Do you remember those murder mysteries where at first you suspect the cook did it with a hammer, but realise that it simply had to be the gardener who did it with an untraceable poison before settling on the butler who strangled his victim? Having arrived at this conclusion at about a third of the way, you merely look for confirmation. Then you are startled out of your certainty by the revelation that it was actually the piano teacher who did it in the dining room with a revolver?
I feel like that – not with murder mysteries, but with the food we eat. When I was growing up, coconut was the hottest thing. You know why grandfather lived to be 104, my mother would ask, and ignoring my clever answer that the reason was he died before 105, would whisper one word: Coconut. Apparently it was the cure-all, the magic potion. It looked after you, kept you from falling sick, and if you did fall sick, it healed you.
This was the state of affairs till I was in my 20s when my hair began to turn grey and I developed a lisp. You know why, my mother would ask, and supply the answer herself: Coconut. Suddenly that symbol of the westernised Indian (brown outside, white inside) had become something to be avoided. For many years thereafter, the suspicion grew that the coconut was responsible for many if not most of mankind’s health problems.
Now it is back in favour. Mankind cannot have enough of it, adding coconut oil to its coffee, pouring coconut milk into its curries, and doubtless secretly mixing the husk and the shell into its porridge. The coconut is back in flavour.
Likewise with eggs. You couldn’t go wrong with it in my childhood. Eggs lent themselves to some horrible concotions which you swallowed because of the magic phrase, “good for your health.” You beat them, you poached them, you fried them, you boiled them, you ate them gooey, and it was all just what the doctor ordered. An egg a day in fact kept him away, the doctor, I mean. And if you had it with apple, it kept two doctors away.
And then the slump. Cholesterol and blood pressure, just a couple of things eggs brought with them you were told. The coconut and egg no-no years overlapped, so the biggest food crime you could commit was to have an egg curry with coconut milk or drink coconut milk with the white of an egg in it.
And now – boom! It was a mistake all along. Eggs are put on earth because coconuts cannot be everywhere. Watch this space as the wheel turns again.