Sunday, April 17, 2016

We need to boil the ocean

The first time I heard this phrase, I was dumb struck. I was meeting an expert at the entrepreneurship center of a big name university and his first question was ‘why you are trying to boil the ocean.’  Implicit in his question was you are asking for the business advice to build the first ever Indian food chain. So why your business plan looks like that of a non-profit or at most a social enterprise? I fumbled completely to explain how our mission is integral to our business and that meeting went haywire.
But I don’t blame him or anyone who slams us in the reviews. Like are we a restaurant or nutritionist’s office, why we are making such a big deal of saving energy saving planet or we don’t get it why we serve only whole wheat bread, parboiled rice or why we discarded sodas from our menu. One gentleman predicted our mission would boomerang on us. It did actually it bomb-ranged. Like we lost 60% of the sales in the last 2 years and we have barely survived. But we are still hanging on the hope that the people would come out of this ‘Ocean.’ Let me explain.
Everything is so oceanic peaceful. People are eating or drinking whatever they want and without thinking about their choices. The result is 70% population being overweight and the obesity rate being up now to 36% from 33%. But there are so many gyms, health clinics, weight loss surgeries, diet plans to take care of you, no worry. As being overweight is precursor to most of the health issues, the trips to the hospitals are ever increasing. But the doctors won’t tell you to check your BMI, the Body Mass Index or you being overweight because it would violate your privacy or be offending. So 60% of US adult population don’t know their BMI. The hospitals and the health insurance companies are the most profitable business here. The health care costs are going out of the roof, no worry. Because the politicians are there to take care. Like we all are seeing the fight over the Obamacare for the last 6 years.
Who suffers the most for this oceanic nonchalance? No prize for guessing. The low income populace who does not have money to buy diet plans or can afford weight-loss surgeries. The people who don’t have insurance despite of Obamacare. We are convinced that the health equality is the key to fight the income and educational inequality- 3 components of the social inequality.
Am I sounding like 99% vs 1%? But I am more in 10% vs 30% vs 60%. 10% are super rich here, if not billionaires, no need to waste any line here. 30% are the upper or high middle-income, they have insurance, they can afford the healthy food of all types from the Whole Foods to the soup-salad bars. 60% people live here from the paycheck to paycheck. They can’t afford the healthy food or some of them don’t have insurance. They lose their pay for their absence from work or can’t afford day-care if their kids become sick and miss their schools. And once they fall into this vicious health inequality, it become an uphill battle to overcome the income and the educational inequality.
Not a single day passes in the news cycle without the mention of Obamacare or the school of choice debate or the food stamp fight. How many times you hear about the healthy eating or the media coverage about the celebrities denouncing the excess meat consumption here or vouching for the plant protein like we do. May be everyone would agree that this could be the root cause of the overweight prevalence or the obesity menace. Like the government comes with the dietary guidelines once in 5 years. Is that enough if you think of more than $100 billion spent per year for this fight? Or the last sentence of this article in CNN - .

What chance does the United States have to stop the rise of obesity by 2025? Zero, the study says.

If I remember correctly we hear about ‘Prevention is better than cure’ may be in the 4th or 5th grade and it is true for all aspects of our life, not only for the health issues. But how many of us are in ‘Prevention’ mode or may be some of us can’t afford this mode when we talk about the healthy food options for 60% populace. ‘Prevention’ is always much cheaper than the ‘cure.’

The foundation of ‘Prevention’ rests on the knowledge or sharing the knowledge. And I can say with confidence now that Twitter is the best or may be the fastest source for the relevant knowledge. Like you don’t have to tweet anything or you can always retweet whatever you like. Just have an account and follow the handles you need to. Our Twitter handle is @NirmalCurry. One caveat here never take any article or statement at the face value, always dug deeper. I always do and come across amazing info.

So when people say we are condescending because we share the nutrition charts or resorted to the food exclusion, hurt us most. I would share a personal example. I grew up in India eating goat meat, a kind of staple meat. I first ate chicken when I was 16. So we used to have both lamb and goat at Nirmal café and most of the patrons opted for the lamb. Very few Indian restaurants serve the goat meat because there are not enough customers. I was not ready to accept such fate because I and our chefs always felt that the goat curry is unique to Indian cuisine and far tastier than any lamb item.

One day I chanced upon the Michigan State University (MSU) article about the goat meat being healthier than even chicken, see our website blog. Much later I learnt that the goat is far more sustainable too than beef, pork or lamb. See link here from the National Geographic  -
Like one pound of goat needs just 127 gallons of water as compared to 1800 gallons for one pound of beef. We discarded lamb altogether from our menu and that started our food exclusion spree. We eventually discarded the Naan white bread and the Sodas. The last two exclusions took a year more.

This info was coming from one of the top agriculture universities in the world, worth sharing. So when I sent this article to my uncles and aunts in India, they were shocked. The goat is a red meat and majority of Indians quit eating goat in favor of fish and chicken mostly around the age of 50-55 as a prevention. If you think of recent WHO guidelines about the red meat, it centers around the grilled meat. We Indians eat everything in curry with boiled and cooked meat and only grilled items we eat are Tandoori chicken. But the Tandoor ovens are used in the Indian restaurants only. So I am not sure if my uncles and aunts would revert to the goat meat or not despite all logical back-ups.

What I want to emphasize that people know what they want to know. Like I have had no inkling about the goat being healthier though eating goat for last 30 years or so. What about my uncles and aunts? Are they stupid, NO? But some are stupid for sure. There is huge uproar over the ‘BeefBan’ in India last year when one person got killed having beef at home. The war of words continued for 3 months among all sides. Beef is banned in India on the religious grounds as the cow is revered by us Hindus and the Hindus form 85% of India’s population. I wished and tried to share the MSU article and National Geographic link with all and sundry. I personally don’t believe that any food item should be banned on any ground. But no one even acknowledged my tweets.

Each of us needs to take charge of this ‘Prevention’ mode. We are not saying what to eat or what not. But when I do see the beef item in the tweets of the Food network or BBC Good Food or as a part of a diet plan, I want people to know 3 things – the beef has 40% more saturated fat than goat, the beef is the most acidic meat along with the pork and the beef is not at all sustainable.

Talking of acidic-alkaline food items which I came across only last week at Twitter. And I dug deeper as is my wont. See this link  -
I found this article most comprehensive. Still some confusion persists with respect to the goat meat and the soya chunks, no info in this article. I am exploring further. But the key is to strike a balance and for this we need info.

One of my fellow Twitterer sent this tweet – I had a look at your blog. Go and read Tim Noakes, Gary Taubes, Jimmy Moore, Nina Teicholz + Weston A Price

They are big names no doubt but we are so different on many counts.

    1. We are in ‘Prevention’ mode, not in cure, no diet or meal plans, we keep it simple. Eat Indian food if you want to eat more plant protein, more whole grain, more vegetables, less meat, period
    2. We back-up our thoughts with the food at Nirmal café now. If we say that #DisruptiveEating revolves around the lentils and the goat, we aim to bring both these items in the mainstream of US food scene one day in the near future. Till then ‘Power of WE’ can do the needful.
    3. We talk of ‘EatRight’ in 7 steps just not ‘EatHealthy.’ We want to bring the water foot-prints of the food items, the food wastage, the energy saving, the home cooking at the center-stage of our discussion. Watch out for our Mobile App. #DisruptiveEating empowers each of us to make the world a better place.

We want ‘Tsunami’ in this ocean of status quo pervading for so long. What a better time to challenge the status quo as we wade through such tumultuous Presidential election season.

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