Food

Cooking off the clock

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2018 might be the year of the InstaPot and meals in minutes. But four foodpreneurs make a case for taking time with your food

Some years ago, I became the unlikely custodian of my family’s heirloom recipes. My grandmother had documented and filed them in many cardboard boxes, and wanted to make a book out of them. When she passed away suddenly, I picked up the baton. I found myself spending endless hours in the local markets, looking for fresh, organic, seasonal produce and whole unpolished grains. In the kitchen, I was roasting whole spices, grinding masalas, grating coconut, churning butter, making ghee, pickling mangoes and fermenting dosa batter. Although it seemed like a rite of passage to me, in reality, I was locating myself in an age-old gastronomic culture, which is often referred to as ‘slow food’.

What started as a movement in Italy in the ’80s, as a response to the fast food invasion and as an effort to preserve local food traditions, has expanded to all parts of the globe, broadening in scope. I spoke to some inspiring people who imbibe this philosophy in word and spirit to further understand what it means to indeed “slow down” with food.

Cooking off the clock

Anjali Rudraraju

Owner, Yarroway Farm, Mysuru

She left a career in wealth management in New York, and now lives entirely off her farm near Mysuru, which she runs with Kabir Cariappa (pictured).

Whatever she cannot grow herself, she barters with fellow farmers. “Eating food in its fullest form — raw when possible, including ancient grains (millets) and unpolished whole lentils — are ways to adopt slow food as a way of living,” she observes.

When a friend asked for advice on dealing with a pest attack on her patch of gourds, Rudraraju advised her to “look at the whole picture” — assess where the seeds came from, if they were suitable to be grown in the altitude and soil they were planted in, whether they were sown in the right season, what other crops were planted along with the gourds, and so on.

This year, Rudraraju and team made up to 40 varieties of indigenous heirloom seeds available on their website, yarrowfarm.com.

On Instagram @yarrowayfarm

Cooking off the clock

Shalini Philip

Co-founder, The Farm, Chennai

“As a food culture, we have always espoused ‘slow’, making things from scratch, eating clean and fresh, not damaging the environment we grow our food in, preserving excess produce, and being mindful about waste,” shares Philip, who runs The Farm, a restaurant, shop and dairy. “Slow is not a label or fad in our part of the world. It’s our way of life.”

From foraging and eating wild greens which most of us would dismiss as weeds, to making their own cleaning solution from soap nuts and ash, to slow cooking their famed Coorg pandi curry overnight using just the residual heat of their pizza oven, everything in The Farm is about sustainable existence.

To keep indigenous food traditions and culture alive in its own way, The Farm introduced staff specials on the menu — dishes from the homes of the employees, like the now popular Naga style pork and bamboo curry, made with fermented bamboo and fiery raja mircha sourced from Nagaland.

2018 saw experiments with slow drinks (including infusion teas brewed using wild flowers from the garden). Next year, diners can expect to see more wild, edible greens on the menu.

On Instagram @thefarmchennai

Cooking off the clock

Manisha Kairaly

Director, Timbaktu Collective, Anantapur

“Indigenous people are the true custodians of everything slow,” says Kairaly, who grew up in Anantapur, where her parents started Timbaktu Collective, an organisation dedicated to sustainable development in the drought-prone region. She worked for Slow Food when the movement entered India, and Timbaktu Collective continues to be a member. Kairaly explains how hand-tilling the land, moving away from mono cropping, stone-milling the grains, cold processing oils, cooking in earthen pots and eating community meals are all essential cogs in the slow food wheel.

As an expansion of the community kitchen that the collective has been running for the past 28 years, plans are underway to establish a rural, youth-oriented slow food community in 2019.

On Facebook at Timbaktu Collective

Cooking off the clock

Vishalakshi Padmanabhan

Founder, Buffalo Back Collective, Bengaluru

Padmanabhan, a farmer herself, founded this organic farming collective to propagate sustainable practices that would benefit farmers, consumers and the environment. “The idea of slow needs to be thought about from the very beginning in the life cycle of food, from the seeds that we sow to grow our food,” she says. “For instance, heirloom varieties of millets, which typically have a growing cycle of five months, are being rapidly replaced by hybrid versions that grow in three months.”

In 2018, Padmanabhan and her team intensified the search for indigenous seeds, with the intent of sowing and growing crops in their natural seasons. “We planted a patch of watermelons which will only fruit in the summer, and not through the year,” she shares. Next year, the collective will open an organic cafe, which will be run using slow food principles and produce from the farm.

On Facebook at Buffalo Back Collective

Archana Pidathala is the author of the cookbook, Five Morsels of Love

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 6:33:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/cooking-off-the-clock-on-slow-food/article25848962.ece

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