The belly rules the mind. ~Spanish Proverb
My brother and I grew up on our mom’s fresh and seriously tasty cuisine and sometimes we fought for a piece of our favorite part of whatever she was making. Cooking was something my mother enjoyed and she enjoyed creating new and unique dishes; all from fresh ingredients. My school friends still remember the delicious dishes my mother used to pack in my lunches that were the envy of all. My mother believed that ‘you are what you eat’ and she made sure that we ate well.
Growing up in India, spices were all around me. The importance of spices was stressed at a very young age, when my mother used the turmeric out of the spice rack on our cuts and wounds. Spices had multiple uses. They were not only used in preparing food, but they were also in beauty treatments and had medicinal value. We know from our history lessons that wars were fought and countries plundered and colonized over spices. Spices remain an integral part of my cooking to this day.
In this column, I’m sharing my tips for sensible cooking and eating that will make your family happy and healthy. I’ve learnt these over the years, sometimes by making mistakes. And after more than 25 years of cooking, these are the simple conclusions I’ve reached at. Where you buy the food and how you prepare it adds to the end result. You get what you put into it. Simple!
Remember ‘eat to nourish your body.’ And follow common sense for healthy eating on most days, but if you have a day that you have to eat out of your freezer, or eat at a restaurant, don’t be alarmed. As long as you follow these rules for most of your meals, you are on the right track.
- Buy produce that is in season to ensure good taste. And buy in small quantities. The best ingredients are often the ones that are grown and available locally. Temecula, an agricultural wonderland, certainly has no dearth of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables that grow all year round. I often buy mine at the local Certified Farmer’s markets (Wednesdays at the Promenade Mall and Saturdays in Old Town Temecula) or markets like Sprouts Natural Market that stock locally grown, fresh and high quality produce. A small market hidden in the old town area is the ‘Rancho Fruit Market’ which I also visit from time to time. Buy organic foods whenever possible, but if you buy non-organic, be sure to wash off the pesticide residue thoroughly before eating. Long term pesticide consumption has been known to create health issues.
- Cook fresh. Eat fresh. The nutritional value of the foods you consume decreases the longer you store it (either cooked or uncooked). So buy fresh, cut only what you need to cook, and eat it soon after cooking or preparing. Of course that does not mean that you have to spend lots of time in the kitchen. It just means that you have to plan ahead and plan well. And be sure to cook with lots of fresh vegetables and beans. Anything that comes out of a box or can has preservatives which your body does not need.
- Spice your food. Spices gained popularity for a reason. They not only enhance the taste of your food, but also preserve it while adding nutritional value and aid in digestion. A diverse variety of spices are available at Spice Merchants in Old Town Temecula.
- Use the right tools in the kitchen. These make your job so much easier and enjoyable. An unbelievable selection of just what you need for your kitchen is available at Kitchen Fantasy in the Target Center in Temecula.
In my subsequent columns I will cover local ingredients, ideas and recipes. If you have any ideas you’d like me to write about or want to learn more about, please email me at [email protected]