(All these smart phone contraptions with jellybeans , icecreamsandwich, and kitkat OS'es . I guess it is now time to introduce smart eats with human OS'es; ting tong.... Sangeeta Inside ! Bye Intel)....
Come to think of it, I have been getting a lot of books and stuff by courier these days. It has become so routine, that no one is even curious about what book it is or even curious about the package.
So it was a bit of a shock for folks, to see a box labelled SMART EATS suddenly making an appearance via courier. Very clearly these were not books.
Several pairs of eyes lit up, with one pair of hands even willing to open the package for me immediately. But I waited. I had known this was coming. My friend Sangeeta Khanna is the nutritional advisor to the SmartEats company, and as an avid follower of her cooking and writings, I was looking forward to what she would be recommending to the company. And how they would be creating a finished product.
(Sangeeta has done professional rigorous research regarding antioxidants, is a nutritional and botanical expert , and believes in various traditional aspects of our Indian regional diets, that involve seasonal greens, spices, good fats, and ways of cooking that preserve the rich nutritional values. She also advises on diet plans for specific health conditions. )
There were honey roasted cinnamon almonds, tangy plum fruit, fruity Caribbean cookies, walnut browne biscotti, fruity granola bars, and for all those hours you will spend in front of your TV's watching Sachin Tendulkar's final match, a packet of yummy Jaipuri roasted mixture, to pop into your mouth, every now and then ....
When you have a swimmer in the family, aware of nutrition et al, you have to be alert to the sudden disappearance of goodies from a box such as this.
Nevertheless, one was at pains to clarify, that the stuff was to be reviewed, and the reviewer had to taste, and this needed to be kept in mind at all times, by hungry types.
The first to go were the honey roasted cinnamon almonds. Could have eaten the whole packet but didn't. Wonderfully crunchy and lightly spiced. Overall , a delightful taste . Loved these. The packet found its way to purses, refrigerators and so on. I must have had, maybe, just 3 almonds. You know who finished the rest.
The Walnut Brownie Biscotti, had just the right type of controlled sweetness, suggestion of walnut, and crunch. And a sense of lightness. I received a few pieces of it from the powers that were holding it all. Clearly, some folks would need to develop a taste for this, given that life is today all about creamy sugar icing resting on layers and layers of chocolate. But this stuff, was clearly something I would enjoy with say, and afternoon cup of tea. An urge to dunk it in milk and slurp, cannot be denied.
The individually packed fruity Caribbean Cashew cookies, redolent with cashews grapes and melon seeds . Cookies with a delightful sense of fruit. Unlike cookies that crunch and crackle, these gleefully disintegrate inside , with just the right amount of sweetness. Those who dream of cookies slathered with buttery cream in rainbow colors , might find these less sweet. But a lovely filling, snack, that doesn't overpower you, and is heart healthy, since it contains Oleic acid . Go on, have another .
The Fruity Granola Bars were next. A powerhouse of oats , honey and fruit and coconut. Just ideal for chewing on the go, and individually wrapped. Which is probably a good idea, as there is always a danger of sitting next to a jar of these (unwrapped and ready to eat) and imbibing endlessly while preoccupied with something. There was a sort of coconut-ty taste that was predominant. It took me back to my school days when we would sometimes have a roasted peanut laddoo after school, and the taste was similar. In the current packaging and presentation, it is the ideal thing for kids to take in their pockets while rushing out to play.
What can one say about tangy plum fruit ? From traditional ways of preserving seasonal fruit. Keeping all the micro nutrients intact. A great tangy snack that can be had anytime, rich with its natural sugars. Doesn't make you full. So much better that sourcing fruit from cold storages, and possibly forcibly chemically ripened. I loved this dried fruit snack. And so did the swimmer in the family. The almonds however, were still leading in the race.
And then we come to the namkeen member. Yummy jaipuri mixture. with lots of roasted lentils, dals, nuts , superbly spiced. Like someone in the family called it, a Chana Chor type mixture. (I think authentic Chaha Chor is rosted on sand ).
Something that doesn't dissolve the minute you put it in your mouth (say, like Gathiya), but releases its taste as you firmly chew on the crunch. The wonderful part being, that the crunch does not come from frying in oil, but from a great dry roasting .
One of the most positive and redeeming features of this Smarteats package, was the fact that, there were no artificial flavorings or colors used. No preservatives of any kind. Local seasonal and dried fruit used for flavouring and nutritional value enhancement. Some of these snack pieces are individually wrapped and they promise to stay good for a month. Good natural fats , such as those in coconut used in conjunction with other substances that enhance their digestion .
The packets are often resealable so as to keep things fresh. Each packet lists nutritional information for the snack.
On a personal note, I love the taste of ginger and ajwain. I would so love it if they came up with some kind of baked/roasted chip like stuff with a tongue tickling ginger taste; possibly to be eaten with a dollop of curds. Or a namkeen biscotti (if such a thing is possible) with ajwain.
For those who are staying far away from their folks, and have no time to sit and make these things, the Smarteats folks have a scheme where they will mail you a box of assorted snacks , that change every month, for Rs 399/- , and free shipping. This is kind of ideal for situations where you are going to be away a lot, and want the family to enjoy a variety of healthy sweets and namkeens, and dont want them to gorge at the neighborhood chat and samosawalla every now and then.
For the sweet stuff, you might have to develop a taste. This stuff is mildly sweet .
P. S. My late parents were very nutritionally aware folks, and always spoke about the white poisons (white refined flour, white sugar), valueless calories, and the need to incorporate the natural tastes of fruit etc into our snacks. They would have been delighted to see Sangeeta Khanna's efforts.