MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE: A Vegetarian Food Miracle In India

MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE: A Vegetarian Food Miracle In India

This is a memorable experience that we keep on remembering. It was published in Panorama magazine on August 28, 2011. We are reproducing it here because we want to share it with our pageviewers. Here we go:

MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE: A Vegetarian Food Miracle In India
Our column in Panorama Magazine, August 28, 2011.

A minor miracle happened to me while we were on a vegetarian diet in India. A persistent cough had been pestering us for more than two weeks before our trip. We had tried all those cough remedies advertised on radio and television but to no avail. Yet our coughing had completely disappeared after only two days of relishing the spicy Indian vegetarian food. We could not think of any other reason why this happened except for the new diet.

While we have heard of people who are totally vegetarian, we could not imagine ourselves subsisting purely on vegetables, spicy at that. We have not partaken of such food previously, and did not have any intention to do so.

But on this trip to the state of Maharashtra, we did not have any other choice but to be a vegetarian for 13 days. Our hosts, the owners of the Jain Irrigation Systems in Jalgaon, who invited us to observe how drip irrigation had brought smiles to millions of Indian farmers are true blue vegetarians. They are members of a religious group that believes they should never kill anything that they eat.

A well-meaning friend had warned us before our trip that we may not be able to take the spicy Indian food and advised us to br take with us some crackers, just in cse. Which we did.

To our pleasant surprise, however, the vegetarian food they served us at the guest house morning, noon and night (if we were not out in the countryside) was to our liking after all. There was a wide variety of preparations which were new to us but which nevertheless proved to be very enjoyable to eat.

The roti looks like a thin sheet of malleable pancake made of wheat flour, small portions of which are dipped in dal, a thick soupy concoction of pulses (pigeon pea and chickpea) garnished with small bits of onion, garlic, tomato and turmeric powder. The roti may also be taken with a dressing of pickled mango and other pickled items like chili, pistachio and lemon.

In practically every dish, the favorite ingredient is turmeric powder. This is a kind of ginger we call “luyang dilaw” in the Philippines which has long been considered as something that enhances the immune system. And we have een wondering if this was responsible for the minor miracle we experienced.

MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE: A Vegetarian Food Miracle In India
This “papad”, a crisp and crackling thin sheet of baked wheat flour topped with small slices of onion, tomato, ginger and other spices.

Another source of carbohydrates is called papad which is a crisp and crackling thin sheet of baked wheat flour. It can be plain or topped with small slices of onion, tomato, ginger and other spices.

The main dishes of course are various vegetable concoctions which are seasoned with spicy ingedients. One of the first dishes we tasted was the eggplant sliced into short pieces and garnished with onion, tomato, green and red chili, sesame, turmeric powder and salt. It was boiled into a soft and moist dish.

There are other vegetables that are similarly prepared with different proportions of spices. These include small potato cubes, beans, okra, tomato, sweet corn, and others. Curry leaves and coriander are sometimes added to the soupy preparations.

Along the highways in the countryside, there are reasonably clean restaurants that offer a wide variety of vegetarian fares. One big stopover that goes by the cujrious name of Smile Stone offers vegetarian buffet lunch and dinner at only 100 rupees. that’s equivalent to only P100.

MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE: A Vegetarian Food Miracle In India
Here we are selecting vegetarian food at a first class hotel in Pune City.

Vegetarian snacks are also a delight to eat. One that we liked very much in a restaurant along the highway in Pune City was balled onion strips, deep-fried ala “ukoy”, garnished with gram powder, cumin, chili powder and salt. This goes well with tea that is prepared with milk, ginger powder and sugar.

Most of the vegetarian preparations are also taken with fresh fruits, (banana, apple and even duhat), fruit juice and yoghurt. These are all considered healthy foods and that could be the reason why our persistent cought had left us in a hurry.

By the way, Toto Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness brought us along in this trip. He was then considering becoming the distributor of Jain Irrigation Systems, which he became eventually. After Jain, we proceeded to the International Center for Research in Semi-Arid Regions (ICRISAT) which was then headed by Dr. William Dar.

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