What is it about Indian cuisine that makes it so unique and distinct in world gastronomy?
I’ve been asked about it and I’ve ruminated. And one day, whilst putting together a menu, it occurred to me that wellness and sustainability are the stalwarts of India’s culinary heritage. Laying the foundation of its rich diversity and culinary brilliance, Ayurveda has been prescient with these credos that today are talked about as the future of food. You’ll find a section dedicated to food in the Ayurveda - Indian Gastronomic Sciences – that features extensive knowledge about food, noted through observations. Accepted universally and shared across generations over thousands of years, it seems almost eternal.
Based on total harmony with nature and cosmos, Indian Gastronomic Science defines the coordination of four parts - the body, the senses, the mind and the soul – and derived from the principles of Ayurveda, wellness and sustainability form the foundation of Indian cuisine.
Indian gastronomy epitomises wellness and harmonious living. A means to an end, you’ll find that life is secured and safeguarded with the knowledge gleaned from the Ayurveda. A summary of views and practices, it informs us about the six rasas (tastes) and their relationship with seasons of the year and food reactions to various body types. More importantly, Indian Gastronomic knowledge had the foresight to understand the fundamental basic “food that is not tasty is not nutritious”. The very taste and smell of food triggers chemicals in the body, preparing it for acceptance and subsequently digestion. According to Ayurveda, each taste imparts a specific action on the metabolic process within our bodies, and thus becomes a crucial factor in attaining perfect health. A meal is not enjoyed, if the food lacks taste and our gastronomy reiterates that food is not nutritious, in spite of having nutrients, unless it is tasty.
Cuisines are always influenced by the local flora and fauna as well as trade to a certain extent. Cooking styles evolve with distinctive ingredients, techniques and cooking methods, that combine to create dishes unique to a particular region. In India, food preferences and options change every few kilometres, based on seasonal and local ingredients. This makes Indian cuisine possibly the oldest cuisine to recognise the value and importance of conservation coupled with sustainability. Further, wellness is directly related to the effect of seasons, planetary changes of the earth, relationship with our lives and people around us…and therefore, is holistically sustainable.
You’ll find these philosophies prevalent across all our regional cuisines. You’ll experience it in our cooking.
Standing the test of time, you’ll agree with me that Indian cuisine is indeed the perfect model of wellness and sustainability!