We all know that eating a balanced diet that supplies all the essential vitamins, minerals and protein to the body is very important to keep us healthy and strong. A right approach to food ensures strength, growth and immunity to our body. But of late, many people are succumbing to a host of ailments with their body functioning going completely awry. Most of these illnesses of the modern-day world have been triggered by our wrong approach to food, and factors profoundly impacting our life style leading to stress, lethargy and greed.
In this article, I have made an attempt to present some very elaborative thalis with the objective to popularize the health benefits of local produces of Assam and the leafy greens growing in the wild and in our backyards. If we prepare any one of these thalis once in a week for our family and our near and dear ones, that effort will ensure supply of all essential nutrients to them to be healthy and away from diseases. Our body needs all types of food that are sweet, tangy, bitter, alkaline etc., in the right proportion. The dishes that I have included in the thalis provide all the variegated tastes derived solely from natural ingredients. I myself pick the vegetables and leafy greens that have medicinal properties from my kitchen garden whenever I prepare any of these thalis.
The thalis here look very grand and some might feel a little intimidated to try out cooking any of these thalis, but I assure you that with just a little patience and proclivity, we can conjure up these thalis that are affordable and befitting for both the Crown and the Common.
Instead of forcing down artificial nutrient supplements and medicines through our throat for the sake of maintaining a healthy body, we need to concentrate on selecting and consuming foods that grow in abundance in nature.
I still remember an incident that really had me thinking about how we have simply screwed-up our intellect and rational thinking when it comes to health and eating the right food. It was in the year 2018 and the HSLC results were just out. I went to a friend’s house to inquire about the result of their son. The boy’s grandfather expressed his regret saying that even after giving so many health supplements, vitamins and brain tonic, the boy never fared well in health or examinations. This is just a single instance, but there are many people who make their kids eat medicines and other artificial supplements with the belief that such an exercise will contribute towards improvement of health and brain.
What we need to remember is that food should be our medicine, and the right food selected from the munificent world of nature will always keep us healthy and happy.
For these thalis, I have carefully selected some particular leafy greens that grow luxuriously in Assam as an important side dish along with other vegetables and some non-veg items. Many people in Assam prefer non-veg items over leafy greens and other vegetables. And some even believe that without meat, fish and eggs daily in their plate, they will not get the nutrients necessary for the body. One important thing to keep in mind is that our body does not need non-veg items daily. But it is a herculean task also to cajole the non-veg lovers to eat the vegetarian fares. So, I have carefully planned the thalis and presented them in a way that even hardcore non-veg lovers, and kids get attracted to take a bite of the leafy greens.
I would also like to mention that these thalis have been inspired by my childhood memories of my mother and how she served the rice thalis to my father. My father was a foodie and the items that my mother served to him along with rice at that time looked simply magical to us. We used to be enchanted with the way she came up with a whole lot of side dishes by using a few wild leaves and vegetables, and cooking them over a fire stove. Different hues and aroma would be wafting around the room where father sat down to have his lunch, and to us his lunch plate always looked gigantic, filled with every imaginable and mouth-watering dish of mashed, roasted, fermented, alkaline, steamed, and stir- fried items.
These thalis here are redolent of my mother’s patience, love and care.
Below is the list of thalis and method of preparation of some wild leafy greens that have been used as an important side dish in these thalis. The presentation matters and I am confident, if you present your rice thali now and then in this style to your family, they will actually relish the healthy produces so generously bestowed on us by nature.
(published in Nandini in September 2018)