A lot of us classify Indian traditional food as being collectivistic. There are no two ways about our thought though. But, don’t you think we should make our understanding more specific about the facts which make it unique rather than upholding a generic viewpoint? I assure you, it would be pretty much fun!
To begin with, let’s talk about traditional food! Hold on, we won’t be discussing about the variety of Indian Food which you have already tasted in your multi-cuisine restaurants or binged upon during your travel sagas!! We would have a thoughtful discussion about an aspect which we rarely think about during our binging sessions. We would explore about the uniqueness and the meaningful applicability of the various cooking, eating and dining practices traditionally embraced by our culture. Through this discussion, a lot of stereotypes persisting in our minds would also be shattered. I swear, you would be nothing short of amazed at the end of your exploration!!
The Indian culture has incorporated the divine concept of mindfulness in the kitchen and eating traditions quite consistently. The various cooking, dining and eating practices embraced by the traditional Indian households emphasize on mindful eating thereby enriching the entire eating experience.
Eating does not solely satisfy our biological need of hunger. The pleasure we derive from eating extends beyond the physical level to the psychological level as well. The traditional food preparation and serving customs of the Indian culture reflected the various social values promulgated by it.
Let’s begin with our exploration! Here is a list of five noteworthy practices that are embedded in the kitchen traditions of India-
Table of Contents
Indian Traditional Food: Eating with Hands
A lot of us consider eating with hands as an unhygienic and an unkempt activity. However, the Indian traditional customs recommend the consumption of food with hand and there is a reasonable amount of rationality behind them. Let’s see how!
Eating with one’s hands is a distinguished tradition in Indian families. The rationale behind this practice exists in Ayurveda. It stipulates that each finger in the hand has a distinctive spiritual importance and denotes the various elements present in nature. They are collectively subsumed within the concept of Mudras.
It implies that the five elements of nature – Fire (Agni), Air ( Varun ), Space ( Akash ), Earth ( Prithvi ) and Water ( Jal ) are represented by the thumb, index, middle, ring and little finger respectively.
While making use of all the five fingers during eating, a connection is developed between the five elements and the food which affirms the bond between the food and the cosmic world thereby infusing considerable energy in the food. Such energy creates a satiating and fulfilling feeling when a person eats with one’s hands. In addition to this, it also involves the sensory experiences of feel and touch in combination to sight, aroma and taste which makes the action of eating all the more beneficial.
Another noteworthy benefit of this practice lies in the fact that it facilitates the complex process of digestion. The studies in the field of neuroscience suggest that the very sensation of touch while consuming food enables the secretion of the suitable digestive juices and enzymes without the help of the brain which signifies the enormous potential existing in the adoption of this practice.
All these arguments are sensible enough to demonstrate the efficacy of this practice even today. Let’s make it a part of our daily routine without holding any qualms about it.
Sitting on the Floor while Eating
A famous quote by Virginia Wolf aptly describes the significance of including a healthy dining practice- ” One cannot think well, love well and sleep well if one has not dined well”. This reflects the indispensable role played by a thoughtful dinning in our psychological and physiological well being.
A unique activity which has been undertaken by the people of India since ancient times is sitting on the floor cross legged during eating. This activity accrues numerous advantages to the people. It also resembles with a yogic posture referred to as sukshasan.
There are various benefits of incorporating it in the daily routine. First and foremost, it leads to better blood circulation within the stomach which in turn results in enhanced improvement digestive process and a much better absorption of nutrients. These nutrients include Vitamin B 12, Vitamin D and haemoglobin. Secondly, it improves the attention level of a person while performing the very act of eating.
In addition to this, it also has a rejuvenating impact over the mental health. It yields an immensely positive impact on the psyche by eliminating the stress levels and minimizing the anxiety within the mind.
I guess this discussion would definitely transform our blindfolded priority to eat our meals on the dining table. Rather, it would enhance our appreciation towards the traditional practice of eating while sitting cross legged on the floor in order to uplift our physical and mental health. Give it a try and remain assured of not looking back again!!
Usage of Earthen Pots: The importance of Indian Pot with food
Now, let’s proceed with our discussion which would surely make you rethink about your sincere affiliation with the exotic cutlery.
The traditional households within India have engaged in preparing food in the earthen pots. Earthen pots basically are clay vessels. The terracotta cutlery is the modern version of the basic clay pots existing in Indian homes since the ancient period. They serve as an amazing alternative to modern kitchenwares like non-stick cookware, aluminum, and steel.
The usage of these vessels also implies the absorption of the toxics which get neutralised through the ultra violet rays of the fire. The presence of these utensils in the kitchen also entails a lot of positive transformation in the food quality and taste.
The alkaline nature of the earthen pots interact with the acidic elements within the food and helps in attaining pH balance. The porous nature of the earthenwares has a positive implication on the flavour of the food and thereby makes it all the more wholesome.
The process of preparing food is quite efficient in case of usage of the earthenwares due to the even heat distribution on small flame. They also lead to a better health development due to the addition of multiple nutrients into the food. These nutrients include calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and sulphur.
All these aspects represent a favourable viewpoint pertaining to the usage of the earthenwares in the kitchen. However, the only word of caution in this regard is avoiding the glazed clay vessels which tend to have hazardous impact on health. They contain the coating of materials like lead and mercury which may lead to various undesirable effects.
All these arguments emphasizing upon the utility of the earthenwares are quite thought provoking and are effective enough to make us rush to our kitchen area and engage in some serious thinking. Do you agree with me?
Forbidding sharing food with another person in the same Plate
I agree with all of you – sharing is caring. But, let’s not extend it to sharing the same cutlery with your favourite person. It’s not only forbidden as per traditional customs, it is also counterproductive for us. Let’s see how.
One of the most predominant dining etiquette existent in the Indian culture is to not share a plate with another person while eating.
Sharing is embedded in the Indian culture since time immemorial. However, this does not equate to sharing the same plate while consuming food.
This tradition is called Uchchistam in Sanskrit. It is a concept of contamination with saliva. In Traditional Indian households, it is forbidden to share a plate and a glass for food and drink respectively.
This also holds a lot of significance in the contemporary situation due to the evident disastrous effects of the deadly virus.
Making this as a part of your eating ritual would not only affiliate you with the Indian culture. It would also maximize the hygiene factor while you engage in the act of eating.
I guess you are on the same page and would resort to other creative ways to show your love, care and concern towards your BFF’s in a lot more creative ways than this!
Remember this in your next get together!!
The Specialty of Indian Thali
Let’s talk about an interesting dietary tradition existing in the Indian culture- thali. You have always seen it in the menu of your favourite restaurants and your happiness would multiply when you would know that it has originated in India!
In Hindi, a plate is referred to as a thali. The main phenomenon underlying the concept of thali is the consumption of a wholesome meal. The varities of the dishes differ across the various geographical locations of India.
The concept of thali corresponds to the phenomenon of Shad Rasa or Six tastes within Ayurveda. Shad Rasa subsumes within itself the six kinds of tastes including madhura ( sweet) , Amla ( Salt), Lavana ( sour ), Katu ( pungent ), Tikta ( bitter) and Kashaya ( astringent ).
It’s a classic Indian tradition that ensures the provision of a nutritious as well as a tasty food to the people. It is a true prototype of a balanced diet which contains carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
I am pretty sure my words would echo in your mind the next time you encounter the word “thali” on your menu card!
I hope you have enjoyed in every part of our discussion and identified the unique kitchen traditions existing in the Indian culture and their applicability in the contemporary times!
Let’s infuse the much needed excitement into our mundane lives by embracing these practices and move one step further in our journey of understanding about India!