On a mundane afternoon, I was going through the booklets that ASHAs and ANMs are given to distribute to pregnant women. I work with Project Koshika where we work with tribal communities of Panna tiger reserve, Madhya Pradesh to improve the condition of maternal and infant health.
The booklets showcased good practices and things that a pregnant woman should take care of during and after pregnancy. For eg – getting tetanus-diphtheria shots on time, danger signs to look out for during pregnancy, post-delivery care, the need for a balanced diet, etc.
While going through the content, it occurred to me that most of the things mentioned were not applicable to the community. Living in a secluded pocket of a tiger reserve and having “a rich and nutritious balanced diet” is a hard thing to achieve for the community here.
I also recall one ANM suggesting a high-risk pregnant to woman consume milk, ghee, fruits, and leafy greens every day. I remember thinking to myself that not all families will have access to these things. Affordability is one thing but the availability of fruits and fresh leafy greens is also rare. The community has to travel about 20 km to the local market to source fresh vegetables and fruits. Milk and milk-based products in abundance are mostly a monopoly of the Yadav samaj, the cattle rearers.
We often lose touch with context and subscribe to textbooks. If there is one thing that human-centered design has taught me is that people should take center stage while developing solutions to problems.
It was at this point that our team started discussing the importance of consuming locally sourced food and making the most of what’s available. For example, for people who do not have access to pomegranate, apples, beetroot, etc, another alternative is a handful of roasted gram and jaggery which is an excellent desi snack to beat anemia!
Observing Anganwadi Diwas
Every year, the 21st of November is observed as Anganwadi Diwas all across India. The team at Project Koshika decided to organize a poshan (nutrition) mela in Koni, one of the villages in Panna where they work. The main purpose of the poshan mela was to highlight the importance of nutrition from local cuisines
The concept of poshan mela was to initiate dialogues, create awareness and interlink nutrition with local cuisines. We also decided to make it an interactive space with engaging activities for children and women so as to break ice and build rapport with the community. The intention was to make it feel exactly like a carnival with elements like games, rides, face painting, food stalls, songs etc.
To my surprise, most of us had never heard of the dishes that women from the community had prepared for the event. One of our field facilitators told me that slowly these age-old recipes are disappearing from their cuisine and there is an urgent need to preserve them. Also, the recipes from the Bundelkhand region don’t exactly get highlighted on food blogs and big platforms. Hence, this blog is an attempt to bring forward a few local delicacies of Bundelkhand.
Below is a compilation of different food items that women from the community themselves prepared and sold on the day of poshan mela.
1. Dahi aur dubree
Dubree is made from a concoction of boiled mahua flowers and gram flour/wheat flour. Mahua is boiled, pounded, and added with roasted flour mixed with water. If looking for a sweet taste, chironji, and dry fruits are added optionally. If one wants to make it savory flavor then black pepper, salt, and ginger powder can be added. It tasted delicious in itself but even better when paired with dahi.
Pounded corn is roasted in ghee and then added to buttermilk with a tadka. It is left to cook for 30 minutes and has a tangy taste with a thick texture. It can also be made with rice instead of corn.
3. Channe ki Bhaji aur Makke ki Roti
A classic and an all-time favourite of the community. Channe ki bhaji is a semi-dry gravy made using chickpea/gram plant leaves when they are young and not fully grown. It goes well with makai ki roti or jhunti (jowar) ki roti.
4. Til aur Mahua ka Murkha
Sesame seeds and mahua are roasted separately, till the color changes to brown and the texture has become hard. Once roasted, they are mixed well and pounded together. When made with mahua, it is called murkha. Another variation is made with sesame and jaggery which is known as koocha. This one is a healthy snack power packed with loads of nutrients.
5. Urad ke Bara
It is made from soaked ground urad dal and chana dal. Small, flat, and round patties are made by hand, fried, and then further soaked in salted water or water laced with mustard seeds.
6. Makai ka Khurma
Wheat flour and cornflour are kneaded with jaggery water to prepare the dough. The dough is then cut into different shapes and fried.
Cornflour, jowar flour, and urad dal and soaked and ground together to make a mix. Ginger, garlic, coriander, chili, salt, and pepper are added to this mixture and then fried. It goes well with wood apple chutney or guava chutney.
8. Boiled Angeetha
Angeetha is a fruit that is predominantly found in Madhya Pradesh. The best way to consume it is to roast it directly on fire or boil it. It is a great immunity booster!
Poshan mela was a big success with a footfall of around 600 people. It also encouraged the community to embrace locally available resources to fulfill their nutrition needs.