Let no oil f(oil) your travel dreams

Back in September of 2009, the owner of a restaurant called ‘Black and White’, at the seaside resort town of Kusadasi, Turkey sat me down for an hour and told me how he wanted to export Turkish grown Olive oil to India. According to him, it was more superior in quality than the Italian and Greek Olive oil and also cheaper and tried very hard to get me into the business of importing Olive oil into India.

I thought it made great business sense to import a cost effective and superior quality cooking oil into a country that was struggling to shrug off years of pakoras, puris and gulab jamuns from the wobbly tummy and the bulging bottom. However, though I personally felt that the Mediterranean diet is perhaps the healthiest I have come across during my travels, it is absolutely ridiculous to expect that just to knock off a few kilos Indians will switch to salads and grilled fish and give up on parathas and Mughlai chicken. Unfortunately despite all the health benefits of Olive Oil, I cannot imagine frying a samosa or tossing up a fish curry in it, due to its distinct taste and odour that somehow does not marry too well with Indian food.

I was stuck all these years, with either cooking the ocasional pasta or hummus in Olive oil, or use one of the ‘high on saturated fats’ refined vegetable oils that were available in the neighbourhood grocery. This was simply because I thought there were no healthy cooking oils that could be adapted to Indian cooking.

Then, one fine day a few days back at a bloggers meet, I was introduced to Canola Oil and a whole new world of healthy cooking opened up (yes, including deep frying that medu wada) that hitherto was just fiction to me. Canola or Canadian Oil comes from the seeds of the Canola Plant that is grown primarily in the prairie region of western Canada.. In an era where the word GMO or genetically modified plants sends shivers down the spine, the Canola experiment of genetically modifying the rape seed plant to make it fit for extracting a perfectly safe and healthy oil is a remarkable feat in modern science. You can read more about the origin of Canola Oil here : http://www.canolainfo.org/canola/index.php.

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Although they look similar, canola and rapeseed plants are very different. Scientists used traditional plant breeding to eliminate the undesirable components of rapeseed, namely erucic acid and glucosinolates. Before canola oil received “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status from the FDA and favorable recognition as a vegetable oil by Health Canada, it had to go through rigorous testing to ensure it was safe for human consumption.

Its good to be skeptical and ask the correct questions before trying out a new product, so that you are really convinced about the benefits of the product. So, read up some more here : http://www.canolainfo.org/news/latest_news.php?detail=27

I was surprised to know that Canola oil has the least saturated fat of any common cooking oil and less than half the saturated fat of Olive Oil and Soya bean oil! Dr.Ashish Contractor, Head of Preventive Cardiology, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai who was present at the meet further added that while in 1950s the largest cause of death was infectious diseases, today 1/3rd of Indians die of heart diseases, caused largely due to diabetes, cholestrol and obesity.

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Naini Stalvad, a noted dietician brought to light some very disturbing facts. 84 schools were recently surveyed in USA. The study showed that with a change of fat content, there was an increase in percentage of juvenile delinquency!

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Coming back to the fun side of it all, Chef Ajay Chopra of Masterchef India fame tossed up some delicious, easy to cook recipes like the Maharashtrian snack ‘Kothimbir Wadi’ and ‘Chocolate Samosa’ (with dark chocolate) using Canola oil. He mentioned that he has recently shifted to Canola oil himself and along with a combination of excercise has shed 4kgs in 2 weeks. He also pointed out that the absorption of Canola oil is better and has a higher ‘smoking point’ than other oils. This means that you require less oil for cooking and the same oil can be reused more number of times than the average oil. He advised that oil should not be re used after it has hit the ‘smoking point’.

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What I liked best are the three different oil bases he prepared by heating up the oil (not to smoking point) and then pouring it out in three separate bowls adding basil, rosemary and dried red chillies and letting them settle for some time to absorb the flavours. The oil can then be stored for weeks and used for a variety of cooking or like I did……..just dip some bread in the delicious oil mix just the way Greeks and Turks do with olive oil and have it as a starter.

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Due to its high resistance to heat, Canola can be used for grilling, baking, frying etc.

Binging guilt free on yummy treats cooked in Canola oil later in the evening was definitely the highlight for me.

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Well, personally for me I have already shifted to Canola, because frankly the very least I owe to myself is gifting my body the benefit of a healthier cooking medium. Although it is a little more expensive than the regular refined oil that you may be used to, I feel it is still worth spending the little extra to avoid footing up a large medical bill later due to health issues.

I live to travel and anything I can do to ensure that my health does not play spolisport in the years to come, so that I can explore more cultures and meet new people from different countries, I definitely will.

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