One afternoon in 2013 while driving on the highways, I was struck with the word 'disruptive eating.' LIke I was toying with so many words or phrases to define what we were trying to do at Nirmal. Think of an Indian restaurant if you have had exposure to Indian cuisine. What comes to your mind? Buffet, Tandoori Chicken, Naan bread, full service, afternoon closed, may be in not this order. At Nirmal, we did away with all 5 off course with a purpose or a reasoning. Part of it came from our pursuit to find a model to build the first Indian food chain in the world. Another part was how Indian food could fight the obesity and the overweight prevalence in the US. Later we realized that 'Nirmal with disruptive eating' can disrupt the food industry in the US and beyond if we manage to have the wider footprints. How? In 2 years, our concept evolved to bring other things under the umbrella of 'disruptive eating', 7 steps to be specific. Because only healthy eating to achieve good physical health is not enough for general well-being of a person or actually very few would be able to sustain good physical health without other aspects.
Step 1 - Know Your Body Mass Index (BMI)
This is step 1 and from our logo to our phone no-844-KNOW-BMI or the first poster at our entrance blares this message. I am aware of some patrons' comment that we are overdoing the things. A country with 74% overweight prevalence and 33% obesity and $116 B in annual expenditure to fight these still wants to wait for launching a war against is not comprehensible to me. Perhaps some people have not come across the kids who have low self-esteem or bullied all around because they are obese or well overweight. See we all know being overweight is precursor to most of the health issues or being obese makes your day-to-day life tough. Then why this non-chalance? Trust me once you know you are overweight or obese, your eating habit would change subconciously. I am not talking of people who dont give a hoot to the society, community or the country.
Step 2 - You don't have to eat 'Meat for Protein'
If you read other posts on this blog, you would see how we try to dispel so many myths and how 'Curry', the integral part of Indian food, makes veggie eating easier. But the question remains here in the US how people would eat veggie and where? Like veggie here means salad or some baked vegetables or potato sandwich. Let me share some facts. At Nirmal, we do serve lentils, tofu, soya and other vegetables.
Think of it. Canada is the largest producer of lentils and the lentils may be the cheapest source of protein as well as the dietary fiber. Then why it is not popular in this part of the world. India is the second largest producer and it is staple food item in Indian cuisine.
Lentils with any whole grain is complete protein. We discarded Naan bread (made from all purpose flour) at Nirmal so as to serve only 'Whole wheat bread' called Roti. Most of us may know how beneficial whole wheat or whole grain is. But you wont find whole wheat flour at Sam's club or GFS, the two biggest suppliers for the restaurants. That shows why you won't find whole wheat bread for burgers or tortillas at most of the restaurants?
Take Tofu, processed food made from Soyabeans with low protein and low calories. It comes from Chinese cuisine and you won't find or rarely find it in Chinese buffet here. I did not eat Tofu in India, honestly did not hear about it. But then I can see the reason.
We in India eat Soya chunks, high protein and high calorie food. See the 'Meat for Protein' poster under Nirmal at a glance. Please visit www.nutrela.com to know about soya products and I can say abashedly we treated soya chunks as a meat substitute as it is complete protein on its own. Then why no cuisine whatever I see in the US use soya chunks. That is baffling. It could be cheap source of protein but it may have stigma of poor's protein. Or there are so many myths with the soya products here. In India, there are 500 million vegetarians, 65% of the world vegetarians and Nutrela soya chunks is one of the most popular options for all rich and poor everyone. As for myths' part, ask any Indian here and most of us grew up eating soya chunks. Even we are non-vegetarians, it is once or twice a week meat meal. For India, meat consumption per day per capita is mere 12 gms as compared to 330 gms in US, 220 gms in EU and 160 gms in China.
Meat is not sustainable, period. The link below details one part of story. How one pound of beef needs 1800 gallons of water as compared to tofu needing 300 gallons, Soya 218 gallons, lentils less than 100 gallons. Add this to the fact that 70% of the agriculture land we use now for the animals feed and think how long majority of us would be able to afford the cost of meat.
