly, most winter vegetables generate wind. Adding a pinch of aesphotida suitably will negate the effect. In oily and spicy preparations, which are difficult to digest, we add ginger and ajwain. Though garlic is the best plant product from the health point of view, it hinders intellectual advancement. Hence many people avoid it.
10. There are twenty-four alternative considerations (vikalpa) that must be kept in view before cooking. The first among these is time (seasonal effects – ritu charyaa, time of day effect – dina charyaa, etc). The menu should be chosen according to the time and condition of the taker. The second is allergy (saatmya). Some people are allergic to some food. The third is the quantity (maatra). Plantain is good for health. But too much plantain can damage the liver. One should not take too much of something and little of other things. It must be a balanced diet. Etc. Now a days, people are very conscious cholesterol and avoid ghee. But what about the Marwaris, who take plenty of ghee? Do they all die of cardiac arrest? The Gujratis take plenty of sugar. Are they all diabetic? As King Nala says, there is no defect in the food. It is how the food is cooked and how you eat it that determines the outcome.
11. There are sixty-two types of combinations of tastes (rasa) and deceases can be classified into sixty-two types corresponding to these. Hence food itself can be used as the medicine to cure all deceases provided we know it properly.
4. Besides, we must know about natures of after food drink (anupaana), forbidden combinations in cooking (viruddha bhojana), etc, which not only helps in easy digestion, but also prevents indigestion and food poisoning. For example, lots of people drink lemon juice with water (without salt) after dinner parties that end with sweets. This helps in digestion. But this is not good for dinner that ends with pungent taste like kashaa maamsa. Similarly, there are many forbidden combinations. Camphor added with milk, sugar and banana is an antidote for diarrhea. But camphor with coconut water is poison. Food prepared according to the right combinations will not only be tasty, but also healthy. The so-called heath foods or drinks are really unhealthy as they are not balanced as per one’s individual requirement. Hence their effect on all is not similar. In most cases, it creates other problems in the long run – particularly for the children. Viagra has adverse health effects. But govindbhog rice (shaali dhaanya) and milk can give the same effect without adverse health effects.
5. Here we cite one recipe for winter as an example. In winter, there is a normal tendency of constipation. Hence Nature provides vegetables such as peas, green gram, etc that soften the stool and cauliflower, cabbage, radish, etc that generate wind pressure. Thus, the softened stool easily comes out. But in summer, when the normal tendency is loose motion, these wind forming food are forbidden, as it creates more stomach and wind related problems, besides being tasteless. Yet, we eat these not so tasty vegetables all round the year by paying higher costs inviting health problems and feel proud about it. What we should do is try this alternative in winter mornings.
6. Take some govindbhog rice, some pre-soaked green gram, bay leaves, ginger, aesphotida, salt and ghee. Boil water (measured quantity) and add all ingredients except ghee under medium heat. When cooked, add ghee, switch off heat, cover it and leave it for sometime. Then eat it hot. As a side dish there can be many alternative preparations. Here is one example.
7. Take some raw radish and grate it finely. Get some apples and cut it in small cubes. Get some pomegranate seed, some coriander leaves finely chopped, a table spoonful of sugar, salt to taste, some curd, one spoonful of ghee and some panch-phoron. Heat the ghee and fry the panch-phoron in extremely slow heat till the fragrance comes out. Add the other ingredients except curd and coriander leaves and stir for a minute. Then add curd and stir for a minute. Take out and garnish with coriander leaves. Both these preparations will take less than half hour.
8. As you can see, the gram and radish will keep your bowel clear. Aesphotida will check wind formation, ghee will provide luster and check cracks in the lips and feet. Ginger will help in digestion. Bay leaves will keep the body warm and remove cough. Etc. For winter nights, we recommend the following recipe. Boil some water in a kadai and add pinches of ajwain, salt and grated ginger. Then add flour and allow it to boil for some time. Make dough and prepare chapattis with it. Apply ghee and serve hot with a side dish. It is tasty, healthy and easy to prepare and digest.
9. The food pairing hypothesis is the idea that ingredients that share the same flavors ought to combine well in recipes. For example, the English chef Heston Blumenthal discovered that white chocolate and caviar share many flavors and turn out to be a good combination. Other unusual combinations that seem to confirm the hypothesis include strawberries and peas, asparagus and butter, and chocolate and blue cheese. But in recent years researchers have begun to question how well this hypothesis holds in different cuisines. For example, food pairing seems to be common in North American and Western European cuisines but absent in cuisines from southern Europe and East Asia.
