Growing up in an Indian household, there was no such thing as a spice rack — there were spice cupboards.
Yes, plural. Where else could we store our multitudes of seeds, leaves, and powders? Many of them were homemade blends suited perfectly to our tastes.
While I may not have grown up speaking a lot of Hindi (I’m basically illiterate when it comes to the language), I did grow up bilingual in the language of food. Fennel seeds? Saunf. Red pepper? Laal mirch. Cinnamon? Dalchinni. And while some of the many assorted spices that filled these cupboards were not spices that we used every day, in every Indian household there is also a small, round, metal tin, filled with little cups of the spices that are added to virtually all meals. In it you will generally find at the very least salt, red pepper, garam masala, and turmeric powder.
Turmeric powder, also known as haldi in Hindi, is a bright yellow powder that comes from the turmeric root; a member of the ginger family. It can be purchased as a root, but it is most commonly found in powdered form, and that is how the majority of Indian homes keep and use it. Other than being used to flavour (and of course colour) Indian dishes, turmeric has a number of other uses. Most Indians will be able to list off quite a few ways that they use turmeric; some of are purely ceremonial, like the turmeric paste that is rubbed on brides and grooms a few days before their wedding, while others have true health benefits like Ayurvedic remedies, whitening toothpaste, and skin treatments and masks.
Another extremely common use for turmeric is the infamous haldi milk or haldi doodh, or turmeric milk.
This remedy is given to all people who feel an ailment, especially a gastrointestinal issue, coming on. I remember being given turmeric milk through colds, flus, and fevers. It is a simple remedy to prepare and is generally safe for all people of all ages. Note: If you are pregnant or nursing, consult with your physician before consuming. Turmeric milk is also very inexpensive to make, is customizable (I like to add a pinch of ginger), and you can use any kind of milk you like if you are lactose-intolerant. In fact, you could even add turmeric to hot water and drink it as a tea.
And to be perfectly honest, I can’t say that I’ve always known that turmeric milk is better. After consuming mugs and mugs of the stuff as a child and teen, I avoided the stuff like the plague in my twenties. Pfft, what did Mom know anyway, forcing me to drink a spice? Nope, that was not for me. Instead, off to the pharmacy I went, turning to the aisles of commercial “remedies” for help. Then suddenly, everywhere I turned, everyone was talking about all the amazing benefits of turmeric!
Mix it with milk, they said. It has amazing health benefits, they said. Doctors and nutritionists were raving about this eastern antioxidant. Well, I guess Mom did know what she was talking about. With that little tour of the pharmacy, I returned home to my mug of turmeric milk.
A mug full of steaming hot comfort and sage advice that had been handed down to my mother, from her mother, and to her mother, from her mother, and so on for more mothers than I could probably count.
And you know what? When my son gets sick, I mix him up a warm mug of turmeric milk, get him all warm and comfy, and feel all of my grandmothers hugging us with each sip he takes.
- 1 tsp turmeric powder (we love this organic, non-irradiated turmeric powder)
- 1 cup milk (any variety – cow’s, almond, rice, soy)
- Warm milk over medium-low heat.
- When milk starts to heat up, add turmeric powder and whisk in completely.
- Allow mixture to come to a light boil, take off the heat, and pour into mug. Drink warm.