Step 3 - Eat Goat if you are non-vegetarians
How much PETA wants us to turn vegetarians, it is not going to happen in our life-time for sure. 1 billion populace out of 7 billion are engaged in the meat production, processing and delivery. If you talk of compassion for the animals, the factory farming has killed our compassion. So what is next best option, the goat meat. Why?
See our poster. Goat meat is healthier than even Chicken and it is far more sustainable meat. One pound of goat needs just 127 gallons of water as compared to 468 gallons for 1 pound of chicken, 576 gallons for pork and 731 gallons for lamb. Goat could be reared anywhere from the sub-saharan Africa to the Himalays. It needs 1/5 of grain needed for pork and 1/3 of grass for beef.
Then you may ask why there is almost no demand for goat meat here in the US? Why the Heritage Food has the weird slogan of 'Eat Goat to Save Goat.' Why Chinese restaurants here dont serve goat meat as China is the largest producer of goat. Few Indian restaurants do serve goat meat like us, India being the 2nd largest producer.
Too many whys, same nonchalance.
Step 4 - Avoid Food wastage at any cost
The US alone wastes $165 Billion of food, 40% by the consumers and 60% by the stores. But for the global scenario, see this link – http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/food_waste_the_facts
We discarded the Buffet on this very ground as we used to throw lot more food than the customers leaving on their plates. Buffet is meant for the introduction of any cuisine and we now have $5 option in the form of Food Box with 5 items. Food box has far more varieties than the buffet. In Europe, you get fined for leaving food at your plate, see this link- http://www.ibtimes.co.in/swiss-restaurant-imposes-fine-customers-wasting-food-600131
The fast food culture has played a role in this food wastage too as most of the foods are now ready to be served. And if it does not sell, it needs to be thrown away. At Nirmal, we make 90% of our food as per order and our patrons have to wait longer for their food. Indian food is not fast food and we make our food as we do at home.
Step 5 - To make healthy food affordable, Home cooking key
Majority of populace here in the US wont be able to afford so-called veggie, nutritious food and needless to mention why tacos, burgers, pizzas are the best selling items in the US. You dont have to be a NASA scientist to guess that majority of overweight population are the low income people. So we provide $5 lunch or dinner but for a family of 4, it is still costly. Hence the home cooking is the key. We share at the social media how to make the basic Indian food or now people have so many options to know what and how to cook the healthier options. Home cooking is a habit and it would take time to inculcate. But worth doing it. Most of us Indians grew up with the home cooking specially by the ladies of the house as per our culture. It strengthens the bond of the family and saving the money is an added bonus.
Step 6 - Self-Gratification, you make global impact
The meat consumption alone counts for 21% of the green house gases, more than that caused by all aeroplanes, trains, vehicles combined all over the world, the main culprit for the global warming. I don't think Pope and the 90% of the world are stupid who believes in the global warming. So if you eat less meat or skip meat once a week, you do make a contribution. Say you start eating goat meat instead of other meats, you are helping in fight against the global hunger and poverty, see our last post. Just sharing our message of 'disruptive eating' through mouth to mouth or the social media (Twitter, Facebook or Instagram), you are doing a favor to make the world a better place.
Step 7 - Physical health tied to mental n spiritual health
If you think just eating the salads or the healthy food and spending some hours at the gym is enough, you are missing something. Mental n spiritual health sustain your physical health. My personal choice comes from the two pillars of Indian culture - Yoga and Gita. The UN sponsored the first celebration of #InternationalYogaDay on 21st June this year finally according the Yoga a status it deserved for so long. 'Gita' celebrated 5151st anniversary last year and this is a book technically. Please visit www.gita4free.com to have a look. But you have so many other options just a click away.
We launched our campaign for #DisruptiveEating on the Mothers' Day this year at Twitter handle @NirmalCurry. It was just not symbolic as we believe the young kids need to get informed, guided from step 1 to 7 and the mothers have all important role to play.
Join our campaign 4 #PureMHealthyM if you are in Michigan. We are looking for the partners who can join us in our endeavor to take our message all over the Michigan and the US.