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SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY
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BEVERAGE Buttermilk is common to cultures across the world

UTTERLY DELICIOUS Buttermilk across cultures speaks of a universal purpose – of cooling the body down, and aiding digestion Photo: R.V. Moorthy
UTTERLY DELICIOUS Buttermilk across cultures speaks of a universal purpose – of cooling the body down, and aiding digestion Photo: R.V. Moorthy

It is interesting to note that almost every part of India has its equivalent of buttermilk. Chaas, lassi, mattha, doi pani, sambharam, ghol — their taste may vary a bit depending on the ingredients put in them but the base is the same — curd. The reasons are same too — for digestion, for refreshment in summers.

Also, like there is a buttermilk version spiked with spices, so are lassis blended with seasonal fruits, particularly the mango. And also fresh herbs, like mint or coriander.

Also honey. And we all know about the special bhang lassi, popular during Holi. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, there is chaas paired with a meal to help digestion. In parts of Rajasthan, you will find a saffron lassi too. Add a lump of butter on top of the lassi and it becomes makhaniya. Long ago, on a trip to Varanasi, I remember sipping a sweet thick lassi from a cold kulhar. Then, one summer day, not so long ago, I can also recall queuing up in front of a shop in Bareilly just because some locals told us it is not worth a visit to their town if we don’t taste the lassi from that shop.

In east India, doi pani is a common hot-weather refreshment and digestive, besides nimboo pani. I am happy to discover the better versions after drinking a rather bland doi pani all my childhood but the reasons for having the brew there too is the same.

It is even more interesting to note that not just in India, in so many parts of the world, a milk based drink is such a tradition. Throughout Turkey, you would get Ayran, a variant of a yogurt-based salty drink found across Central Asia, the Middle East, the Balkans and South-eastern Europe. Then there is doogh in Iran. History says doogh has been a popular drink since the ancient times in Persia. In doogh, the yogurt is blended with mint. There is also kefir, a fermented milk drink mixed with kewra seeds. It is a traditional drink in the Caucasus. And according to Wikipedia, Marco Polo talked about coming across kefir during his travels there. Filmjolk in Sweden, Clabber in the U.S…there are so many more such drinks drunk traditionally. Driving home the point that milk and milk-based products have been a part of food across the world for so long. Closely linked to the Neolithic Revolution or development of agriculture. Though this development happened independently in various parts of the world, it nevertheless makes the world one.

About my thayir sadam hating friend, I have no complaint as long as he loves his payesh. After all, in the goodness of milk — the fundamental ingredient in both, we happily agree.

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

Throughout Turkey, you would get Ayran, a variant of a yogurt-based salty drink found across Central Asia, the Middle East, the Balkans and South-eastern Europe. Then, there is doogh in Iran

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