My food story is one that has both a cultural and memory aspect to it. Food, to me had always been more what I had on my plate. It was a part of my bed time stories, it is a part of my history, it is a part of my lifestyle, and it is a part of who I am. There is so much to the mundane food that is consumed by me every day, that it make so special, and unique, making it not so mundane after all. My family is 15th generation farmer, though this link might have been lost and found at various occasions, my family still knows it’s roots and how our ancestors lived. My ancestors were both warrior and farmer (but were more famer than warriors). They were warrior when the war broke out, but their lively hood was based on farming. To be more specific we were rice and pulses farmers. Like any other family my family also has ancestral archives that were passed down for generations, however unlike the usual ones, the ones that my family passes down are farming aids. These aids are not necessarily actual tools or techniques; in fact most of them are stories, songs and traditional values.
Due to these factors most of my bedtime stories are about how my forefather fought drought and how the kings rewarded them, or how they went to the forest to hunt and found a wild berry that they cultivated and saved the day during wars, or how their cows was the prettiest in the entire village so much so that the kings got jealous. One would think that ‘oh what a rural backward history I have got’, however one might preserve it to be, this is a part of me that I am very proud of and put on airs about. Not only that, it doesn’t stop there either, most of my nursery rhymes are about agriculture and food. These are songs which talks about how to sever a guest, how we go fishing in the pond because our bottle guard got infected, or how our next door neighbor aunty is jealous because our egg plant curry smells so good. These are stories and songs that may seem amusing to many, but actually has a deep root of our values system and tradition behind it.
These values and tradition might seem like any other culture; however they are as singularly notable to me as much as they really are. Food has been and still is an extremely integral part of my society, that our everything was historically designed around it. Historical and even today for most part that we use lunar calendar and define our month through crop’s growth season. Our biggest festival of the year is a three days long harvest festival. We have a defined way of eating, and there is a way of serving food.
The way we eat is pretty unique, because we do live in a tropical climate where the temperatures could get up to 85 and above very easily. Therefore how and what we eat helps us survive and get through the day. A traditional meal usually is served on a banana leaves, (even today, if I go to visit my grandma or any other traditional event, the food is usually served on a banana leaf) then the first thing is the set up of the table. We don’t sit elevated we sit on the ground with the food on a short table, this is show that the food is what is helping us survive therefore we are humble to the food that we eat. Then there will steel glass for water, which at the maximum content will contain only about three sips, this is because when one eat there is a natural release of acid in the stomach, water dilutes these acid, conditioning our body to release more than what is naturally released. This way during a hot day the acid content that is released is not too strong for the stomach wall to contain, thus not heading to any acid induced problem. Then secondly how food is served, we start will usually a banana, these bananas are not the usual one an American might find in the super market, there are different varieties of banana that will be served depending on the occasion that is proceeding, for a normal day karpuravali banana is usually served (it also happens to be my favorite banana in the entire world). Then there will a vegetable dish served, then rice. There will usually three kinds of dhal that will be served, on which has a heaver tamarind consistency, which will be served first. This will also be served with a lot of butter. Then the next dhal served will not have as much as tamarind in it (usually it doesn’t have any and a whole lot of coconut content). The third is a soup of sort served with no butte, but with has soured flavored. The tamarind is because; traditionally lemons or limes weren’t indigenous to my place of origin. Therefore tamarind was the only other vegetable that was available to my ancestors which had a higher ph acid level that was compatible to human body. The butter is because it was a natural fat nutrient that is supposed to help the stomach wall with the coating of fat around it, then finally the desert. The last serving on the banana leaf will be yogurt rice; this is a temperament way of inducing yeast into our digestive system. Not just that this is also a natural coolant to our body. Water is not consumed not until twenty to thirty minutes after food.
Food the way it is severed and how the table is set up will differ from event to different occasion. These are some of the age old tradition that a big part of the population up hold till today. The younger generation might find this nagging and annoying, therefore my family made a constant effort to explain why this are the way, especially with food. My parent explained what my origin and went an extra mile to drive that aspect hard into me. Since this is our history and my origin.
Food has so crucial that our wealth back in the days was defined by how many cows we possessed. There have been wars fought because our neighboring king tried to steal our cows. These are our history lessons that we grow up learning in our school. Though I know a great deal about a traditional meal, and my history around food, my want to know more about food took me to all kinds and sorts of diversity of food culture.
When I think of food, I think more about the farmer (like me on my first internship (weeding) to be specific) than my favorite food. This is ultimately because, it was only when I got my hand dirty did I understand that to have a pretty platter there must always be dirty boots that should be at the other end, inducing a very strong gratitude that I now perceive for food.