Spices of life

chefs discuss how people have become liberal (perhaps too liberal) with spices in their cooking to build immunity

Published: 15th August 2020 07:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th August 2020 07:16 AM   |  A+A-

spices, chilli powder, pepper

For representational purposes

By Express News Service

It’s become a sort of private joke now. Earlier, whenever, anyone found out what I do, they would always ask what helps lose weight the fastest. Now everyone tells me what they are cooking at home and asking if it is the best they can do for their families,” says nutritionist Kavita Mahajan.

Kavita Mahajan

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be the game changer that no one asked for with the entire country’s focus shifting from weight loss to immunity gain. In a new campaign, Tata Sampann Spices are promoting #Spice- UpYourHealth. The campaign is timed at a moment of international crises, when building a good immunity is more important than ever. In a free-wheeling conversation, a panel of experts came together to see just why spices are so hot currently.

“There’s a big opportunity here. Previously, every restaurant focused on taste, texture, and presentation, while healthy foods were an entirely different segment. Now, immunity boosting ingredients and dishes are among the most searched items on Google, and if restaurants carry that same trend forward, it is actually going to be beneficial for businesses as well as people,” says Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who has been associated with the brand for a long time (remember ‘desh ka namak?’), along with Kapoor, as curators and tastemakers for it. This is where Chef Suvir Saran sighs.

As the only chef on the nutrition advisory board to Brigham & Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, Saran is emphatic on the science of it all, placebo effect notwithstanding. India’s first chef to get a Michelin Star, or two, for an Indian restaurant in the big Sev doesn’t negate the effect of spices so much as he adds them to the tally of a complete dish of seasonal ingredients, proper cooking techniques, all of which may hopefully work towards a diner’s immunity.

Not rubbing it in is Chef Sabyasachi Gorai, who remarks more on how gur (jaggery) and Sattu ke Roti were given to miners to ameliorate the condition of their lungs. “When we did the food of Mineority in Pune, we found out this combination might have helped protect lungs from external infections,” notes Gorai. However, be what may, whether at home or outside, experts have largely come to agree that the buzzwords have changed in this new pandemic paradigm.

While cumin and turmeric have dominated headlines and food trends for a long long time, since the pandemic, other old spices have become the hot new thing. “Ajwain has come into vogue these days, which is interesting, because it’s considered a good digestive,” notes Mahajan. According to experts, garam masala is now the bee’s knees. “Earlier, garam masala was something you used with discretion. Now, it’s become something everyone adds a pinch of to whatever they are making.

The general feeling being there are a cornucopia of benefits from these spices,” says Kapoor, noting that the all Indian all-spice has become almost a panacea, or jarri-booti. “A few years ago, there was a surfeit of grains, from millets to quinoa to amarantha and others, all of which were celebrated for their highnutrition, low calorie content. In the new zeitgeist, that popularity seems poised to be claimed by spices,” notes Mahajan.


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