BY SAMIRA SOOD
In 2021, the topmost question on the world’s mind was “How to heal”. According to Google, that was the most searched term on the engine. That makes sense, given the year we have had. A devastating pandemic became even worse earlier this year, shattering our immunity, our mental peace, our hearts. Last year, we looked for dalgona and banana bread recipes and what the video protocol was for working from home. This year, the questions ran deeper.
Healing is a word that has a lot of meanings. And this year, we needed to heal more than ever. We needed to heal from a year of seeing no one, going into another year of much the same. We needed to heal from losing loved ones, while preparing to lose more. We needed to keep our own health and immunity up, we needed to heal from physical and emotional traumas.
For us at Slurrp Farm, the best way we know how to do that is food. Food is the building block of life. It is medicine, it is love, it is comfort, it is memories of the past, and it is the way to a healthy future.
Without good food, without nourishment, we will not heal. But what has that meant specifically for us, the people who make food their business, literally? What changes did we make in our own lives? Especially in a year that was emotionally, financially, and physically so draining, that upended every routine and rule? And what are we doing to stay healthy next year?
We spoke to some of our own teammates to find out.
Maida out, ragi in
Avanee Parulekar is still dealing with the long-term effects of a bad bout of Covid. Slurrp Farm’s campaign manager developed costochondritis, an inflammation that causes severe pain while coughing or sometimes even laughing. Her biggest health move this year has been to start practising yoga regularly — she aims to master the surya namaskar next year.
She also loves to cook and takes pride in the gorgeous food she plates regularly. But it was while working on Slurrp Farm’s no-maida messaging that she really started to think about what went into her own food. “After all the campaigns we have done this year around how maida is bad for the gut and why we don’t use it in anything we make, it was impossible for me to continue using it. It’s doable enough to avoid at home, since there are so many easily available alternatives for refined flour like oat flour, jowar, or amaranth.”
For Samira Sood, maida was actually the easy one. She had cut it out of her home pantry several years ago, relying on whole wheat, aka atta for her rotis. But a freak fall early in the year led to multiple fractures in her ankle, which needed two surgeries and continuing physiotherapy. It also meant she really needed to up her calcium intake. In addition to daily supplements post-surgery, the brand editor switched completely to ragi for her rotis, and forced herself to drink a glass of plain milk every single day, something she hadn’t done since she was 17. Now, these changes have become such a habit that she doesn’t even think about them.” And actually, I realised I actually don’t mind the taste of either, so that worked out well,” she laughs.
For some, it wasn’t ill health or injuries that led to a change, but just greater awareness. Earlier this year, the entire Slurrp Farm team did Stanford University’s Introduction to Food And Health programme together on Coursera, and it was an eye-opener for a lot of people. Video editor Shubham Agarwal, for example, says that thinking about food in academic terms made him realise how much oil and carbs he was getting out of packaged foods. It prompted him to go back to the basics and rethink his nutrition plan.
And Sakshi Sahi, who works on influencer marketing and is a mother of two, began making changes to the family’s meals that have really worked. “The Stanford course helped me understand a balanced meal. I started including an egg every day in not just my own, but my husband’s and kids’ diets, too. We shifted from refined oil to pure ghee — we cook everything in ghee now. We switched to using an air fryer, and no one at home could really even tell the difference, which was great!”
Grain diversity, portion control, and regular hours
The pandemic was, of course, also a time of change and disruption for people in unwelcome ways — especially in terms of going out for a workout, with gyms and yoga studios shut for so long.
Slurrp Farm’s co-founder Meghana Narayan used to be fanatical about her fitness — a hangover from her eight years as a member of the Indian national swimming team. But between the challenges and longer hours of remote working, raising a child, and taking care of her family, she let the fitness slide. “I tried to walk/run/do yoga/get in some kind of workout four times a week, but found many excuses this year. But 2022 is going to be different. I have sworn to exercise in some way five times a week — every week. Not only that, but in the run up to the International Year of Millets in 2023, I am going to commit to making sure my family and I eat more diverse grains daily.”
Ingredient diversity is Naman Bhatnagar’s goal as well. One of the team’s youngest members, who works in customer experience, he loves baking for his family. But after joining Slurrp Farm and spending some time learning about what we make and why, he realised that the most easily implementable change with a huge impact was in his choice of grains and sweeteners. “I started to substitute the maida in my bakes with gluten-free millets and the sugar with less processed sweeteners like natural jaggery.”
The other thing that Naman is going to be particular about is portion control. It’s something many of us have grown up struggling with — we have been taught to take large helpings and to eat until we are full. “I’m determined to only eat until I don’t feel actively hungry anymore rather than eating until I feel full. It’s a small step in mindfulness that will prevent me from overeating, especially when there is more in front of me than I can eat,” he explains.
It’s a good point — because what many of us don’t realise is that it’s not just what we eat but also how much, and even how we eat, that make a huge difference to our health. Everything from meal timings to chewing slowly is important. That’s why Shreya Verma’s resolution is actually one of the most achievable and effective ones: to never skip a meal. Working from home has meant long hours sitting in front of a screen on back-to-back video calls, and longer actual work hours because the lines between work and home got blurred. She realised she was doing herself no favours by skipping meals and it was causing major stress and hanger. “Zoom calls can wait but my health cannot!” she says, emphatically.
Resolutions don’t have to be brand-new
For Samira, resolutions used to be more of the emotional variety when she was younger — make time for yourself, don’t let that guy ruin your self-esteem, etc. Now, she’s realised that what she really needs to focus on is the one thing that will impact her later in life — her health. She’s kept only two, connected resolutions for 2022. The first? “Drink water! Hydration is something I’ve always been bad at and I make this resolution every year. This year, I feel like I did a bit better because I was a lot more health-conscious after my injury — but it’s not enough. However, my second goal is to be out in the sun more and get my daily dose of vitamin D naturally and not just via a supplement — so maybe being outside will make me feel more thirsty and lead me to the water!”
This was the year Sakshi tried going sugar-free for one month and it worked so well she wants to completely remove sugar from the entire family’s diet. Because she’s realised that what she gives her children today will affect their entire life. “I want to build a healthy relationship with food, not just for myself but for my kids, so that when they’re on their own, they know what’s what and can make informed, healthy choices. That’s what will hold them in good stead later on, so it’s really the best gift I can give them.”