Food Heritage – and why it matters

Lately, I heard the words ‘food heritage’, and found myself becoming inordinately hopeful. To me, it promises a stable, common-sense approach towards living life sustainably, feeding yourself comfortably while not being bamboozled into following fads and diets. Maybe it’s just my age that I feel completely sure about this way of eating being best for me, at least.

I thought I’ll tell you all about what this means.

What is it?

Food heritage is pretty much what you ate and enjoyed in your childhood and youth. So locally available, seasonal and made-at-home (or in small kitchens) foods. Think back, and you will remember some much-loved eating experiences that did not involve going into a fancy restaurant, or dishes with exotic hard-to-find ingredients. Therefore no truffles, brown rice or pine nuts for me. I think about food cooked by my mother. Just simple dishes like daal/rice with alu-posto, deeply simmered mutton curry with potatoes, or a mixed vegetable dish with beans, spinach, cubes of pumpkin, and glistening peas. Even fruits like custard-apple, fat purple jamuns, creamy sweet mangoes…the list could go on, but you know what I mean.

Everywhere sustainable, locally-sourced and pesticide-free products are being phased out in favour of multi-national agriculture ‘companies’, genetically modified foods, and exotic out-of-season edibles. We’re losing touch with people who grow and process the foods we eat. As a result, undesirable side effects crop up (to use a nasty pun!), specially since our modern lifestyle is sedentary.

Advice to think about

“Eat/cook what your grandmother and mother ate” may seem like a trite message. A leading nutrition expert from India has built her brand around this concept. But what she says makes sense. Rujuta Diwekar counsels us to count the miles the food travels before reaching our plate. I think it makes perfect sense. When you eat locally, you reduce the mileage.

But wait, does this mean that we give up going to a restaurant to gorge on our favourite pasta, or skip the sushi altogether? Not at all. These outings can be occasional treats on special occasions. There’s nothing wrong in that. What we need to remember is that for 6 days in a week, we eat home cooked food, according to our food heritage.

There’s a small problem here though. I grew up in India, but I now live in Canada. Seasonal fruits and vegetables I grew up eating are not likely to be found in many of the groceries around where I live. I think about how to tackle this if I lived in a small town in Quebec.  I know for a fact that I will not be able to access the greens, the fruits and spices that form part of my food heritage.

The next best thing is therefore to eat local. Eat what grows in your region. In most places in the country, we find farmers markets, or food stalls where locally grown produce is available. Seasonal fruits and vegetables should be the stars of our table. I found this website: Community Supported Agriculture and it seems to be a movement fulfilling this purpose.  Look up CSA farms in your area and see if it works for you.





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