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I started switching to organic food about six months ago. Earlier I was like most other people, blissfully ignorant or pro-actively so, about what I was feeding into my mouth. Though I always chose to eat fresh, seasonal and local, I never went one step ahead to closely look into it. I don’t remember what triggered this change. But something made me wonder if the vegetables and fruits I think to be fresh and healthy were actually good for me and my family. I began thinking about where and how these were grown, cultivated and in what conditions stored and packaged before I bought them. I think having a baby contributed to it a lot. For the first time I really looked into what I was feeding my loved ones and it shocked me!
This lead me to read more about food, the way it’s grown and started learning about conventional farming practices. My outlook towards food changed a lot after reading Micheal Pollan, one of the biggest influences I have had in the recent times. One such change was also the decision to switch to organic food.
Although I always knew organic food was the best but there were several ‘Ifs’ and ‘Buts’ coming in my way to make the complete switch. Like everybody, I loved the convenience of picking up vegetables from the street vendors, I preferred walking into any store any day of the week to buy what I want and I liked how cheap yet fresh the produce normally is. But suddenly all these didn’t look good enough to eat since I understood their being sprayed with harmful chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers etc. Then, I decided that I’ll just have to make that big but very important change in my life.
I know it’s the best for my family. I trust nature more than scientists so I know something grown with least intervention will be the best.
My organic produce is also local and seasonal. This is very important to me as I don’t want to be contributing to global warming by getting my food shipped from the other end of the country just because it’s organic. However, remember not all ‘organic’ food is sustainable.
They are incredibly fresh! Most vegetables are harvested that same morning. They are not transported and stored in cold storage for days before reaching me. Fruits are either ripe or fully grown which ripen at their own phase on my kitchen counter!
I am discovering several varieties of local, heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables and greens that I wouldn’t even have known existed had I stuck to my supermarkets and street vendors.
I have always been a very spontaneous cook and never planned on what to cook. I used to buy vegetables every other day depending on what’s in season and what I felt like cooking and eating. I was wary of buying vegetables only once a week and then plan my meals around it. But surprisingly I love it now. I stock up on a lot of greens which I eat for the first 2 days and then I buy vegetables which can be stored for 3-4 days so that I always have something till the next Friday. I still don’t plan what to cook, though.
I don’t eat out much since I always have a well stocked refrigerator and I hate to waste food. I had drastically reduced eating out but now there is no need for it anyway as I never run low of fresh produce.
Start with vegetables, fruits and dairy. Visit your local organic store. I buy milk from ‘Akshaya Kalpa‘ which is an organic dairy in Tiptur. They supply raw milk to Bangalore every day.
We all love our rice. Especially for South Indians, no meal is complete without rice. In addition to your favorite variety of rice, start trying new regional rice varieties. Introduce red, brown, unrefined rice varieties to your family. Some of these are really soft, sweet and flavorful while other varieties may take some time getting used to. If you can’t enjoy full red rice, try a 50/50 red and white combination. Buying local rice will help the farmers who are growing less popular varieties and they are almost always more nutritious than white rice.
While chapatis are great, try thinking beyond wheat. Try bajra, jowar, ragi and amaranth flours. Make rotis with just these or add a bit to your usual atta.
Millets are a wonderful thing. They take much less water, are easy to grow and very nutritious too. Good for you and the planet. Try eating ragi balls, ragi dosa or ragi rotti once in a while. Make millet pongal, millet dosa, millet pulav etc. Millet semolina is great in upma/uppittu or kesaribath.
I have had great success in adding other grains in my diet by just substituting a little bit of rice in my idli and dosa batters. Add different flours in my chapati, rotti to paratha dough. Most of the time, nobody would even notice the difference!
This post was originally written for The Alternative by Chinmayie Bhat. Chinmayie is a freelance photographer and food blogger at Love Food Eat.
Pic credit: ilovebutter (Used under a CC license)
The Alternative is an online publication on social change and sustainable living.
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