For the longest time I steered clear of anything that would tip the scale towards the fatty side. I was a chubby kid when I started in the kitchen helping my mother. So right from day one I branded fat at evil and didn’t exactly warm up to cooking oil. Instead, I modified deep fry recipes to pan fried versions and literally sprinkled drops of oil while seasoning. I cut down oil on the grocery list. My toasts went unbuttored. You get the gist.
I was amused by the dishes my Grandma would cook and send home, which would have a layer or oil floating on top. For the record, she was the best cook in the family. She could bake, cook absolutely delicious vegetarian and meat dishes and just had this intuitive relationship with food which I don’t think any of us inherited wholly.
And one day, just like everything else, the scientists changed their mind about fat. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol they said. Not everything is harmful or will make you heavy they said. You need a bit of fat in your food they said.
I relaxed but was still not convinced. While I switched to traditionally used oils like coconut, sesame and groundnut oils and replaced my moisturizers with them, I was very cautious using them in cooking.
That was, until I watched the episode of Master Chef Australia where Poh, during the “Favourites” week, comes on the show to make Malaysia’s Rendang paste. She heated the pan, poured oil into it, while saying, “Use a lot of oil; otherwise you are just evaporating your paste, not cooking it”. Right! So besides being cholesterol-packing, calorie-adding, evil ingredient, oil also has the function of carrying the flavor across the food, binding it all together and working the magic we call “cooking”, turning mixed up ingredients into edible, tasty food.
Having started my journey towards holistic eating, choosing whole fat non-processed foods over processed non-fat or low-fat varieties, that totally made sense.
And so I embraced another untrend. Foods that need oil, need enough oil; foods that don’t, don’t. Simple. And I was rewarded with moist flavor filled pongal for breakfast last morning, after with a new leash of confidence I seasoned black pepper, fresh ginger, French chillies, cumin and curry leaves in two spoonfuls of sunflower oil and two spoonfuls of ghee.
After all mindful eating and moderation are a lot more rewarding than abdication.
PS: This post has nothing to do with the movie Grease. Just though John Travolta would be catchier than a picture of my humble pongal