Review: Heed What Grandma Told You, Kavita Devgan’s Book Urges

In the prologue of her latest book, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You, Kavita Devgan, well-known nutritionist and health writer, presents a simple, winning argument for what she calls “Old is Gold” – and I couldn’t agree more – “pay attention to the pH of your plate”.

In an age where we’re constantly bombarded with constantly changing information on diets and food groups, this book comes as a relief.

Like Kavita, most of us have no doubt grown up on many daily diktats set by our grandmothers and mothers, and even if we didn’t always get the answers we sought about some of those practices – for example, why a glass of warm water in the morning is good for us, or why turmeric in milk was a staple bedtime drink in the winters – we followed them.

From Our Grandmothers to Our Kids

I find that not only has our taste grown diverse over the years, as we have travelled around the world and experienced different cuisines and cultures, but that our children are probably less rooted in traditional, indigenous choices than we were, as kids.

My newly minted teenager, for instance, was born in the US, and has a great palate for variety in food. She loves to indulge in spicy Indian food and traditional desserts once in a while, but won’t take more than two days of dal-chawal-subzi. Her top picks are Italian, Tex-Mex and Pan-Asian. Her idea of comfort food is pasta in a creamy white sauce with a bushel of cheese bubbling away on top, and she regards rasam-rice (my comfort food) purely as a remedy for colds.

This is the gap that Ultimate Grandmother Hacks is trying to fill. To ensure that the next generation has a time-tested guidebook to follow when they’re lost or confused, in culinary matters or otherwise. To make sure they are aware of age-old secrets to a healthy, sustainable lifestyle that don’t essentially call for a fortune to be spent on gadgets, gyms or supplements.

The book is filled with little nuggets of wisdom and suggestions for a more straight-forward, easy way to manage the everyday routine – inside and outside the kitchen. It is divided into two main parts, and part one focuses on Food, Lifestyle and Mind, with 32 chapters in all.

Part 2 comprises a 3-month traditional habits calendar, and comes with about 30 recipes for simple, tasty breakfasts with lentils, grains and millets (ragi kuzhu, amaranth pancake); and a variety of drinks (sabja seeds lemonade, beetroot chaach, kanji) snacks (daal tikki, lentil hummus), desserts (litchi dessert, besan sheera), chutneys (watermelon rind, ashgourd and guava chutney) and lunch options (sattu parantha, danthal khatta meetha).

Ancient Food Tips

The book is easy to read and navigate, and gives us a clear insight into the importance of ancient methods, tools, and cookware.

Right from why certain vegetables and fruits were always eaten with their skins, why the banana leaf makes an excellent “vessel” for steaming certain foods or a plate to eat out of, to why common sense should precede taste when it comes to our food choices – the book covers it all.

Here are some of the things that stood out, for me:

  1. Sitting on the floor and eating keeps our appetite and metabolism in check,
  2. Regular physical activity – like walking in the morning – enhances mindfulness and helps us de-stress,
  3. Eating seasonal foods is the best way to ensure optimum nutrition in our diets,
  4. Fasting every now and then helps bring the body to its most functional state,
  5. Eating with our hands is one of the surefire ways to good mental and physical health.

In Part 2, Kavita has charted out an easy-to-follow calendar, with tips on what kinds of food to include in our everyday meals and also a cheat sheet for changes to incorporate in our daily schedules – for example, she recommends sitting in the sun for an hour, without any gadgets, or agenda, and eating slowly, chewing each bite at least 20 times.

I thought these were great ways to encourage everyone to adopt small changes without drastically disturbing or upsetting their routines.

Kavita’s expertise as a nutritionist definitely shines through in this book, and she makes a valid and relatable case for Grandma’s Hacks. She doesn’t mince words (she refers to multitasking as the biggest malady of our times, and despite being a proud multi-tasker, I think she’s onto something here) or get too preachy at all.

All her suggestions are on point, and she never steers away from the core idea of the book – which is to promote ways to live a fuller, happier, healthier life.

I have to agree with her that “gut feeling” is worth its weight in gold when it comes to eating habits, and that respecting age-old traditions, going back to our roots, is the best approach to a happier, healthier life.

(Ranjini is a mom, writer, teacher, head-hasher and a whole lot of other things rolled into one. She finds her chi in her little Bangalore kitchen, amid arrays of spices, frayed napkins and stainless steel kettles. She blogs at Tadka Pasta with a partner. She tweets @leftofwrite.)

. Read more on Books by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsMaratha Quota: Social Justice Goals of Reservations Long Abandoned . Read more on Books by The Quint.