Eating with hands – Connecting food to the soul – By Anuradha Gupta

Eating food with the hands in today’s times is perceived as being unhygienic, bad mannered and primitive. However within Indian culture there is an old saying that, eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and the spirit. Have you ever thought of why previous generations in India ate with the hands? There is a whole science for this. The practice of eating with the hands originated within Ayurvedic teachings. The Vedic people knew about the power held in the hand as they are considered the most precious organ of action.

Our hands are said to be the conduits of the five elements. The Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements. Through the thumb comes fire; through the forefinger, air; through the mid-finger, space; through the ring finger, earth and through the little finger it is water. Each finger aids in the transformation of food, before it passes on to internal digestion. Gathering the fingertips as they touch the food stimulates the five elements and invites Agni to bring forth the digestive juices. As well as improving digestion the person becomes more conscious of the tastes, textures and smells of the foods they are eating, which all adds to the pleasure of eating.
Can you imagine eating your super sinful chole bhature with your silverware? Apart from the practicality, the aroma is important too. Even after you wash, don’t you love that aroma that lingers on your hands. Later, you might hold up your hand to someone else and say “Smell my hand, see how good the food was and be transported back in the time when you were eating those!”

Last year lot of hue and cry was created when Oprah Winfrey said “I heard some Indian people eat with their hands still!”, Well I would like to tell her that not only we STILL do that in the comforts of our homes, some of us even scoff at people who try to tackle their pakores, dosas, rotis and roasted chickens with cutlery. Eating your succulent galauti kebabs with a fork and knife is like having a hearty conversation with your lover through an interpreter, the message is delivered but the whole charm, the feel, the magic is lost! Similary the sensuous connection to the food, the feeling of sharing and, practicality (in that it’s easier to pluck that last bit of meat off the bones) avoiding waste.

I strongly believe that Indian food tastes best when eaten with one’s fingers because food is more than just protein, carbs and fat, it nourishes the mind, intellect and spirit. Eating should be sensual and mindful, employing all the senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Using your hands gives you a tangible connection with your food.
Eating with the hands is common in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia and much of Africa and the Middle East because ancient civilizations believed that it heightens the sensual connection to food and softens the formality of fine dining. Also I think it evokes great emotion, kindles something very warm, gentle and caressing. Using a fork and knife is almost like a weapon. If you don’t agree think of a time when you chose to feed a baby, we invariably end up using our hands and ditch the cutlery every single time. We are taught when we are old enough to hold forks and spoons not to eat with our hands, it is bad manners, and our hands are dirty. But eating with our hands is so primal, such a basic instinct and so universal. 
My most fond memories of my childhood are the times when I was allowed the luxury of truly enjoying food with all of my senses and play with my food on the dining table. Thankfully my parents never forced me to eat using spoons and forks and let me create the mess with all the dal chawal. I was quite influenced by my south Indian maid who used to make these small balls of dal chawal and then eat and still enjoy dunking my hands in dal chawal and licking my fingers to eat those fabulous chutneys. 
Studies have shown that eating with your hands gives you a more intimate connection with your food and you don’t eat as much. And there are health benefits besides. Digestion begins while handling the food. All of your senses are activated and your attention is brought to the now of the moment. Your hands change the composition of the food and at the same time brings in the sacredness. The most common benefit heard is that when eating with your hands, you are able to verify the temperature of the food before putting it into your mouth and in this way avoid the burning of your mouth in case the food is too hot.
I refuse to eat my Tangri Kebabs with a knife and fork, even in the most formal fine dine places. I don’t care if I’m all dressed up, if everyone else is eating with a knife and fork, if some Sauvignon Blanc is being paired with the meal because for me the entire romance of the Indian meal is lost if I use the cutlery, then it is only about feeding my body and not the soul! 
I am not advocating to ditch the cutlery, all I am saying is there is a certain way to eat certain food and we shouldn’t be worried about some social disapproval by choosing to eat with hands and the truth is Indian food tastes best with hands and so be proud of it!

I will end this by asking this question, think of the time when you were loving fed by a loved one, mom, dad, grand mom or even that special person. Ask yourself was any cutlery used? I am sure most of you have that faint smile on your face now because chances are you were fed using hands

Written by Anuradha Gupta

When it comes to Teabags, packaging DOES matter | By Anuradha Gupta

I was a coffee addict and used to gulp 10 plus cups in a day and then i realized how bad it is for my health and gradually developed a liking for teas. Initially I had to force myself to develop a taste for all the fancy teas available in market but sooner than I expected I started falling in love with various teas, flower teas, Chinese oblong tea leaves, Tulsi teas and what not!

Now I have over 30 types of teas in my house and love all those. Some are organic and some are the usual! For the sake of convenience started stacking lots of tea bags in my desk drawers. Its just so easy, heat some water, dip a tea bag and I am having something really healthy! I also try to wash down a heavy fat laden meal with a cup of hot green tea.

Today morning while I was making my organic tulsi sweet lemon tea, it struck as lighting to me, the tea is organic but what is this white bag made of? I did some reading on the internet and realized that the some tea bags are made with plastic, such as nylon, thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene. While these plastics have high melting points, the temperature at which the molecules in polymers begin to break down is always lower than the melting point, which could allow the bags to leach compounds of unknown health hazards into your tea when steeped in boiling water.

Paper tea bags are frequently treated with epichlorophydrin, which hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD when contact with water occurs. 3-MCPD is a carcinogen associated with food processing that has also been implicated in infertility and suppressed immune function. 

The majority of tea bags are made using paper that is produced from vegetable and wood fibers. Most of the time, this paper is bleached for aesthetic reasons. The unfortunate truth is that most tea bags are bleached and when bleached they may put you at a high risk of many health defects.

We really don’t know what tea bag is made of as there is information mentioned on the packaging material used in making teas bag but we can surely opt for the loose teas available and brew it using a stainless steel strainer. At least we wont be causing any harm to our bodies in the garb of the goodness of the drinking tea. Also when selecting tea of any kind, it should preferably be organic (to avoid pesticides) and grown in a pristine environment (tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, so a clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea).

So if you are an avid tea drinker and/or drink it for health reasons, make you sure you check what you are putting into your system. A bit of caution can avoid lot of harm to our bodies.

Written by Anuradha Gupta

Biryani Blues, Gurgaon – Soul Stirring

Gurgaon seems to be buzzing with food joints which are shouting ‘Different’ from their rooftops and noise is loud enough for any food lover to notice. These are not your swanky or posh joints,  however small cozy places run by people like you and me,  people who came into the business for love of food,  or at-least that is how it seems to me.
Biryani Blues is one such outlet located in Supermart in Dlf Phase 4. A small place with nice and cozy feel to it,  they claim to serve authentic Hyderabadi and Andhra food.  I have been hearing great things about it on Eatlo as well as from my friends and finally landed at this place last night to savor some of their now very famous Biryani.
Menu Side 1
Menu Side 2
The menu looked impressive with limited dishes which ensure right amount of focus and attention to whatever there is on the menu.  It also means that they have their priorities right and are not trying to impress everyone which generally can be quite disastrous.
Having heard great things about the kheema Biryani we decided to order a portion of that,  which cost Rs. 275. With that you had an option to add half portion of a starter for Rs. 150 only. I opted for Prawn fry.
Kheema Biryani in the handi
Salan that is served with Biryani
Raita that is served with biryani
The Biryani came in the usual handi along with some mirchi ka salan,  raita and onions,  which are quite precious these days.
Now I am not an expert on Biryani,  and discussions and descriptions of the same often leave me confused,  rendering me incapable of commenting on the authenticity of the product.  That said,  whatever I had there was quite incredible.  The portion size was very generous and should easily suffice for 2 people with average appetite.  The Prawns were quite tasty as well,  I loved the way they were fried with curry patta,  the portion again being quite generous considering how expensive they generally are.
Kheema Biryani
Closer look at Kheema Biryani
Half portion of Prawn fry
Being the glutton I am,  desserts is how I judge food joints on.  If you don’t have a good dessert then you are sending me incomplete.  Fortunately for Biryani Blues,  they do a Double ka Meetha and a Khumani ka meetha. We ordered a double ka meetha which to define very simple is normal bread –  fried and dipped in sugar syrup.  Once again I will not comment on the authenticity of it,  however for Rs. 100 it was enough to satisfy the sweet tooth of 2 of us and put a stamp of completeness on the meal.
Double ka Meetha
Double ka Meetha – Fried bread in sugar syrup, decorated with Silver foil and topped with Dry fruits.
Spent around Rs. 600 on this meal and authentic or not,  turned out to be soul food for us.  The feeling you get when you are satisfied to the core in terms of appetite, taste and desire.
I hope to visit this place again to test various other things, in the meantime if you have to drive all the way from Delhi to savor the food, do give it a shot. All for the love of food.
Address : Biryani Blues, Shop No. B-204, Supermart 1, DLF Phase 4, Gurgaon,122002
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Went to Chili’s last night for dinner. The food was great, as usual, so I won’t even talk about that. Within the first few minutes of stepping inside this restaurant and taking my seat, I saw a big fat rat running on the pipeline that acts as Chili’s ceiling. Now I absolutely hate rats! Like really hate them more than anything else in this world! And I keep hallucinating about them every few days. Most of the times it is my hallucination, but the rest of the times it indeed IS a rat that I see. This time, however, I thought it was the former. So I kept mum because I honestly thought there can be no rats in a place like this!
About 45 minutes later, I see a huge huge rat on the floor! And this time I was sure I wasn’t hallucinating. The rat climbed on the table, fell on the chair, climbed till the highest point of the chair, went back down on the floor and moved on to repeat the process on the next table. That’s when I screamed, and the people around me screamed too. Thankfully those tables were empty, but that’s not the point! Then the managers came, a few of the waiters came, a sweeper came along with them to catch the rat, and while all this was on, the rat came on our side of the table. I ran from my table and went towards the bar area. While I was waiting at the bar for the rat to get caught by the sweeper, guess what I saw? A rat on the pipeline again! So this place just didn’t have 1 rat, it had 2! And 2 I say only because I saw 2, don’t know how many more I missed looking at!
One thing to note here is that those rats were not the tiny ones or the medium ones, they were the kinds you find on railway tracks – the huge terrifying kinds!
That’s when we called for our check and left our drinks and food midway. Now comes the most disgusting part!! People are leaving your restaurant because of a rat, and all you can do is bring them the check and offer no apology! The managers were so damn pathetic, so shameless, and had no basic decency whatsoever! The didn’t apologize even once! I agree you didn’t bring the rats in your tiffin today and let them loose yourself, but you’re the managers of this restaurant!! The least you can do is offer an apology to your guests!! Really, appalled at this behavior  The didn’t try to stop us and say that we could be shifted to another table, they didn’t offer to pack our food and drinks, and they most certainly lacked the basic hospitality sense of offering an apology! Not that we were going to get the food packed from a place that has rodents all over, but their duty asks them to at least offer us this much! And God alone knows how many rats their kitchen was providing shelter to!! Really really sucky management, is all that I have to say!
4 other people apart from us also left the restaurant that very minute. Guess they lost a lot of business last night.
The most shocking one : The sweeper was trying to find the rat and the manager tells him “Chhod chhod, abhi chhod, abhi logon ko aane de, baad mein dhoondhenge isko”. WOW!
Shared by Sahiba Gursahaney 

