Vidhyarthi Bhavan – “History” and greasy dosas.

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The old neighborhoods of Bangalore have several “historical” eating houses. You know, those heritage places that claim to have a glorious history and are still surviving because of that alleged history. The truth is, these cut-rate places became famous because in those days there were few options for eating out. Now, with the phenomenal growth of the food industry, there is no dearth of quality eating houses. But these relics continue to survive, solely because of their “history”.

Vidhyarthi Bhavan is one such. Dingy, congested, insolent, over-rated. The food is ridiculously expensive, due to “historical” reasons, while the quality of the food is equally ridiculous.

The “historical” dosa I had last evening was, without any doubt, the worst I have ever eaten. It made me sick, literally. Burnt to a crisp, dripping with grease, served with insolence and the spiciest chutney on earth.

I have only myself to blame. I was a regular at Vidhyarthi Bhavan once upon a time. I last visited the place ten years ago, and I had stopped going there, because of how bad the place had become. Guess what. It’s become worse.

Remember this tip from a food quality expert (i.e. myself) – when you enter any eating house, first look at the floor. If the floor is dirty, leave.

Second, look at the walls. Too many glowing reviews, five-star ratings, celeb photos on the walls? And a dirty floor? Leave. Don’t just leave. Run.

Yesterday, at Vidhyarthi Bhavan, I forgot these golden rules myself and paid the price. The timeline was as follows: Wait outside to be called in – “merely” 20 minutes. An average adult can barely squeeze himself behind the ancient tables. Wait for the table to cleaned of all the filthy plates – 10 minutes. Wait for waiter – 10 minutes. Wait for dosa – 18 minutes  (I timed it).

I didn’t have to wait that long for the indigestion though. That was practically instantaneous.

Price of plain dosa, burnt to a crisp, dripping with grease, served with insolence and the spiciest chutney on earth: Rs. 45/-.

I blame only myself.

Who gives a shit about “history”? I want clean food, served in a clean place, in reasonable time and with some good manners. And for that, I do not mind paying a more than reasonable price.

Really. I’m a dosa connoisseur and an expert on food quality. Thirty years in quality control. I know what I’m talking about.

Across Bangalore, there are a hundred small-time dosa vendors that I’ve been to. They are cleaner and have better manners. They are small-time upstarts. They don’t have any “history” or “heritage”. They just make a bloody good dosa. And they serve it with a smile.

It’s time Vidhyarthi Bhavan becomes a vidhyarthi again and relearns the basics of good food.

I know. Die-hard customers of VB will curse and abuse me. I don’t give a shit about them either. Let them enjoy “history” – and greasy dosas.

I value my health and my palate. I’d rather patronise my non-historic road-side dosa vendor. Maybe one day he’ll put up my photo on his walls!

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

Some juicy facts.

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So you thought fruit juices are good for your kids, eh?  So you thought all those “fortified” juices in fancy tetrapaks would make your child bounce and glow, eh?  So you thought a hefty swig of fruit juice four times a day would make you healthy, wealthy and wise, eh?

You’re wrong.

Way back in 2001, The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) had issued a policy statement on the use of fruit juices [The use and misuse of fruit juice in pediatrics. Pediatrics, Volume 107, pages 1210-1213, 2001.] Here’s an extract:

Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit for infants younger than 6 months and therefore should not be introduced into their diet.  For older infants and children, fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit.  Fruit drinks are not nutritionally equivalent to fruit juice. Juice is not appropriate for treating dehydration or managing diarrhea. 

Surprised?  You ought to be.  Here are some more juicy facts for you:

Excessive juice consumption may be associated with malnutrition and can cause diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal distention and tooth decay.

Unpasteurized juice may contain pathogens that can cause serious illnesses.  In place of ‘unpasteurized’ read ‘squeezed in a fruit juicer at home’.

Infants should not be given juice from bottles or hi-tech transportable covered cups that allow them to consume juice easily throughout the day. Infants should not be given juice at bedtime. Intake of fruit juice should be limited to one small glass per day for children 1 to 6 years old.  For children 7 to 18 years old, juice intake should be limited to two servings per day.

Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits to meet their recommended daily fruit intake. Infants, children, and adolescents should not consume unpasteurized juice.

You can download the entire report here.

I could quote several other reports and articles about the perils of juicing, but I’m sure you can do your own research, instead of taking me at my word.

