Many years ago our villages were self-sufficient. We were closer to nature and learned many uses of one thing and had plenty to give away to friends and neighbours. Among other things which contributed to that abundance, coconut comes first in all coastal communities due to its manifold uses in life. From cooking to being used in Ayurvedic medicines, coconut was used abundantly as it was rightly called the ‘fruit of Gods’.
In our kitchens, coconut becomes one complete ingredient for different preparations. When ground with spices, it becomes the base for sauce. Freshly grated coconut can be added to salads and rich coconut milk is used in curries and puddings. We can make a comprehensive feast out of the sublime flavours of coconut, yet you could taste absolute individuality in every dish.
Tender coconut has been accepted as a popular health drink across the world. Owing to its huge popularity, it’s exported widely from its place of origin. It’s beyond dreams to see huge piles of coconuts beautifully displayed on Oxford Street in London and becoming more popular than a can of Coke in summers.
Use of coconut in some form has become acceptable to people everywhere but the miracle benefits of coconut oil have been unknown to most people. Some people just don’t like the aroma of coconut oil while many keep away from it due to a false belief about saturated fat and cholesterol it contains.
Revelations are pouring in from the world of medical science to prove that the previous claims were targeted to confuse people and spread fear against coconut oil thereby helping soybean lobby in the US to drive tropical oils out of markets and increase its popularity. Coconut oil has been used as a major source of food for centuries by millions of people in Asia, the Pacific islands, Africa and Central America, and people fondly call coconut palm the ‘Tree of Life’.
In his very informative book, American nutritionist Dr Bruce Fife claims, “Coconut oil and its relatives—the palm and palm kernel oils—are natural source of medium chain fatty acids with incredible health-promoting properties. They produce energy, not fat.”
Coconut oil doesn’t have negative effect on blood cholesterol and it helps protect against heart diseases. It’s a major component of baby formulas because it provides almost as many nutrients as mother’s breast milk. Today we have learned that taken as a supplement—with food or directly applied on skin—coconut oil is good for weight loss and it helps protect heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It’s supposed to prevent premature ageing of skin, strengthen immune system and improve digestion.
Recently I had the privilege of meeting the chairman of Coconut Development Board, T K Jose, at a national conference in Kochi. It was an unforgettable experience as we listened to his talks on coconut products, their usefulness in our life and how it can also generate revenue for our families. It was a life-changing moment for me to reaffirm my own conviction on the positive effect of coconut usage in our diet and lifestyle.
Virgin coconut oil brings so much taste and happiness at Rasa India today. Sunitha, a passionate lady, supplies our organic home-made coconut oil from Palakkad and I carry a bag full of it every time I return from India to share this taste and magic with our customers in London. More than ever, we are proud of our traditions, and slowly but surely the West and the whole world would begin to taste the flavours of that miracle.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants