Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The food eating cultures distinctly differ from country to country but if a simple division is possible, it can be based on habits vis-a-vis consumption of cold foods. Those countries where refrigeration and freezing technology and the vast infrastructure necessary to manufacture and retail cold foods have been well established, are in the forefront as far as consumption of cold foods is concerned. By definition a salad is a 'dish, usually cold, of raw or sometimes cooked vegetables or fruits in various combinations served with a dressing or molded with gelatin and sometimes with sea food, poultry, egg, etc'. Lettuce and spinach usually form the base in green salads or garden salads and vegetables like cucumber, peppers, mushroom, spring onion, red onions, avocado, carrots, celery and radish are also used in various combinations to make different types of salads evolved in different countries of the west.
Salads are welcome diversion in a predominantly animal food based diets as they provide many health maintaining nutrients like vitamins, minerals, beneficial photochemical and dietary fiber. Besides the sensory experience offered by salads is complimentary to the palate satisfaction derived by eating meat products. In the modern calorie-rich food world, salads are supposed to be calorie-lean as vegetables are rarely sources of high calories except avocado. A cup of salad usually contains not more than 25 calories recommending itself as an ideal filler food creating satiety. Advent of dressings which are now part of any salad has changed the situation as many of these dressings are fat based raising the calorie content 5-6 times compared to those without dressings.
In India traditionally, especially in the north, cucumber and onion along with a slice of lemon at ambient conditions, served as an 'eat along', side dish for the main meal to make the eating more enjoyable and probably is the nearest to the western concept of salads. But it cannot be a substitute to a garden salad for the reason that nutritionally it is not comparable to the latter. The diversity of Indian food makes it up by including in the regular menu at least on 'subjie' which is nothing but a sauteed vegetable alone or in combination with others. Vast variety of vegetables available in the country makes it possible to have a number of different subjies which are part and parcel of the dietary regimes in all parts of the country. Cooking, often under severe conditions may lead to some losses of vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Folic Acid, variously estimated at 10-30%. This is more than compensated by the absolute safety of these
products having undergone thermal processing.
The comparison between salads and subjies is unavoidable in the wake of frequent food poisonings from Salmonella, Listeria and E.Coli reported in countries where salads and cold foods are consumed. In India the vegetables eaten cold are peeled (cucumber), surface layers removed (onion) and mixed with acidic lime juice making them more safe. Major danger is posed by Tomato which are grown with contaminated water in some regions and absence of rigorous packing shed protocols of washing with disinfectants. But consumers are more diligent, unlike their counterparts in affluent countries where it is assumed that the products in the retail markets are safe and the fresh produce is always washed well at home before consumption. With organized retailing growing at a frenetic pace, Indian consumer may also slip into such a  mindset in future not auguring well as the safety vigilance system in the country is nothing to crow about as of now to meet such
challenges ahead.

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