The Doctors in Your Kitchen

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 How the Banana Goes to Heaven: and Other Secrets of Health from the Indian Kitchen by Ratna Rajaiah, book reviewFood writer Ratna Rajaiah has put together a book that adds new insights to the familiar ingredients of Indian cookery. What she does do is take coconuts and chillies, mangoes and jackfruit, ragi and channa dal, ghee and jaggery, mustard seeds and curry leaves and reintroduce them to us by delving into the pages of history.

She goes back to vedic times for the evolution of rice, though in one of its simplest forms, the humble conjee or kanji, and talks about how the word for rice was actually used in Asian countries as a synonym for food.

There’s an important section on how potato baked, steamed or boiled and served in its jacket is actually a nutritious dish which has been destroyed by cooking practices. Important because our modern culture dies for French Fries and packets of potato chips. However, according to history, the Frenchman Parmentiere lived a healthy life almost entirely on potatoes, which is why the humble tuber was celebrated in France and Marie Antoinette even wore a badge commemorating ‘pommes Parmentiere’. Rajaiah writes, ‘Oddly enough, much of the bad press that the potato has received originated from the West, from countries that are some of the largest consumers of this tuber – like America. According to one estimate, an American eats an average of a little over one kilo of potatoes a week!’

In between her delving into history, she evokes sensory memories like the scent of freshly cut ginger or the fragrance of steaming kanji. And she throws in a deft recipe or two to be whipped up and so provide a practical illustration of her point.

If you’re not a cook, you can enjoy anecdotes like the fact that George Bernard Shaw ate brinjal every day but hated it because it was always served fried. Add to that a nugget like the fact that the brinjal has the power to get the “heart to beat regularly and helps lower high blood pressure”.

Of course, it should be pointed out that this is not a book for the carnivore, the ingredients are all those that civilizations have grown or discovered over the years. However the recipes can certainly be used to supplement a non vegetarian diet if the reader feels inclined.

The message her well researched book delivers is that the ancients were already familiar with the nutritious qualities of food long before the West realized that a balanced diet was necessary for good health. How the Banana Goes to Heaven also explains why people are so eager to go organic these days and how it is probably a good thing to do if you want to stay happy, healthy and wise.

How the Banana Goes to Heaven: and Other Secrets of Health from the Indian Kitchen by Ratna Rajaiah
Published by Tranquebar India

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Buy book online
Buy book online Buy book online Buy book online
How the Banana Goes to Heaven: and Other Secrets of Health from the Indian Kitchen
by Ratna Rajaiah

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Written by Anjana Basu
Anjana Basu

Anjana Basu works as an advertising consultant in Calcutta. In 2003, Harper Collins India brought out her novel Curses In Ivory. In 2004, she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland where she worked on her second novel, Black Tongue, published by Roli in 2007. In February 2010. her children's novel Chinku and the Wolfboy was brought out by Roli. She writes features for travel magazines and reviews for Indian newspapers.

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