A huge part of our identity comes from what we’ve acquired and inherited over the years. Who we are, as an individual and as a community, is influenced largely by the traditions and social customs we follow. India is a land of diverse traditions and varied cultures, as is evident in the various food traditions followed all over our motherland. The evolution of these traditions and rituals has shaped the Indian dining experience that all of us are familiar with.
1. Eating with our hands
This is deeply rooted in the Indian tradition of Ayurveda. It is stated that our five fingers are the bodily representation of the five elements of nature, namely, water, fire, air, space and earth. It is believed that the nerve endings at the end of our hands signal our stomach and stimulates the secretion of digestive juices in the body. Also, touching the food with our hands leads to a better sensory experience in terms of higher textural, gustatorial and aromatic satisfaction.
2. Banana leaves as natural plates
This tradition is diligently followed in the Southern states of India. Banana leaves are known for their abundance of polyphenols, a natural antioxidant which helps in reducing the onset of several neuro-degenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Serving hot food on banana leaves exudes numerous nutrients and helps in the digestion process.
3. The Thali
The Indian Thali is the perfect embodiment of a particular region in the form of a balanced meal consisting of local cuisines and flavours. Each thali has all the important food groups like carbohydrates, proteins and healthy desi fats. Rajasthani, Gujarati, South Indian thalis are some of the more famous ones. You can taste the different types of breads, curries, dals, veggies, chutneys, pickles of various regions all in a single thali.
Wazwan is not just a cuisine but an experience. It is a Kashmiri multicourse feast that is usually served at weddings. It is a demonstration of Kashmiri cooking skills showcasing various vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, all of which complement each other and lead to an unforgettable dining experience.
Wazwan is prepared by a special cook known as ‘
waza’ and can include as many as 36 dishes.
5. Jol Paan
Jol Paan is a tradition followed generally in the eastern states of Bengal and Assam. It is a mini-meal usually served at breakfast and ensures that a person gets all the nutrients needed from the first meal of the day. It includes all sorts of foods like chirwa, curd, puri, ghughni, jaggery, milk, paratha, roti etc.
6. All in One (The Thaal)
The Bohra Muslim community has a dining style of their own, they break traditional dining rules and start the course with a dessert, which surprisingly isn’t the most peculiar feature of this experience. Around 6-8 people sit around a huge thaal and simultaneously dig into the delicious food served. Several delicacies follow the dessert (usually a rich halwa) like keema samosas, grilled chops and more meat based dishes especially chicken and marinated mutton.
It is recommended to eat while sitting down on the floor because the repeated bending of the spine is helpful in improving the blood circulation and helps in digestion.
We’d love to hear about your family food traditions in the comments below.