IF A NOBEL LAUREATE ABHIJIT BANERJEE CAN COOK…any man can cook to save his life! The Indian-born American economist’s cookbook titled “Cooking to Save Your Life” is making waves in the US of A for it focuses on how anyone can learn to cook to live instead of to die on all the industrial junk food of America. This economist celebrates cooking at home and entertaining family and friends at home. He describes his cookbook of recipes as “more social science” than anything else.

By Tara Narayan

FUNNY or not funny! When a man cooks it makes news and when a Nobel laureate economist cooks it makes even more news. What is interesting is that Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Banerjee has even come out with a book titled “Cooking to Save Your Life” (published by Juggernaut) and no, I haven’t got the book in hand yet, but I’ve been reading about it as it is being reviewed all over. I’m not reviewing his book here either but am intrigued by this whole paradigm shift which is happening the countries of the west where they are re-learning how to eat from scratch, growing their own food, re-evaluating their recipes, as also what is good for body beautiful and what is not…it’s really way to go if you care enough no matter how old you be!
But to stay with this Bengali economist’s cookbook it is quite likely to be a fusion Bengali cookbook. Quite possibly he loves his Bengali food and much else he may have discovered in the US of A where Indians discover a lot of things which they never would in good old India! No to be cheeky of course but his American wife, a fellow economist from MIT, may have something to do with it. Economists these days are working towards alleviating global poverty (a far more serious pandemic) which as you must know is a growing phenomenon the world over.
It’s not just about poverty of course. We may be able to afford to eat lots of food but we may be still starving for want of nutrition to stay alive and kicking. Quite simply, rich or poor, the world over we have forgotten how to eat right to stay fighting fit. All the industrial food revolution foods out of packets are no good, and all the atrocious cooking we do really means we gift the body with calories but very little nourishment to live like you may run up the Alps in Austria in a jiffy without panting even at 50 or 60 or more years. It’s all to do with the quality of RBC and WBC count – meaning blood and oxygen feeding then trillions of cell engines or mitochondria!

THIS is just to say the enlightened world over is re-learning how to eat and that means eating organic, eating fresh, eating au natural as much as possible, eating to give the mouth a workout, eating enough fibre so as not to suffer from constipation, drinking enough water so as not to suffer from constipation and dehydration, eating enough enzymes, vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and trace elements of whatever else which keeps cellular and bony infrastructure of body beautiful in peak, moving condition.
The food industry in cans and plastic pouches and bottles and sachets gives you all this? It does not. Get this in your head. Go review your eating and drinking habits today if you want to live happily ever after! Although of course I along with a whole lot of others now will say it is not just what food you put into your mouth – it’s also what goes into all that food for thought which goes on in your mind, and I always repeat ad nauseum here — health and happiness is a package of how we feel, think, act and behave.
Plus, what and how we drink and eat. The world as well as the earth on which it proliferates has become a terribly complex place and remember the earth is not infinite as we like to think! In an increasingly industrialized, technologized world we must learn to draw the lines for the good of the entire world surely or we die equally even if we do not live equally?

SO, to return to the subject of economist Abhijit Banerjee’s cookbook with its very interesting “Cooking to Save Your Life” – he doesn’t mean exactly that for he says don’t perceive his book as a health-conscious cookbook! Expensive ingredients don’t necessarily make healthy recipes… but he was appalled when he learned that more and more people can’t cook to save their lives! They may of course be able to cook to go into rigor mortis sooner rather than later.
Coming from India I understand how appalled he must have been for in much of India we still believe in eating more or less right. Banarjee confesses somewhere somewhere that as a young teenager his mother was travelling much of the time and had to pick up rudimentary cooking skills or something like that. Needless to say these skills kept him alive and kicking out in the USA.
The bottom-line is we have to learn to eat right if we want to stay alive – man or woman. As also teach all those others lost in the mess of eating dead food day in and day out…the crazy refined flour breads and biscuits and pizzas doped with killer refined fats and jazzed up with sugars and salts and how many chemicals Lord Krishna alone knows! All the artificial acidic drinks in bottles and tetrapacks and cans – all they do is screw up your phD ratio constantly, blood pressure, turn to concrete lining your circulatory system, a slow squeeze to post-life mysteries.
We must alleviate global poverty and hunger to revive a sick Mother Earth who feeds us all! It does mean re-learning how to eat right, eat simple, eat basic. Economists may write PhD papers and write costly solutions but these days we are thinking of such things as instead of genetically modified ingredients we look at say the carbohydrate values of even jackfruit seeds – eat the fruit, soak the seeds and cook them into wonderful carbohydrate food – just eat!
It’s only recently at the ripe old age of 70 years that I realized how agreeable jackfruit seeds are instead of rice and roti – I keep the seeds soaked for a few days till they soften and the skins are almost coming off and put them to boil with a pinch of sea salt, the result is amazingly good and agreeable. As in look Ma, no rice, no bread, no roti!
Then again, discover the nutritious millets of life in India. India has a wonderland of millets which are considered alkaline grains and by default they’re still organically cultivated I think by small farmers…think bajra or pearl millet which is so popular in north-west India including Gujarat and Rajanthan, also Haryana; think finger millet (nachni, mundua, ragi, mandika, mandia), foxtail millet (kangni, kakum, korra, kanghu), little millet (kutki, samai, sava, suan), proso millet (chena, variga), kodi millet (kodon, kodra, kodua), barnyard millet (sanwa, udhalu, khira), pearl millet is of course in native lingo also bajra, bajri, sajja. There are ten major types of millets in India and easy to find if you look for them at local grocers. They can take the place of polished white rice any day, in any case in Goa one may patronize only red rice for making whatever be it just rice or sannam!

THIS is to say this week check out Nobel prize-winner economist Abhijit Banerjee’s cookbook “Cooking to Save Your Life.” As also another book of the same title if you please which has come to my notice, “Cooking to Save Your Life” by one Chef Kurt Stiles (this second one is a health-conscious cookbook, the first is I dare say is just an inventive Bengali-cum-rest of the world fusion cookbook)!
SERIOUSLY, for the sake of more harmonious relationships between the sexes, I think both girls and boys (more so!) must learn housekeeping skills, cooking skills and growing a kitchen garden skills in school curriculum nowadays. It would stand them in good stead later in life’s many difficult situations. These are crucial skills for life to run on oiled wheels or so to speak.
You think cooking is easy? It is not! If you have never stepped into a kitchen in your life before, it is not. Step into one now and see how confused you will be, you won’t even know where to begin and I’m thinking rudimentary here. I’ve spent a lifetime growing up with men who think cooking, only women can and should do that! All that is over with nowadays, “The times, they are a-changin’…”, remember that song, whose song it is? So, the times there are changing, my friends and hopeless situations must change to hopeful situations if we want to be happy and healthy single or double or treble or back to joint families!

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