Food is one of the most personal things to us as a human or any other living being. We need to be delicate with it & we need to be mindful of what we eat.
Food gives life and we can give life to food by the way we grow it or prepare it.
Just as I started off on this beautiful journey of understanding food, I realised each one of us is on on this journey of knowing food since birth. It’s a journey we undertake every single day, it’s just that we are not mindful of it.
We consume food at least three times in a day. Honestly, we don’t even spend as much time with our loved ones at times. Since that's a fact - isn’t it important to know our food? What is happening with it? Why are a few external people deciding what we consume? And why don't we have control over what we eat?
Why are we so alienated from something so personal that we do not know where it comes from? We do not know how it used to taste and how does it taste now? We do not know the reality of our food or if our food is real anymore! Today, we’ve reached a point where we need to tag or label food as Organic, natural, safe and what not. Why do we need to do that? Doesn’t food need to be just food? These are questions that we need to get thinking on. We need to spend a bit more conscious time to know what we put into our bodies. So what is "Organic"? Where has this term come from?
The term Organic Farming was coined by Lord Northbourne in his book, ‘Look to the Land’, written in 1939, where he viewed the farm as an organism and promoted a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming. Albert Howard who was famously sent to teach Western agricultural techniques to Indians, he rather learnt agricultural principles from Indian farmers instead. Are we consuming real food when we have food labeled organic? Or is food which is not labelled, the real food? We all know the answers but tend to ignore them or not pay heed to them; hiding behind reasons like lack of availability, doubts over authenticity or high pricing. The truth is we do not want to invest enough time to know our food.
We live on a planet which is a living ball of abundance – there is so much to explore, discover, eat and enjoy!! But we have this unnecessary need to move towards commercialization, where we’ve moved to this mindset of consuming only a few commercially grown crops for the ease of doing business. And as a result are losing all the abundance that our planet possesses. We as consumers do not even realize what we do not get anymore, what our culture and heritage of food was and still is in some ways.
If I talk about the Western Indian regions of Gujarat and Maharashtra & our cultural heritage of food and cooking–
We used to get an abundance of greens like red amaranth (Lal Math), Shepu (Dill), Taandud, Rajgira, Chakvat, Ambadi (Gongura), Shevga leaves (drumstick or moringa leaves) and many more.
We used to regularly consume breads (rotis) made using millets like jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and nachni (finger millet).
We used to get a specific varieties of vegetables unique to our region. Fruits and vegetables used to be seasonal and we used to look forward to them.
The cooking styles of our grandparents felt like a rhythmic symphony. There used to be no rush or scampering. The tastes used to be so profound and distinct.
Slow cooking was a normal thing. And soaking ingredients overnight was just a regular prerequisite.
The flavours, aroma, colours in each meal used to be so vibrant that one couldn’t miss them at any point.
Today, we tend to forget all of this except when we are spending time with our friends or family looking back at the good old days. But why are we letting this become just a part of our memory and conversations? Why can't we keep our food alive? So the answer to this is our championing of the "art of hiding behind reasons". The most common of all being - “Who has the time". Oh well - yes, who'll have the time after Netflix, Facebook & Instagram!
We do have time, just that our attention moves towards things that are thrown in front of us rather than towards things that really matter to us - our body and our mind. Everything on our planet and in our life has a specific role to play and food has one of the most important role of them all. Food is one link between our culture, our heritage, and is something once lost will never come back. One example among many more is - historically, India had about 1 lakh or more varieties of rice (the varieties differing on shape, size, aroma, colour, taste, nutrition profile, soil/weather condition suitability and much more) – most of which we have lost (According to records of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, we have less than 7,000 traditional rice varieties). Similar is the case with a lot of other grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables and greens.
This is the real heritage we need to preserve and enjoy. “To move forward we need to look back”. Only then can we move forward in a holistic & sustainable way. Or else we’ll just be moving forward in a way the wind sways the leaves.
And this is what really being organic is.
It’s about having food native to our land, which is abundant, seasonal, tasty and pure.
Growing and consuming food which is a combination of local & seasonal varieties of vegetables, fruits, greens, spices, herbs and tubers.
Food that can be grown without the use of any artificial inputs as our land is adapted to it, the weather suits it completely and the locals savour the taste as their own.
Organic is not just another commercial term to commit the same mistakes we’ve committed in the past just with a few corrections.
Organic is a way of life.
Organic is being pure, holistic and regenerative.
Organic is a community coming together to enjoy the abundance mother nature provides us.
And for us to not get swayed away by a term, organic is just another term we have started connecting to, as it’s been thrown towards us. Food and anything that we consume that manifests naturally, without needing human assistance, is symbiotic with nature, is local and native to that land and grows along with its companion crops, trees and plants is what belongs. This is what will bring us and our planet the kind of happiness and prosperity that we aspire to live in. This is how we lived, not too long ago (until the 1960’s all food by default used to be organic) – and this is how we can aspire to live now and in the coming future.
We dream about heavens and about how a paradise would be – every single spot on this planet we live on has the potential to be a paradise. It is a paradise we have forgotten while looking for another one. So let’s understand what really is organic – if you are a consumer or a producer. Let's not fall for the gimmicks that we humans create for our own benefits while harming a lot of others on the way.
Organic is real. Organic is Natural. Organic is what we need to consume – just by knowing and adapting it holistically