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  • I grew up in a household where food was very important, if only for the fact that my father used to run a restaurant at one time; he had travelled extensively in Asia and had picked many culinary secrets.

    He taught my mother everything she knew, but himself only donned his chef’s bonnet when we had guests. We were not rich, so we had to content ourselves with vegetables and dal or pulses 6 days a week, meat, fish or poultry appearing on the menu only on the seventh. But we revelled in the knowledge that we were fed the best fares possible. We owed all this to the fantastic spices we had at our disposal. Cumin (jeera), coriander (dhanya), methi (fenugreek), haldi (turmeric), cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, mustard, but they would never have sufficed by themselves. The jewels in the crown were incontestably, Garlic, Ginger, Onions.

    Garlic was once said to be as good as a thousand mothers. We used it in everything; crushed with ginger and mixed with mustard, meats were macerated in the paste for a few hours, and the end product was fit for a Maharajah! It is well-known that it has so many beneficial properties. It is used for most things, ranging from fighting infections, lowering high cholesterol, to curing cancer. As a child, whenever we had a cold, we were given a concoction made of milk, crushed garlic, ginger and root turmeric, mixed with honey. Now they tell you there is no cure for the common cold!

    Onions are cousins of garlic, and share many of its properties. With its high contents of quercin, it is an excellent anti-oxidant. Like its cousin it is used to fight infections and is anti-cholesterol and anti-cancer. Its rich cousin the Shallot is just as good, but on top of that it had seven times the phenol. As children, we were rubbed with an onion when we were stung by wasps or bees.

    Ginger also fights colds, infections, headaches, nausea among others.

    The halitosis caused by garlic, it is said, can be avoided by removing the green shoot in its centre. The eye-burning due to onions can be avoided by dipping in water before peeling. The best way to deal with ginger is to crush it with a meat pounder. Ginger is contraindicated for those people with gallstone issues.

    BEWARE: All those items have aphrodisiac properties and if their effects are not desired, they must be avoided. Many religious sects forbid their use on that account.
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