By Tara Narayan

THESE devilish corona virus times so many folk are talking to me about the virtues of drinking a cuppa “golden turmeric milk” that I’m taking a renewed interest in this much promoted health drink. So much so that even the Amul people are promoting a tetrapack of it. Except that if you listen to the gruesome story of dairy products through the eyes of John Robbins, the Baskins Robbins ice-cream empire heir, who walked out on his family fortune in ice-creams — because he was appalled by how much cruelty was inflicted on industrially farmed cows and buffaloes — you will feel like turning vegan overnight!
That means no dairy products, no milk, butter, cheese, all kinds of other dairy powders and mixtures. It also means no eggs and many of us without dairy products, eggs and bread, wouldn’t know what to eat. Sit down and write up how much dairy products you eat in your day-to-day life.
Turning vegan has a much larger canvas to paint than you may think. We turn more and more vegan on several interrelated connections like being humane, the importance of being healthy (so as not to fall in the traps of the junk foods and drugs industry), and last but not least of all for environmental reasons. All are very primary reasons. One of these days make time to read all the nine or so books of John Robbins, who with his son Ocean Robbins, has founded the tremendously influential Food Revolution Network Inc out in California in the USA, including his much consulted all-time loved bestseller ‘A New Diet for America’). If you haven’t discovered Food Revolution Network yet do so in a hurry!
ANYWAY, vegan or not, lots of in the know natural and plant food first health movements today are promoting the charms of drinking turmeric milk or the magical golden beverage and it need be dairy milk, okay.
Today’s milk choices range from soybean to rice to oatmeal to almond to caju to groundnut milk, take your pick. I find it’s great idea to soak oatmeal, whip it up, strain and behold, oatmeal milk. By all means make your golden turmeric milk. The word milk no longer refers to only dairy or bovine milk!
People have been crazy about turmeric for some time now, they stir a teaspoon in water and drink it, in milk or juice or make a teaspoon of organic turmeric powder laced in a teaspoon of honey…lick it up! Of course, in India we’ve been cooking with turmeric or haldi for ages, I can’t think of an Indian sabzi or dal which comes without turmeric featuring as one of the flavoring condiment or spice. Even fresh turmeric is available to us easily in our markets come the winter months. Actually both the traditional Indian Ayurveda and Chinese systems of medicine prescribe turmeric for some ailment or another – turmeric is the anti-inflammatory properties spice of them all, of course along with ginger, cinnamon, garlic, onions, all green things.

AMUL GOING HEALTHY!: This is new in the market, canned milk flavoured with turmeric and tulsi. It is priced at `25 per 125 ml can. Incidently, Amul’s Immunity Chakra ice-creams which became popular are no longer available in Goa, a pity! They are the best ices I’ve tasted.

Down south India before green and red peppers came along from the New World of the American continent it is black pepper which ruled and it’s not surprising we hear black pepper having enormous affinity with turmeric powder…as in if you’re using turmeric powder do add a pinch of black pepper powder too for enhanced health benefits. It’s the much researched curcumin compound in turmeric which enjoys the superior antioxidant reputation, it helps neutralize free radicals which are the culprits damaging healthy delicate membranous cells in body beautiful.
A research paper published in the August 2006 issue of Gastroenterology & Hepatology notes that when quercetin in onions mixed with curcumin in turmeric was prescribed, the size of and number of precancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract reduced. Turmeric also shows benefits to those suffering from cystic fibrosis, liver ill-health and it dramatically lowers cholesterol. Well, then, our humble turmeric powder is also anti-carcinogenic. Make a mental note of all that and put turmeric into your daily eating habits, but make sure you get the real version and not one of the adulterated versions which may be flourishing today.
Out in the first world countries of the West they’re putting turmeric in smoothies and consuming it to reap some rewarding health parameters and yes, they also add black pepper along with turmeric for better bioavailability, that’s what it is called. Turmeric’s health benefits take place on a 500mg dose max and not 1,500mg, so don’t overdo it. More is never better, it is worse and side effects of over-dosing over long periods of time may range from nausea, gallbladder and liver problems and bleeding. A good cook would know that too much turmeric in food turns it bitter and black!

ACTUALLY, warm to medium hot hardar-nu-doodh (turmeric-laced milk) in Gujarati homes is a standard beverage on bad days. My mother dear would heat milk and temper it in a little ghee with roasted ajwain, adding in half to a teaspoon of haldi and stirring in a wee nugget of cane jaggery last as a sweetener. Sedative too, drink last thing at night. She knew only fresh dairy milk which the milkman would bring early mornings and often there would be arguments about whether water diluted his milk or not, and how much cheating was taking place.
But the milkman who would bring around the day’s fresh milk in a large zinc tank was a genial sort and monsoon months would also get a bundle of green-stemmed, heart-shaped arvi or taro leaves for her to spread with masala paste, roll up and steam cook into bundles, later cut into rondels, mustard-hing tempered, garnished with chopped green coriander leaves and relished for an evening meal with some chutney or another. Come to think of it in country homes of old I remember eating more fresh food, minimally fussed with, than I do today! Half the ingredients of our meals nowadays pop out of plastic pouches and packs, contributing to the large scale vile mountains of plastic garbage and litter everywhere. There was none of this in the late 40s in my father’s village of Bhadran in Gujarat in my humble paternal grandmother cow dung-floored home. We were poor but so eco-friendly!
I don’t think I got familiar with a plastic bag until at the age of four years sometime in the early 1950s, my mother and me shipped out to join my father who had gone looking for greener pastures on the little island of Penang in Malaysia (at that time the Straits Settlements ruled by the British Raj from Calcutta and the British were getting their labor to work in rubber estates and tin mines from India and China).
My father had been invited to work with a Gujarati trading company for what seemed to him then a heaven-sent salary to stay alive and send some money home to his mother! My father was a real good son and father although a male chauvinist to the core.
Well, all this is part of my memoirs for whatever they’re worth, and yes, do discover the charms of golden turmeric milk one of these days if not right away. Do golden turmeric milk in oatmeal milk!

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