Food Fallacies

Old Grandma bustles about in the kitchen with a verve and vivacity unmatched, so much so that you would never believe she was born before Hitler perished. Her spotless apron gives away her expertise as she skillfully chops the greens into miniscule squares you could measure the dimensions of, and be ashamed of your drawing skills. Just as she puts down the knife and turns up the flame of the stove, Grandpa gives her a call from the garden. Buried knee deep in a twenty-inch trench, he asks grandma for a knife, evidently in pursuit of some prized possession. Without question, Grandma places the knife on the ground, and heads back to the kitchen when the wheezy voice is heard again. “How am I supposed to reach that? Why don’t you give it to me?” Helpless Grandma says, in her defense, “Don’t you know after half a century of being my husband, that I cannot give you a knife in your hand? It will sever our relationship!” And quietly dabbing her moist eyes with her apron, she heads for the kitchen again.

You can make out a Tambrahm when you see one. And Grandma is a giveaway. As she sets out the food on the table, it is impossible to miss her act of wetting her hand after placing the rice and before touching the curd. Her grandson hears her mumble “patthu” as she continues her chore. After a filling lunch, as the grandson sits watching TV, Grandma chides him, “Go wash your plate. Never sit with a used plate for even a minute longer than your last mouthful.” A reluctant grandson drags his feet to the sink, cleans his plate with water and resumes his position in front of the idiot box. The phone rings and the little boy’s face lights up as he hears his mother’s fond voice. After answering the general inquiries about food and health, he hands over the receiver to his grandmother. She is heard instructing her daughter not to eat anything within an hour of the onset of the eclipse that afternoon in London. “After the eclipse, you must take a head bath before laying a finger on even a crumb of bread”, she says. A few more reminders and clarifications follow, after which the receiver is returned to its holder as Grandma resumes her activities of cleaning the dining area.

Meanwhile in another part of the country, there are asthma patients swallowing live fish as an entirety, literally from head to tail, with a hope of getting rid of their chronic illness. A sneezing Jay witnesses this strange act on a news channel and is aghast by the stampede that ensues as several desperate believers fight for the coveted fish. As his mother serves him chicken soup to cure his cold, he seeks the explanation to this practice. His mother elucidates how when a live murrel fish stuffed with herbal paste wiggles its way down a person’s throat, the tail and fins help to clean the phlegm. Jay, too taken aback and simultaneously fatigued to be able to fire more questions, quietly swallows the chicken soup and goes to bed.

The large number of myths that surround a particular notion, as essential as food, are astounding. However, questioning it all and digging to its roots for a scientific basis depends upon an individual. As John. F. Kennedy aptly puts it, “the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic!”


Shreya G

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