High on food!

By Pushpesh Pants |
January 31, 2022 1:13 p.m. STI

New Delhi [India], Jan 31 (ANI): The legalization of cannabis in various countries and the renewed interest in its miraculous therapeutic properties for curing, delaying the spread of cancer have drawn our attention to ingredients that are generally considered or looked down upon as intoxicants.
It is well known that food can be intoxicating and toxic. There’s a fine line between venomous and euphoric, but it’s skating on breaking ice along that line that provides the exhilarating high. Do you remember the psychobilin mushrooms from the South American continent that first opened forbidden doors to enter altered states of consciousness in the late 1960s?
In Europe, there are classic dishes that are cooked with a fair amount of alcohol. Take for example coq au vin or French onion soup incorporating a large measure of red wine. Even the Indian bawarchi of Awadh boasted of preparing a rich meat curry in shara. Alcohol is haram in Islam, but the explanation offered was that the alcohol evaporates during cooking and nothing of the taboo ingredient remains in the finished dishes. In any case, their bosses the Nawabs who ordered these dishes did not always behave like good orthodox Muslims. The Chinese ‘Drunken Chicken’ does not very subtly indicate what it has soaked and sake enters some dishes from the Japanese repertoire.
In different parts of India, alcohol has been used for centuries. In Kerala, toddy was used to prepare Neerappam paste to act as a catalyst to speed up fermentation. The same logic inspired the Goans to create their version of the tipsy idli – sanna. The Parsi repertoire has a wonderful element called tadi ma ghost. The tadi in this case is not the toddy extracted from the sap of the date palm but the beer.
When Europeans set foot on this soil, they brought with them sweets that exude an alluring charm due to alcohol. Of these, the Rum Caramel Custard is perhaps the best known. Christmas pudding ingredients are soaked in rum for weeks. Then there were liqueur-filled chocolates, burnt coffee, and planter’s punch or grog fortified with different types of alcohol. Brandy contributed to the spectacular fireworks on the table when the dish was flambéed. (Beware, teetotalers! Scientists tell us there’s a fair amount of alcohol left over as a residue).
In French or Portuguese dominated enclaves (Pondicherry and Goa), wine-based vinegars were commonly used.
In India, bhaang (cannabis) was commonly used to get high with a condensed milk drink flavored with rose petals and thandai almonds. While fakirs and sadhus smoked the “stuff” (ganja and charas), many naughty hosts fed their gullible guests bhang ke pakode during the noisy Holi festival to make them lose their inhibitions and act stupid.
In Benares, sweet meat makers have a special concoction for regular customers called munaqqa which is mixed in a lozenge cannabis paste with candied rose petals (gulakand), saffron and sultana. It beats the high-profile pralines every day with a sublimely slow release.
In the hill villages of Uttarakhand, Bhaang ki chutney is regularly prepared for all festive meals. Cannabis seeds are also ground into a paste for cooking fish or yams.

The intoxicants are limited to the green, dried leaves and seeds which impart a nutty taste that hides no kick. Aimed at hippy backpackers and their Indian trail followers, some Himachal Pradesh hotspots have gained notoriety for serving products like hot chocolate and “hash butter” cakes sold under codenames like ” Laughing Buddha.
In Bengal, posto, also known as khas-khas, are commonly used as a condiment/spice to cook vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. These are poppy seeds which, like cannabis seeds, pose no risk of poisoning.
Mahua is the alcoholic beverage much loved by young and old in the tribal belt of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and adjoining regions of Bengal, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
According to food historians, the generic name of Mada intoxicating drink derives from Madhuk – the distilled brew prepared with ripe Mahua fruits. Folklore informs us that tipsy elephants and monkeys were a common sight during the season when overripe fermenting fruits fell from the trees and were eaten by animals wandering the forest. Mahua flowers and fruits were also used to prepare laddus and preserves.

Apart from the Mahua drink, nothing else is intoxicating in the least, however, the power of suggestion is such that when the recipe ingredient is disclosed, many diners get used to tasting these concoctions. However, fish marinated in marhi (local rice wine from Jharkhand) prepared by a “son of the land” chef has met with great success in Thailand and Mauritius.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not reflect those of ANI. (ANI)

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