FOOD HABITS OF TAMILs -PART 22


[Compiled by: Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

[Food Habits Of Medieval period Tamils-continuing]

The Mediterranean author Ptolemy noted in the second century A.D.that rice came from the island of Sri Lanka as an item of trade.Rice was exported from India’s western coast to Egypt as documented in the first-century A.D.Greek merchant’s text The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea and as demonstrated by archaeological finds from the Roman port site of Berenike on Egypt’s eastern coast.In the southern Tamil speaking region,the Cholas were the dominant polity from the ninth through 13th centuries A.D.Stone inscriptions also show that rice was the principal crop grown in the Chola period,and that it was “the staple food of the population”South Indian literature written during this period highlights rice as a landscape motif, basic food,and ceremonial comestible.Medieval period Famous Poetess,Avvaiyar,while giving the formula for development,also indicate
importance of paddy as "When the rice-bunds are high,the irrigation water will rise;When the water rises, the paddy will grow;When the paddy grows, the inhabitants will thrive;When the inhabitants thrive,the kingdom will flourish;When the kingdom flourishes, the king will prosper."[வரப்புயர நீர் உயரும் நீர் உயர நெல் உயரும் நெல் உயர குடி உயரும் குடி உயர கோன் உயர்வான்],Meaning:If the "bund" of field is raised the water level increases, if the water level is increased the paddy will be taller, taller the paddy the citizen will grow, if the citizen grow the king grows.this once again point out that Rice as well as any food made out from crushed or pounded rice were still staple food of the people even during the Bakthi[devotional cults] period.They had also consumed milk, ghee, and curd. 

Steaming has played a major role in Oriental cooking as their staple - rice - is best suited for this method.The Chinese have used steaming devices for more than three thousand years, as evidenced by archaeological finds of stone steamers from the province of Yunnan. By the 8th Century, the Chinese had mastered the art of making steamers from thin cypress strips,which have been replaced by bamboo today. Steam best preserves the texture,flavour and nutrition of the ingredients.Steam cooking should not be confused with pressure cooking.The differentiating factor is that boiling water never comes in contact with the food in steam cooking whereas in ordinary pressure cooking the food is immersed in water.however,as per late Dr Govind Sadashiv Ghurye,professor of sociology,Steam cooking has a very long history in India.He remarks that the tall earthen cylinder with many perforations all over found at excavations at Neolithic and Indus Valley sites,was a vessel used for steam cooking? Brahat Samhita[பிருஹத் சம்ஹிதா] of Varahamihira [வராஹமிகிரர் ] (early sixth century) mentions steam cooked food as “svinna bhaksya”[Sweat food],food cooked using the method “svedanam”[ஸ்வேதனம்] or steaming. Jain literary works in Kannada language – Sivakotiacharya’s Vaddaradhane[சிவகோட்டியாச்சார்யர் எழுதிய வட்டராதனே என்னும் பழமையான கன்னட நூல்] (920 AD) and Mangarasa’s Soopa Shastra[மங்கராசாவின்  சூப சாஸ்திரம்] (1508 AD) – both mention steam cooking by placing food tied in thin cloth or placed in
wicker baskets over a wide mouthed vessel in which water was boiled.Achaya contends that only after 1250 AD are there references to what seem to be idlis as we know them,as along with trade and commerce with Southeast Asia- food ingredients,recipes and culinary techniques also reached these ancient shores to develop new food such as Idli or modified cooking techniques for Puttu,Idiappam etc.The modak[kozhakkattai/கொழுக்கட்டை],sweet balls,an ancient ritualistic food offering to the elephant-headed deity Ganesha,is a steam-cooked preparation of rice flour dumplings filled with grated coconut and jaggery It may originated in the Indian state of Maharashtra?Kozhukkattai form the basis of a number of natal customs among the Sri Lankan Tamil community.There is a custom in the north involving these (dumplings with edges pressed to resemble teeth) being dropped gently on a toddler's head while the family wishes for the infant to develop healthy teeth.In eastern areas, such as Amparai district, piḷḷai kozhukkaṭṭai,a smaller version, are prepared for an expectant mother at about four months time after conception by female family members.These are also commonly exchanged sweets at weddings as auspicious symbols of "plump" health and fertility.In many customs in medieval India,including Tamils, people ate only twice a day. 


PART :23 ..WILL FOLLOW.....                                                                   .

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