Cooking and presentation of the dishes in the most enticing manner is not just a skill, but is also an expression of an aesthetic mind that is inclined towards exploring and experimenting with food. This two-pronged approach of exploring and experimenting with food adopted by every culinarian today was in vogue even long time back if we recall the day-to-day activities of our grandmother and great grandmother.
Whenever I ponder on the life led by my grandmother, mother and mother-in-law, I clearly see that they considered their cooking as an art, a voyage of exploring and experimenting in food.
The dishes that they conjured up with locally available herbs, fruits and vegetables, carefully selected from bounteous nature, is nothing less than an affirmation of their zeal to try something new on the basis of their traditional knowledge. Though they did not have much of formal education, their grasp over territories like hygiene and health, astronomical insight related to food habits, and scientific temperament when it came to learning and understanding the subtleties of nature, speak volumes about their grip over traditional knowledge.
I till date have been following the instructions of my mother when it comes to cooking and eating. She avoided some particular vegetables on some days (this was related to the waxing and waning moon), and would not allow us to eat certain fruits at night. We would be really mad at her for the restrictions imposed on our eating. Later only I realised how gifted my mother was with her knowledge that had its genesis in time itself–dating eons back, and her yearning for cooking the healthiest dishes for us.
My predecessors visualized each and every aspect of the art of cooking as a channel of communion to self and nature. What they cooked and ate was nothing less than an ode and a representation of the myriad colours of nature.
Here, I am going to illustrate about the different types of tea that my ancestors prepared apart from the regular tea with milk and sugar and the elixir for all rural folks– the black tea. These varieties of tea that my grandmother and mother made depending on the season, weather and mood amazes me to no extent now.
These varieties of tea not only had attractive colours, but were rich in health benefits and was an expression of their love for nature. They collected leaves and petals and brewed the most wonderful and healthy cup of tea. These colourful images from my childhood and memories of how my mother and grandmother engaged themselves for keeping family members happy and healthy, have been the motivating factors behind my journey in the culinary world.
Coming back to tea, it is integral to the food culture of Assam and modern-day studies and researches have provided ample evidence of the benefits of sipping tea. In keeping with the changes of the modern world with its inclination towards everything that can boost both physical and mental health, tea also has evolved over the years taking on many forms, and the varieties we get seem to be endless as someone always come up with a new idea of bringing more taste, colour and health benefits to our cup.
Presenting to you how I prepare my steaming cup of tea in ways that ensure colour to uplift my mood and boost my health.
(Published in Nandini Jan 2019)