McDONALD’s zindabad!

McDonald Charms! That’s my half-eaten Schezwan aloo burger oozing with chili sauce; just an eye view of the Miramar outlet; milk shakes are tempting but hot dark chocolate is most tempting…a pity they don’t do cocoa and toffee! Or tuck more salad nourishment in the burgers or as side helpings as in the USA, to make up for the junk nutritional values of burgers. The tomato pouches make for so much messy, useless litter.

By Tara Narayan

ONE of these days I must stop writing this column which I have written close to some 30 years now as I continued to shift jobs! Mercifully, only one hi fi woman executive tried to stop me from writing it, except that that’s when I left for a new job…and the next editor was more welcoming. Well, these are the highs and lows of life as we live it, I can’t say I’ve promoted myself or even plugged vanity pictures of myself even during my chamak chalo years in Mumbai that was Bombay.
But in Goa for the last 20 years I’ve been reviewing my life. Like how I may write what I consider a health-conscious column mostly but sometimes slip into my old ways like lately I’ve become very fond of going out to the Miramar McDonald’s outlet just to burn my tongue savoring their chili sauce spiced Schezwan alloo burger (`50 something)! I prefer this to the more common aloo tikki burger and of course I wish I would chuck the soft bread buns in which the aloo tikki is slipped. The ordinary does not have the spicy onion relish, but the Schezwan aloo burger has and for some reason I’m getting addicted to the onion relish…don’t ask me why, maybe because I’ve forgotten the taste of chili at home where I don’t use any form of red or green chili in my cooking.
I think I like the bright and cheery ambience here at America’s most famous burger chain. The Miramar franchise is cool for a variety of seating and they do have a choice of burgers, milk shakes, coffees, etc. I go and moon moon with my own self here. Actually, I wish I could just order for a pair of the aloo tikki with the aloo relish and without the miserable soft white buns….but we can’t do that. And sometimes one may have to return the order because the bread bun is stone cold. Still, on a bad day Schezwan aloo burger and a hot chocolate is fine with me.
AS always I wonder why the McDonald burger chain in metro India doesn’t put in as much exciting salad as the chain does out in the USA. In the US of A I may remind you McDonald burgers are poor folk’s food and the lower middle class folk be they white, black, migrant brown…find them the nearest thing to food to die on, with the packets of finger potato chips deep fried in god alone knows what vile hydrogenated fat, probably palmolein oil.
Anyway, savoring my Schezwan aloo burger I wonder how much more value for food it would be if they served it along with an exciting salad be it a coleslaw or Russian salad with fresh apple and cherries in it! Michelle Obama I think made some difference to fast food chain food when she was First Lady in Washington during her husband Barack Obama’s tenure as president…funny, we in India have a Prime Minister Narendra Modi who if the grape vine is correct who loves to eat premium mushroom from Taiwan or wherever for breakfast, but look at us, our Indian folk freak out on McDonald junk and not so junk offerings, I mean how Indian is a burger meal! I think I could relish that Schezwan aloo tickki with real tantalizing onion-garlic relish smothered into one of our very own millet bhakri.
Don’t laugh. Would business go for a toss? As it is we’re being stalked by the coronavirus…still, I dare say the crowd is picking up at McDonald’s outlets as also other American franchise fast food outlets in Goa and urban India. These days at the Miramar outlet even as I half enjoy and half hate myself over my Schezwan aloo burger I read these reassuring messages of how at McDonald’s they “track the source of all their ingredients to ensure safety”, “veg and non-veg food is made in separate kitchens”, “our food is untouched by bare hands and is made fresh when ordered”, “our fresh produce is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized”, “tables and food trays are sanitized after every use”…in general how they’re serving happiness with extra care.

DON’T LET MUSHROOMS PUT YOU OFF, we are told even Prime Minister Narendra Modi loves them. Discover the many varieties there are and these days folk are cultivating mushrooms in straw and cocopeat packed arrangements. Picture shows some mushrooms with names like Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake, Cordyceps, Chaga… mushrooms contain medical compounds like anti-cancer drugs, cholesterol inhibitors, immune suppressants, psychotropic drugs, etc.


