Well, that’s us nearly at the end of another year, and another decade, and the radio is full of people asking people what their biggest impact has been the last year/years and what they think the next 10 years will bring. I’ve been asking myself that since I came back from Dharamsala and I’m still waiting on the answer. I knew it would be hard to “re-integrate” into usual (am avoiding the word “normal” you will notice) life but its dragging on a bit, I can tell you. Particularly Christmas. I do love this time of year. Food, friends and family. Christmas films. Nice red wine and enough cheese to fill your boots. Coorying down in front of the fire with chillaxing music and a good book. Almost glad its raining outside so that I have an excuse to stay in. But this year I have found myself getting more and more frustrated and annoyed at all the “stuff” we surround ourselves with. I spent time in a part of the world where there are no supermarkets. No superstores. No super-anything. A few wee shops the size of a newsagents selling grains and pulses and spices and bits n bobs. Fruit and veg comes from a stall. Very little pre-packed food other than Maggi noodles (like our quick noodles and powder sauce) and the likes. Chocolate was there for the benefit of the tourists. Alcohol was difficult to spot. And people cook. Every day. So to come back here to a town with a population of 44,000 and be faced with 6 supermarkets totally weighed down and packed to the gunnels with salty, sugary, frozen, preserved, chemical-laden shelves and shelves of jars and packets of food in volumes we really don’t need has been, to say the least, frustrating. Its been hard to re-adjust. And REALLY hard not to get back into the habit of picking up a bun, or a cake, or a chocolate bar when peckish or in need of a pick-me-up. In India I just didn’t feel the need and when I did succumb to that cinnamon apple crepe from the lovely wee French lady near my home it tasted like nectar. So how did we get to this place where we are stuffed with shops full of predominantly processed and not fresh food? It truly saddens me. Because much of what we are consuming has little real nutritional value and has no prana. Prana (for the uninitiated) is the stuff of life. Its what sustains us. And its in our food. Freshly picked veg, or locally sourced, humanely killed meat are packed with prana. Veg and meat which have been cooked weeks ago, processed, packed with preservatives and flavourings and shoved into the cold store or freezer has little or no prana. But most of us (me included, I’m no saint!) buy far more than we need. And even when we cook stuff (hands up who prepares meals “for the freezer”?) ahead of need, as soon as we chill it the prana starts to dwindle. So, even though it feels like I have been in the kitchen for a week cooking for family and friends it is something that gives me much pleasure. I’m not the greatest of cooks but I use cooking to relax, to feel nourished in both body and mind. And it gives me real pleasure to feed others. And those of us that say we don’t have time to cook, let’s just have a think about that. How much time do we spend on our phones, laptops, watching TV? That half hour you lost on Facebook and Instagram could be used to rustle up a lovely, fresh pasta sauce.
Now, I don’t want you to think I am completely bashing supermarkets. They are a necessary evil in the way we live our lives now. But out with the supermarkets we are blessed with some lovely, local food shops. Its an effort, yes, to park and walk up the High Street. But getting my spices and dried legumes from the wee guy in the shop next to the Building Society, cheeses and nice coffee from Dumfries Larder, bread from the baker that was freshly made that morning and has taste, meat from the butcher who has sourced locally, and being able to buy fresh ginger and turmeric from Parry’s on the Vennel is more than buying food. Chatting about your purchases, the weather, the state of the nation, is the way it used to be when I grew up and we were sent for the messages cos my mum worked shifts. We are so busy being busy we’ve forgotten that food should be a ritual. Should be prepared and served with love. And should nourish. So, as we move to the New Year and the season of mad fad diets, I am reflecting on what I experienced and miss about the freshly cooked and flavoursome food in northern India. And all that Ayurveda has taught me over the years about what we put into our bodies. There is an Ayurvedic proverb that says,
“When diet is good, medicine is of no need. When diet is bad, medicine is of no use”.
So, as I use the time off work to replenish my Fire Cider Vinegar and Ghee stores, I am looking forward to exploring and sharing more of the wonders of how our food can both nourish and cure us. Watch this space to see what 2020 brings, my friends.