... sound is ... like a curtain of ... ... on a tin roof. I am about to part the curtain and look out of the window, when the aroma floats in. ... images of twil
The sound is familiar-- like a curtain of raindrops descending on a tin roof. I am about to part the curtain and look out of the window, when the aroma floats in. Conjuring images of twilight, soft breeze, the cows coming home-- the bells jingling around their necks… dinner laid out on a chatai (straw mat) on the kitchen floor--light yellow rice peppered with mustard seeds and soaked in home-made ghee…
I am led by the nose…into the kitchen in vaidya Ramakant Mishra's home. A symphony of flavour is playing there. The big round wok on the stove, with curry leaves and cumin seeds crackling inside the clear golden ghee, sending out the sound that I mistook for rain. And the aroma. Again the aroma.
I don't mean to sound dramatic. But don't blame me if I do. There are smells that send you crazy. The first whiff of rain that rises off the earth. The fresh scent of water-sprinkled cilantro. Ocean-mist. Daffodils. And ghee.
"Almost everything I like is either sinful, illegal or fattening" said Oscar Wilde. And isn’t that true of most things in life--chocolate, fries and streaking on the beach, to name a few. Happily, ghee isn't among them. It's delicious and it's actually good for you.
Ghee is everywhere in Indian life. For centuries, Indian women have used carbon from ghee-lamps as a protective eyeliner. Mothers massage their newborns with it, to make their skin supple. The no-fail Indian remedy for an upset stomach is ghee-bhaat (boiled rice) with a pinch of salt. Because ghee can transport particles into cells, many Ayurvedic formulations use it as a base. Ghee is the fat that lights the lamps of temples--no other fat is considered more auspicious.
But superstition is not just why the Indians love ghee. Renowned vaidya Dr Ramakant Mishra, who heads product research at Maharishi Ayurveda International, says Ayurveda discovered the role of ghee in well-being centuries ago. So beneficial is this fat that vaidyas have given it the status of a “rasayana”, or pre-eminent healing food.
Light: That rich, creamy look. You would imagine ghee is a heavy fat. It's not. What is ghee, you may ask. Dehydrated milk-butter without its solids. To make ghee, technologists heat milk butter on a slow fire. All the water slowly evaporates. What's left of the butter is a clear golden liquid, with the solids settled at the bottom. The liquid is ghee. Bonus: ghee is so flavorful that just a teaspoon will do more than four tablespoons of any other cooking oil.
Luscious: Brush a layer on corn-on-the-cob or drop a dollop into hot lentils. Pour into the hollow of a freshly baked potato or saute with salmon. Stir-fry, bake, saute or spread--any which way you use it, ghee will find flavour with you. What’s more, it won’t smoke or burn during cooking.
Lasting: Keep ghee and butter at room temperature. Butter will eventually turn rancid; ghee will not. It's the moisture in butter that promotes decay. Virtually moisture-free, ghee has no such problem. It will retain its original freshness and flavour for months, even without refrigeration.
Energising: Some foods dissolve in water, and some in fat. Ghee in your diet will carry fat-soluble foods quickly and easily inside cells. Such foods will reach where they are supposed to reach, to work the way they are supposed to work. Sometimes, it's just packaging that makes the difference.
An Anti-oxidant: Ghee has beta-carotene and vitamin E, both known anti-oxidants that counter the effects of free radicals. Science has been able to establish that free radicals cause nearly 90 percent of all degenerative diseases. Ghee in your diet, then, could give Father Time a run for his money.
A Sharpener: The goodness of ghee not only powers your cells, but also penetrates the corners of your mind. Result— quicker leaning, better recall, wiser decisions. Cow ghee in particular is supposed to be extremely good for your brain.
A Healer: Ghee repairs the mucus lining of the stomach and evens out the acid balance in there. An ancient Indian fable says King Akbar the Great once challenged a citizen to eat and digest limestone. The man accepted—and won. His secret? Just before he had the limsetone, he downed a huge bowlful of ghee to arm his stomach against the assault.
So stir-fry the garlic in a teaspoon of ghee, and drizzle over piping hot bread. It’s aromatherapy of the most intoxicating kind. Then feel the flavour do ghee-licious things to your taste-buds. Indulge.
Shubhra Krishan is a journalist from India, now based in Colorado Springs. She specializes in writing about Ayurveda--a system of healing that originated in India more than 5000 years ago. Her articles on Ayurveda can be found at www.mapi.com and http://ayurvedix.tripod.com