How yellow mustard seed carves out a New Year body

Yellow mustard seed is the sculptor that shaves away the dead wood around your body.

 |  4-minute read |   04-01-2019
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When I was twenty-one, I thought a six-pack stomach would cure my life.

I hadn’t yet earned a feel for the healing of spice — I didn’t yet know the power yellow mustard seed has to strip away the parts of ourselves we no longer need.

So I made a New Year’s Eve resolution for a ‘better’ body and then I chased that ideal down. I exercised too much and ate too little. I chewed on carrot sticks and steamed zucchini and drank skim milk in my coffee. My tea came black, with artificial sweetener. I eschewed fat and salt and sugar.

yellow mustard seed has to strip away the parts of ourselves we no longer need.These seeds have the power to strip away the parts of ourselves we no longer need. (Photo: Sanjay Acharya/Wikimedia Commons)

The six-pack came on quick. The work was hard and there was no relief. I couldn’t slow down because slowing meant losing my gains. Every day was effort — and everyday effort is exhausting.

It’s hard to fix an interior problem with an exterior approach.

If only I’d known yellow mustard seed.

In Ayurveda, the mustard group can be suggested for aiding in weight loss.

But to cease your understanding of this spice here would be too shallow.

Yellow mustard seed is an astringent spice. Where earth spices provide grounding, hot spice gives height, and warm spices round out the palate, it is the role of astringent spice to carve out pits of ‘dead space’.

In cooking, dead space is the raw chicken whose dense, white flesh presents a solid block of protein which spice needs to break into. An outside-in approach doesn’t work with flavouring dense flesh. Penetrative spice takes root in the centre and then shoots its light outward.

You cannot flavour masses of protein from outside. The spice has to penetrate it, and then radiate outward. You can't flavour masses of protein from outside. The spice has to penetrate it, and then radiate outward. This is what yellow mustard does. (Photo: YouTube)

Just as a whiff of mustard oil burns the back of your nose, yellow mustard seed works with my other astringent spices (raw onion, raw garlic, black mustard seed and mustard oil) to carve a crater of space in the protein and in the pan. Space created, I can then employ smoky, acidic and wild leaf aromatics to ‘fill in’ the flavour.

Working from the inside-out, my pan is a gentle punch of deep and satisfying flavour. This is cooking with understanding, patience and wisdom — but very little effort.

In life, dead space is the flesh we wish to lose attached to the emotion, the habits and the memory we find hard to shed. An outside-in approach doesn’t work with long-term weight loss. Penetrative change takes root in the centre and then shoots its light outward.

When I use yellow mustard seed, I think of it as a way in past the dead wood that I’ve allowed to accumulate, cluttering body and mind. 

The years have taught me that a healthy body unbound by disease reflects the lifestyle of the one who lives within it. When I ride my bike a lot, my thighs become firm. When I swim a lot, my shoulders broaden.

When I eat a lot, my midriff softens. When I feel the weight of life as a burden, my cheeks become sunken. When life feels too sharp and too pointy, my appetite increases as I seek more flesh as padding.

Yellow mustard seed is the spice I use when I need to see what I’m doing to myself. I can make no resolution without insight.

Yellow mustard seed is the spice I use when I need to see what I’m doing to myself.Yellow mustard seed is the spice I use when I need to see what I’m doing to myself. (Photo: Author)

This year, I commit to release.

And so, I will cook yellow mustard seed in a sharp mouthful of sweet potato made astringent with mustard oil and acidic with tamarind so that I’m incisive enough to cut the personal and professional ties that no longer serve me.

I will scramble egg in mustard seeds softened with ground cumin and jaggery to give my day focus.

I will fry fish kebabs with yellow mustard seed and methi to carve my body out with the scent of both forest and sea.

In taking all of these actions, my body feels lighter. And with a lighter feeling in my body, I am more able to make the kind of food choices that will show outwardly in a glowing skin, a happy smile and a healthy physique.

A New Year body is one free of the burden of wrong choices, in diet or in life. A New Year body is one that is free of the burden of wrong choices, in diet or in life. (Photo: Reuters/file)

A New Year body isn’t the five kilograms we think we need to lose. A New Year body is one that’s carved free of the weight of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ we might otherwise carry forward from the year before.

I don’t want to lose weight. I want to lose all of the empty burdens in my life that pull me backward.

In these first few days of January, when all of the world feels new again, this is how I will use yellow mustard seed.

Also read: How ginger battles winter illness and fatigue 

Writer

Sarina Kamini Sarina Kamini

Sarina Kamini is author of Spirits In A Spice Jar, available through Westland Books and Amazon

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