“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Turmeric- The one with the Midas touch
If you are looking to start cooking Indian food at home, then here is a staple spice you cannot miss. The simplicity of this spice is it’s most essential appeal.
Turmeric, me and childhood.
I met turmeric when I was a preschooler. Turmeric has been a huge part of my childhood. My earliest memory of this spice was with my aajee (grandmother). She used to make me drink warm turmeric milk at bedtime every night when she used to stay with us. It is really good at inducing deep sleep and it also aids in digestion. Then there is another memory with my aai(mom). A recurring one actually. She used to always rush towards me with a pinch of this powder and sprinkle it on my bleeding scraped knees, elbows during playtime. It stung. But it healed faster. I remember another one, where she used to make these tiny marbles out of jaggery and turmeric whenever I or my other two siblings had a sore throat or a nagging cough, result of eating too much ice-cream or enjoying too many popsicles on a hot day during summer vacations. Anyways, we had to eat them 3 times a day. Believe me, the jaggery is the only reason why it used to be a little delectable. I guess these are the reasons why the scent of this wonderful, handy spice gives me a sense of well-being. My recent and probably the most beautiful memory of turmeric is on the day before my wedding when five married women from my circle of family and family friends, adorned me with their blessings, by applying turmeric on my body. It is said to purify one’s body. Sometimes, if overused, though, this spice can make a bride look like she is fighting jaundice. Not something you would like on your big day.
Turmeric: The versatile spice
It plays an important role in the lives of Indians living in India or out of it. Right from being a part of most religious practices to the basic potato sabzi (savoury vegetable preparation), made in the ever-so-common household. It is a fragment of everything. Aajee’s and Aai’s cannot survive without this herbal and handy antiseptic. It is used to purify and beautify a bride before her big day and it’s also used as a first aid to treat minor cuts and wounds due to its wide array of medicinal properties, which include being anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants and as mentioned above an antiseptic. My favourite part about this spice is its colour. Yellow- the colour of joy and spring. Although it is a much deeper yellow on its own, when it is added to a potato, for instance, it gives it a very lemony yellow tinge. It almost transforms everything it touches (hopefully not your white shirt), like King Midas, to a golden hue of health and well-being. Check out the popcorn below with a tinge of turmeric.
In its fresh form turmeric’s exterior looks somewhat similar to that of ginger. That is until you cut it and see the beautiful dark orange flesh. To reap the benefits of turmeric you can boil it, in its fresh form, in water making turmeric tea or you can even use it in a dried powdered form (like one gets at an Indian store). The benefits don’t reduce. You may also use it as an ingredient in a homemade herbal face pack along with some curd and fuller’s earth or chickpea flour. Just remember to- 1. Avoid applying the face pack in the day time as it can cause suntans/sunburns faster. Use the face pack before bed to optimise the benefits. And 2. Use a pinch. You would not want to look like Simpsons. Trust me, I have been there. 🙂
Cooking with Turmeric
Finally, my all-time favourite way of using turmeric ? Well, cooking with it of course! My favourite recipes using turmeric are the ones where turmeric is the leading spice, like, the yellow potato sabzi, the plain yellow dal which uses red gram and finally my breakfast staple poha (flattened rice). You can also use it in cocktails.
Starting your Indian gastronomical adventure with this simple yet crucial golden spice will help you to understand the personality and transforming abilities of each forthcoming spice. Try it.
Next spice in The Spiceries –Love, anger, danger, timeless lipstick colour! Any guesses?