10. Indian cuisine is characterized by strong negative food pairing. Not only that, but the strength of this negative correlation is much higher than anything previously reported. They also found that specific ingredients dramatically effect food pairing. For example, the presence of cayenne pepper strongly biases the flavor sharing pattern of Indian cuisine towards negative pairing. Other ingredients that have a similar effect include green bell pepper, coriander, garam masala, tamarind, ginger, cinnamon and so on. In other words, spices make the negative food pairing effect more powerful, a phenomenon never seen before. One study reveals that spices occupy a unique position in the ingredient composition of Indian cuisine and play a major role in defining its characteristic profile.
11. That result has some interesting corollaries. In many cuisines, spices add flavor but also prevent food spoilage by killing certain types of bacteria. Jain and co say this medicinal role must have had a significant effect on the way recipes evolved since removing these ingredients would have had health impacts. The evolution of cooking driven by medicinal beliefs would have left its signature on traditional Indian recipes. The result also has implications for the future of food. In the same way that Western chefs search for unusual ingredients that share the same flavors, negative food pairing may also drive the development of new flavor combinations and recipes in Indian food. The study could potentially lead to methods for creating novel Indian signature recipes, healthy recipe alterations and recipe recommender systems. Beyond that, this work shows how powerful network science has become in analyzing disparate aspects of everyday life. Treating recipes as networks has turned out to be a powerful tool that is changing the way we think about food and how we consume it.
12. Nature provides everything for sustenance of everything created by it. Before a child is born, the mother starts lactating. But most of it are as substitutes. For example, if we are weak in bones and want stronger bones, we should eat bones. But since that is not possible for a variety of reasons, nature provides calcium rich foods that give similar effects. Similarly, if we are short of blood, we should drink blood. But that has many undesirable effects and is not feasible. Hence nature provides substitutes as food. Since our constitution is geo-climatically affected, nature provides different food substitutes for the same effect in different localities. Ayurveda dictates that medicines should be prepared from herbs of the same locality and herbs of India are not suitable for Africans, or Europeans or Americans or Australians. Even within a country, the effect of produce of different localities give different effects.
13. Though the Sun and the Moon are much different in mass and actual size, they look similar in size because of their respective distance. Since gravity is related to mass and distance, the similarity in size due to different distance means, the Earth is equally influenced by both. The perennial plants that die after giving fruit once are influenced by the Moon, which is known for the Moon Gas or Helium 3. Its exosphere sometimes covers Earth. It is called औषधीश or controller of herbal properties from the derivation: ओषं धत्ते. Thus, such perennial plantations are called ओषधी, which have medicinal properties. The other plants are influenced by Sun. Based on its potency and digestibility (वीर्य and विपाक), the ओषधी are mainly of two types: उष्मवीर्य and शीतवीर्य and लघु and गुरु, though there are other types also (मृदु, तीक्ष्ण, गुरु, लघु or पिच्छिल/विशद, स्निग्ध, ऋक्ष). They can overpower the effect of रस. When disagreeable to the body, they create two types of diseases: aggravate the existing problems (निज) or create new problems (आगन्तु), which may not be apparent immediately. Further, it gets divided into two types: useful ingredient that nourishes the body (सार) or toxic waste (मल).
14. Since the relationship between (angular position vis-à-vis the zodiac) is responsible for different seasons, the perennial plants have different properties. Hence, in our traditional cooking, in addition to the time of the day (breakfast, lunch or dinner) the season, and the quality of vegetables and cereals (द्रव्यगुण), there were 12 considerations (प्रविचार) while preparing the menu. The same menu is not suitable for different times of the day or season or for different persons of different health and age groups or for the same person with different physical conditions like relaxed, tired, sick, etc. The preferences of children are different from the young and the old. The preferences of a sick or tired person are different from a healthy and relaxed person. Etc. The preferences for morning are different from those of the noon or night. The preferences for winter are different from those for the summer. Etc.
15. The chemical properties of the ingredients used for cooking (द्रव्यगुण) are of 20 types, of which 10 (गुरु, मन्द, हिम, स्निग्ध, श्लक्ष्ण, सान्द्र, मृदु, स्थिर, सूक्ष्म, विशद) are main qualities (गुण) and the other 10 (लघु, तीक्ष्ण, उष्म, ऋक्ष, खर, द्रव, कठिन, सर, स्थूल, पिच्छिल) are their opposite qualities (गुण). Unless the cook knows it and balances the ingredients based on their chemical properties and tastes, it will have an adverse effect on the body, besides not being too tasty.