Cafe Coffee Day – Is that Cheating?

Coming straight to the point, have had two bad experiences in last one week with two different outlets of  Cafe Coffee Day. 
* Was at Hudson lane outlet and ordered for a Darjeeling (Tea). The waiter asked me if I would like to add some Chocolate or Hazelnut syrup to it. I asked him are you sure you want to do any of that? He said yes sir you have an option. I was like WOW! Darjeeling and tea would never be same again if that happens. Curious to know what would happen, I asked him to put hazelnut syrup/sauce. Out came my tea in few minutes which has its usual color and aroma. On asking where was the hazelnut syrup the waiter said it was in the tea itself. There was no point in telling them that the tea tasted exactly the way it should and there was no add on. Ultimately had my money refunded, however wondered what would happen to the tea producers of Darjeeling if they knew this was happening to their beloved product.
Cafe Coffee Day Bill for Darjeeling tea.
Darejeeling Tea which is supposed to have Hazelnut Syrum.
* At the Rajinder Nagar outlet on Shanker Road ordered a Cafe Latte. 5 Minutes later server walks in with a coffee in hand, one look at it and I said it was Cappuccino. I asked him if it was cappuccino, he asked me what did I order, on telling him that I ordered a Latte he said it is Latte Sir. I decided to take his word and ignore the extraordinarily light color of my drink and attributed it to unknown factors. One sip of the drink and Voila! It WAS a Cappuccino. Ultimately got my drink replaced with server telling me that he just joined duty and he just served was given to him. I decided not to waste my time further and enjoy my coffee and work which I was there for. 
And surprisingly on asking for a feedback or complaint form, they said they have none and I should email my complaint. 
Besides these incidents I have personally experienced the order taking process of Cafe Coffee Day and Costa Coffee where when taking the order they would ask you if you want your drink with a particular type of sauce or would you like to have your frappe with ice-cream or something else. They never mention the words add-on or anything else. A very deliberate attempt by them to fleece unsuspecting customers to get add-ons added as customer ends up thinking that they are talking about a variant of the same drink.
I am sure in the end the technical information would be there and they would not be cheating or fleecing technically speaking, but is the point or the spirit or user experience is? What happened to fair business practices??
Being at the helm of things at Eatlo, I keep on hearing such attempts to fleece customers by these coffee shops. I guess its important to be on constant guard when ordering or interacting with staff of these coffee shop chains. 
Are they taking their customers for granted? Is the staff so poorly trained or is so hell bent on selling that they would sell Darjeeling Tea with hazelnut syrup to the customer in first place and then lie or be clueless about it? Or just tell the customer whatever gets the job done at the moment, like calling Cappuccino a Latte thinking that customer is stupid?  I am sure lot of you guys would have faced such experiences, so would request you to share them here in the comment, so that we all can know the ways we can be cheated by the staff of Cafe Coffee Day and likes.

Connect with me on Twitter : @SH_AGer