Okay to all that but hey, put in more generous salad for the pricing, but again…a complaint registers: Indians don’t eat salad, they waste it! So make it optional, I’d pay more for double portion of onion chili relish tossed in fresh lime juice in my aloo tikki burger. (Sigh) All that is if wishes were horses then cats and dogs would fly or something like that.
TO SWITCH subjects and talking of millet flour burgers earlier I have this Zion Health people promising to bring into the market ready made millet dosa batter, health drink, other items numbers which will be 100% natural, gluten free and nutrient dense – good, our desi millets are better than GMO wheat and refined rice food (high glycemic and so the story goes that we as a nation put too much refined carbohydrates in our mouth, hence the diabetes epidemic along with all the other sickening epidemics and pandemics).
It is all researched now and we know millets better regulate blood sugar, maintain body weight, boost immunity, make for healthier cholesterol levels and yes, strengthen bones and nervous system. So chuck wheat rice and eat more millets to fight Covid-19. When are you in the market Zion Health? Oh okay, if you love your rice be sure to make it veg pulao with desi ghee and oils unless it’s pure cold pressed coconut oil or olive oil…which reminds me and that’s a slap on my face, that the cost of primary living is flying like a kite high in the sky and many of us actually coming to terms with forgotten poverty. Still, concentrate on eating fresh, local and organic as much as you can.
TALKING of rumored Prime Minister Modi’s passion for mushrooms, yoga and peacocks I must tell you mushrooms are a super food. In fact, I have with me a 2019 issue of a Well Being Journal which talks of fighting depression with fungi or in other words a variety of mushrooms, they’re great for the microbiome…I don’t know if in Goa folk go foraging for edible mushrooms, my late friend Caitano Martins who was an excellent raconteur of his life and times once regaled me with stories of how all you have to do is leave wooden piling out on your backyard and come the monsoon season after season a host of buttery ivory wild mushrooms would sprout and sing a song on the palate! Just pick, chop, sit-fry with or without onion in butter or olive oil, add chopped green capsicum, sprinkle fresh grated black pepper…stir-fry just enough till juice dries up and scoop into fresh warm poie and eat, then go climb the coconut tree and take a nap!

MILLETS ARE SUPER FOODS, more alkaline grain…in India we have several varieties from ragi to bajra to jowari and many more for roti and porridges savory and sweet. Definitely not yet genetically modified!


Seriously, with so much dogging us on the health front and many of my friends worrying more and more about the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) …we need to sit up and take stock of how we are living rich or poor. I’m told EDCs are naturally-occurring but we have synthetic compounds too which mimic, block, or interfere with hormonal functions in the body’s endocrine system.
According to my reading up the global medical organization Endocrine Society, of the thousands of chemicals we manufacture today at least a 1,000 are estimated to have endocrine-acting properties. In fact, results from epidemiological studies, animal models, and clinical trials reveal a range of adverse effects to do with long-term EDC exposure. For example, breast development and cancer, reproductive and neurodevelopmental toxicity, obesity, thyroid hormone disruptions. Even low-dose EDC exposure is a health risk.
Where are these EDCs? Chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants, plasticizers and bisphenols – industrial chemicals commonly used to line food and beverage cans. Hey, we breathe, drink and eat them, something like that in a nutshell. All this and much more which ought to make it clear to us that if we don’t clear up act in mind, body, heart and soul and continue to live with blinkers on … we and our children will increasingly pay a bitter price.
HEY, to return to mushrooms and very few people know this, we are more closely related to fungi than to any other kingdom. Our relationship and origins go back 650 million years ago when we split from fungi…the long and short of this evolutionary history being we go a long, long way in relationship with fungi, mushrooms. Go study the world of mushrooms, eat more mushrooms, mushrooms other than the most familiar button mushrooms…mushrooms are prebiotics for the microbiome and the microbiome communicates good, bad and ugly to brain cells!
Truly it is said we are only as good as our microbiome or digestive system. Mushrooms and mushroom extract are now the food of cancer patients, my dears, and you must have heard of mycotherapy – it is the future of cancer treatment. The most medicinal mushrooms being reishi mushrooms (a rich source of beta-glucans). I’ll keep the rest for another column — but in the meantime, this is to say eat more mushrooms, less McDonald Schezwan aloo burgers with or without onion chili sauce relish stuffed in them.

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