Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reaching out!

If it's Tuesday then it must be time for some health outreach work in Pallangi, a village some 10 kms from the heart of Kodaikanal town. A local hospital has begun a small clinic for the benefit of folks who live in Pallangi and its surrounding hamlets. Two good-humored doctors and two volunteers make up the team. A variety of volunteers have enjoyed giving of their time. We have had teenagers (currently on school vacation) coming here to spend 4 hours of their otherwise "sleep/ laze/ Facebook" time. I have been in Pallangi for 5 Tuesdays and am beginning to know faces, remember names of the villagers there. Its a health check-up time as much as it is a time to socialize.
The usual complaints that the doctors attend to: colds, coughs, aches and acidity. The average age profile of patients is between 55- 70 and a majority of our patients are men. We have registered over 200 new patients in just over a month. But from my experience, one thing is clear. If we could improve the basic hygiene and nutrition of Indians across the country then the need to visit doctors, consume tablets and the quest for the next "oosee" ( Tamil for 'injection') would be put to rest.
Another sad reality that hit me hard was the fact that the elderly ( 70 and beyond) folk even in rural India are facing destitution. The concept of the joint family is but a weak one. Families are increasingly likely to turn out the unhealthy, penniless elderly members. It was very very depressing to see an old man by the name of Ramasamy who was completely hard of hearing. With great effort and much shouting we learnt that he lives in a bus shelter and all he eats is the free rice he obtains from the PDS shop. What nourishment is this man ever going to get?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Middle Eastern Magic

There is no denying that some of the finest foods are from the Middle East and the Levant. The food in this region is diverse and yet there is a unifying thread that runs from as far west as Morocco to the eastern shores of Oman!Some commonly used ingredients that one can get easily enough now in India are Olive oil, Olives, parsley, apricots, dates. Bulghur wheat for tabouleh is widely available. Mint, honey, sesame seeds, chickpeas are generally handy in most kitchens. Healthy choices, colorful, flavored with herbs instead of being over-powered by masalas and easy to make! All these reasons make Mediterranean options a great hit in our home.Succulent skewered meats, dips, a variety of salads and that oh-so-comforting pita bread! Hmm.. If you remove the myriad dips you have removed the essence of the cuisine. Hummus, baba ghanouj, labneh, the smoky aubergine-walnut dip from Turkey called muhammara, toum from Lebenon! The list is endless. Get yourself a good food processor and some basic ingredients like sesame seeds, olive oil, and some sumac and you could be the king ( or the queen ) of dips.
I love Med desserts too. Baklavas are a tad bit rich but delicious. The ones that are easier and less calorific are the oft-made yakh dar behest, basboosa, mamool, aysh al saraya.