By Anuradha Vashisht April 2004 All cooking is second best to sun-cooked foods. But if you must cook, then do it healthily, sensibly, using utensils of right material To come straight to the point, the best foods in the world are the sun-cooked foods. The best of everything else is only the second best. The human being himself being a product of Nature, the best for him is only what Nature provided him for his nourishment. Therefore, the best foods, which shall give a human being physical, mental and spiritual health, are raw, edible herbs, vegetables and fruits. All the cooking methodologies of the world are manipulations of the mind to serve the senses olfactory and taste being the most prominent here. What the sun cooks for us in the natural environment alone is nourishment. Now, don't talk about these natural foods being unfit for consumption due to chemical contaminations. Man alone is to blame for it, and I and you have an equal role to play here. Caught as we are in a peculiar situation of our own making, let us see how much we can retrieve. Having taken an unnatural path of living, where sun-cooked food is not much of an attraction, the second best option is to cook sensibly, if we must. Choice of utensils First is the choice of utensils. At all times, earthen pots are the best option. Since in healthy cooking, too much oil is not required, nor the food is fried, these are the best utensils for cooking. Curd set in an earthen pot has a different taste altogether. To scrub them clean, keep a separate scrubber and use gram flour or sieved ash for cleaning. Steel utensils are the second best. Food cooked in any other medium, especially tin, aluminium and non-stick, is a health hazard. Food cooked in such metallic mediums, including copper and brass, is said to react with the metal and produce a toxic effect on our body. Foods cooked in iron utensils too need to be shifted immediately to a safer pan as soon as cooking is complete. While the aluminium compounds are said to cause injury to nervous tissue, alimentary canal and kidneys, in the form of solutions they pass into blood along with fats and cause red blood corpuscles (RBCs) to aggregate or clump and clog the capillaries. Metallic substances make RBCs fragile and lead to anaemia. Similarly, one should avoid storing foods in such utensils as well. Plastics are unsafe for cooked or liquid food storage. Even dry foods stored in them for longer period trigger the petrochemical compounds to leach out and affect the items adversely. Wooden, earthen or steel containers are best to store food items. Cooking methodology Cooking is not harmful as long as foods are lightly or conservatively cooked. But cooked foods are not the best nourishers since the process of cooking destroys some minerals and vitamins present in the food in its raw and fresh state. However, fried, refined and processed foods are actually harmful and health destroying. Their food value is totally negative. The best way to cook vegetables is to lightly steam them and add salt just before or after removing from fire. If we have to use condiments, use only the sattvic ones, which do not irritate our alimentary canal. These are jeera (cumin), dhania (powdered coriander seeds) and haldi (turmeric). Strong spices such as cloves, chillies, garam masala are best avoided. The second best way to cook is to heat a teaspoonful of desi ghee or filtered (not refined) sesame or groundnut oil, add a quarter spoon of jeera (sometimes methi seeds), then add dhania powder and haldi, and immediately add the chopped vegetables. Add salt later. One can also add a spoon of butter or later. To enhance taste, garnish with lot of tomatoes, fresh coriander leaves and grated coconut. A word of caution: Any food consumed after half an hour of peeling, chopping or cooking starts losing its nourishing properties. Any food eaten after more than two hour of meddling is better thrown in the waste bin! So, no leftoners from one fridge. Former Deputy Editor of Life Positive, Anuradha is director of Ideal Health Foundation
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