No point in squeezing the life out of all those fruits and raw vegetables. You may actually be doing yourself and your child some harm.

In case you didn’t get it, the message is …

JUICING IS UNSAFE!

Diet gurus would have us believe that juicing is the answer to mankind’s ills.  There are all kinds of ‘organic’ juice concoctions that promise to reverse disease, stop aging and generally bring happiness to one and all.  “Live”, uncooked juices, we are told, flush the body of “toxins”, leaving us in state of eternal bliss.

Bullshit.

When you juice the crap out of a fruit or vegetable, you lose all the other benefits you can get from it, like fiber for instance.

Fruit or vegetable juice is not a substitute for food. Fruits and vegetables are meant to be eaten.  What do you think your teeth are for?

Yes, fruits and vegetables are good for you. That’s the primary message of my blog.

But…eat your fruits and vegetables. Don’t drink them!

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

Cheers … Srini.

Aloe, aloe? Wrong number.

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So. You want to drink Aloe juice. Why? Out of your mind?

It is a complete myth that herbs are safe for you. There’s a long list of herbs that are hyped out of proportion but are directly harmful to you. At the head of this list, stands Aloe. And not just for alphabetical reasons.

Aloe vera or Aloe barbadensis, has been used in folk medicine since a few thousand years across various countries, including ours. Traditionally, aloe gel was a topical application for small wounds, cuts and burns and for skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis. The term ‘topical’ means ‘applied on the skin’.

Aloe juice is used in Ayurveda as a cathartic. The term ‘cathartic’ means ‘crap your guts out’.

That you see, is Aloe’s primary effect when ingested. It will make you crap your guts out.

That is why Ayurveda uses aloe juice as a medicine, not as a “health drink”. And like any other medicine, Ayurveda uses it sparingly. And under strict medical supervision.

There are innumerable claims being made about the juice of Aloe vera. You know, the usual tall tales – antidiabetic, antibacterial, anti-cholesterol, anti-hypertensive, anti-arthritic – and to top it all, the claim that aloe gel can cure burns caused by an atom bomb. Yeah. Atom bomb

Finally, as with all herbal remedies, it boils down to … evidence.

And in the case of Aloe, as with many other over-hyped herbal remedies, the evidence about its claimed health benefits is exactly equal to zero.

On the other hand, the evidence about Aloe’s nasty effects on your body is very real indeed.

  • A two-year study has shown that Aloe extract can cause intestinal cancer in rats and mice. And this study was done by a division of the US government’s department of health, no less. You can download the entire report here.
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea have been reported with oral use of aloe vera.
  • Diarrhoea caused by aloe can in turn decrease the absorption of many drugs.
  • Aloe can interact with your diabetes medication, and can bring down your blood sugar drastically.
  • Some studies have shown that aloe can adversely affect your liver.

Please don’t believe me. Download a detailed technical report from the US Dept of Health and Human Services, here.

If you want even more information, please visit  The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, this being the US Government’s “lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine“.

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On the other hand, no major toxicity has been reported from the use of Aloe gel as a topical application for sunburn, rashes or minor abrasions on the skin. Mind you, aloe gel will not treat any skin condition, especially sunburn. But it can soothe irritated skin and have a cooling effect, while your body heals itself. Use a reputable commercial brand, not some home-made junk that you made yourself.

Bottom line:

Use the gel on your bottom, if it’s been exposed to the sun.

Instead of using aloe gel after you burn your skin in the sun, don’t you think it’s better to stay out of the sun in the first place? Or, use sunscreen. Or, use an umbrella. I’m not joking. Dermatologists will tell you that the best way to protect yourself from the sun is to use an umbrella.

And here’s what you do not do. You do not guzzle aloe juice, as if it’s nimbu paani. Aloe juice, no matter where you get it from, is not entirely safe for you. Why do you want to drink aloe juice anyway? What incurable disease can it cure? What miracles can it perform in your body? Make you young again? Grow your hair back?

Do you know how awful that stuff tastes?

Herbs can cure. Herbs can kill. Look at the evidence first. Get your facts right. Talk to a real doctor.

And even then, think twice about taking any herbal remedy instead of properly prescribed medicine, a sensible diet and regular exercise.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

Srini.

Key References:

  1. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/assets/docs_f_o/ntp_draft_technical_report_577_a_nondecolorized_whole_leaf_extract_of_aloe_barbadensis_miller_aloe_vera_508.pdf
  2. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera#science