God’s own food

August 2016

By Naini Setalvad

Kerala, a state known the world over for its natural beauty and delightful spices, is also famed for its ubiquitous coconuts, sea-food, and tongue-tickling cuisine.

food_01Kerala. A land known as God?s own country for its lush greenery and abundant water bodies. Paddy fields, coconuts, cashew nuts trees, tapioca, the orange Kerala plantains and amazing, easily digestible vegetables of the gourd family, yellow cucumber, and beta carotene-rich pumpkins are some of its bounty from land and water.

Known for its preference for organic farming, Kerala is rich in spices like pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, vanilla, ginger, tamarind, and curry leaves. It?s no surprise that the Romans, Arabs, Dutch, Portuguese and British were drawn inexorably to this tiny coast in the extreme South of India. Kerala is also home to an extensive fisheries industry thanks to its vast coastal region, and boasts of some unique fish preparations.

The high intelligence of its inhabitants can be attributed to the consumption of fish and coconut oil, the latter being one of the healthiest cooking fats. Coconut oil has been used as food and medicine since ancient times in Ayurveda. In Sanskrit the coconut tree is known as the kalpa vriksha, which means it supplies all that is needed to survive. Coconut and coconut oil improve memory, reduce cholesterol, prevent Alzheimer?s and improve erratic blood sugar levels. Consuming coconut oil regularly restores thyroid function, relieving hypothyroidism.

Healthy, good quality, tasty food is easy to find in a Kerala household.

Since Kerala has an almost equal distribution of Hindus, Christians and Muslims, Hindu, Syrian Christian and Mopla form the three predominant cuisines. Apart from fish, Hindu cuisine is largely vegetarian and consists of some fabulous preparations such as theyal, olan, pachadi, erisheri and so on. The Syrian Christian and Moplah cuisines are largely nonvegetarian and shot through with the influence of the Middle East, the West and other trading communities.

The staple rice grain found in every Kerala home is one of the easiest grains to digest, and is totally gluten-free. Red rice, which is local to Kerala and is far superior to white rice in nutrients, is also consumed widely in Kerala.

Rice preparations are served from breakfast to dinner. Apart from the standard idli dosas, Kerala breakfasts boast of a number of unique preparations such as appam, iddiappam, adai dosa served with coconut chutney, puttu with ghee, and rice vermicelli. Coffee, the staple beverage, is often sweetened with dark palm jaggery which is obtained by heating the sap of the palm tree (neera) and concentrating it. Palm jaggery is far more delicious than
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