Thursday, 13 November 2014

Ah the Spices -5

Women's  love for jewellery is a fact as old as men's love for war . There is this story about a rich trader whose next door neighbour was also his family physician or Vaidya . The Vaidya's wife had long been pestering him for a pair of gold Kangans. One cold winter evening as they were sitting down for their evening meal, the Vaidya, across the wall separating their kitchens they heard the trader asking his wife for a bowl of yogurt. The Vaidya's ears pricked up . A cold bowl of yogurt on a chilly evening? According to Ayurveda this spelt a major chest congestion for he who imbibed it !
"I should exoect to be called soon . And you will shortly get your Kangans now !' he whispered to his wife.
But matters didn't end there . They heard the trader's wise mother ask the daughter in law to add a pinch of roasted cummin seed powder and another pinch of pepper powder mixed with rock salt to the yogurt before she served it ."
" Ah, there goes your Kangan," said the Vaidya to his wife. "The wretched spices will guarantee that the trader will stay well through the year ."
Spice stories abound in India . The miracles they can create not only in the kitchen but also in keeping the household healthy through the year by providing hundreds of home remedies made with various 'hot' and 'cold' spices that can cure all those troubles ( Vikar) imbalance of Vat ( air) Pitt ( gall) and Kaff ( phlegm) factors can cause.
The king of the spices is Haldi or turmeric. Curcuma longa is an ancient rhizome (root) native to India. Panini's grammar also calls it Dhanyak and Kusthumbhir . It has importance not only as a cooking ingredient that imparts colour , flavor and medicinal value to meals but it is also an inalienable part of all rituals, many magic potions, healing pastes and cosmetics  . The Sanskrit name Haridra some say , has aboriginal roots and was first imbibed only by the community of fisherfolk ( Nishadas) and Savanin ( dog keepers of low castes) and punjishtha ( bird trappers). The bride's bridal bath is incomplete without Haldi and when the body is bruised badly, a good pinch of turmeric mixed with milk and honey heals the body from within and is balm for sore throats. A mixed paste of Haldi and sandal wood paste works wonders for the skin . Even Huen Tsang the Chinese traveller has vouched for this.
Haldi is also a great dye for cotton and the new bride and a neo nate mother are both given fine cotton scarves dyed in Haldi . Wedding cards in villages are still sent with a mix of Haldi and rice ( Akshat) as a sign of joy, luck and community well being.
(next-The Garam Masala )


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