13. A Talk To Village Workers
[The following is an extract from a summary made by M. D. of a talk given by Gandhiji to village workers who were his guests on the 22nd October 1935.]
As today's menu was selected by me with some careful thought, and especially with a view to the needs of village workers, I must speak to you about it at some length. The idea was to provide you with food, nourishing and yet within the means of an average villager and within the possibility of an eight hours' minimum wage as we have fixed it, i.e., 3 annas.
We were 98 diners today and the total cost of our food was Rs. 9-14-3, which means that each meal cost slightly more than 6 pice. Here are the details:
Vinoba had passed on the suggestion to me that I need not worry about giving all of you roti but might simply give you wheaten porridge (that we have here every morning) and thus save a lot of trouble. No, said I to myself, you young men whom God has given strong teeth must have good hard well-baked bhakhari which anyone can make, which one can easily carry on one's person from place to place, and which can keep for a couple of days. Before the dough was kneaded it was treated with linseed oil. This rendered it both soft and crisp. Then, as we must have some greens and raw vegetables, we had tomatoes and two chatnis - one made of koth fruit available in plenty in these parts and another made of leaves available in our garden. Koth fruit is known for both its aperient and astringent properties and jaggery goes well with it and makes a delicious chatni. The other chatni contained some cocoanut, tamarind and salt to spice the leaves. Green leaves must be eaten by us in some form or other in order that we may get proper vitamins in our diet. The vegetable chosen was the cheapest available and grows everywhere in our villages. You will see that I allowed the use of tamarind in the preparation of chatni. In spite of the popular prejudice against tamarind, it has been found that it is a good aperient and blood purifier. I gave copious doses of tamarind water to one of the inmates suffering from malaria with very good effect and have tried it in several cases of constipation.
Milk is an essential article of diet. Your menu contained half a pound of milk, but you must have seen that I gave you no ghee. I hope, however, that you did not miss it. For I gave you soya beans and oil. Soya beans are rich in oil (20 per cent) and proteins (40 per cent). Groundnuts also are rich in oil, but they have the disadvantage of containing too much starch from which soya beans are comparatively free. Milk with soya beans gives us almost all that we need in the shape of fats and there is no need for ghee at all. Why then go to all the wasteful trouble of making ghee? And where procuring good ghee is a doubtful proposition, why have spurious ghee? But milk or butter-milk we ought to have, no matter how little. Medical men say that it helps in the assimilation of the vegetable fats and proteins. Therefore ghee you can omit with impunity. I had recently two little children under my care whose diet I carefully regulated. I cut out ghee from it and found that they were none the worse for the cutting out of ghee. Of course I gave them as much milk as they wanted.
Our menu has cost us a little more than 6 pice. It was a full meal and the other meals need not be so heavy as this. They, therefore, need not cost more than an anna or so. Milk may be omitted for the other meals. Wheat bhakhari, soya beans and chatni should be quite enough.