[Food Habits Of present Tamils.]

[Compiled by: Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

The staple cereal of Tamils is,of course,still rice,which is often eaten at all three meals.Breakfast in most middle class families consists of idli (a rice and dhal batter, steamed),dosai (the same batter fried like a pancake),puttu (a steamed rice-flour preparation served with coconut scrapings),idiappam (a rice-fluor dough pressed through a mould to resemble vermicelli and steamed) or appam (a rice-flour and coconut delicacy fermented with toddy and cooked like a pancake).In mediaeval period non-vegetarian diet was no longer popular due to the spread and influence of Jainism in Tamil Nadu.Presently Non-Vegetarian diet is no longer a taboo among various Tamils communities other than Brahmins.Yet on several days in a year,due to festivals and fasting days/days of austerity,(Nonbu) the non-vegetarian food is
avoided by a majority of the Tamils.In earlier days the morning food used to be the
night rice soaked in water and kept to the coolness of the night.
This cold rice mixed with curd,or millet gruel,was the healthy breakfast preferred by all irrespective of class and castes.This practice is fast disappearing even in rural areas.Among the sweet liquids the Payasam,a kind boiled porridge mixed often with milk,and cereals with dry fruits and nuts and spices is still familiar on special occasions.Earlier the morning drink used to be the night-rice water- a
nourishig liquid and in modern times replaced by familiar drinks such as coffee and tea,
served with plenty of milk and sugar.Change in food habits is slow in coming to Tamils,but some signs of it can be seen.Wheat is being increasingly used in urban areas.Chappathi (wheat flour pancake) may be substituted for rice,especially for dinner,and poori (a deep-fried wheat pancake) and potato be served as breakfast.However these are never considered as a traditional food of tamils.Traditional foods are those foods which
nourished our ancestors throughout history and prehistory prior to the advent of the industrialization of food.These industrialization of food largely began in the 19th century.
Though stainless steel cutlery and crockery are used in urban homes,food is still served on special and festive occasions and while honoured guests-in the traditional way-on a banana leaf and plantain leaves become a compulsory part of the treat. Even during the Sangam period food is served on banana leaf & it was mentioned in, over 2000 year old,Purananuru 168

"the Kuravans harvest the fresh growth so that they may eat well. They pour 
sweet foaming milk from a wild cow into an unwashed pot that smells 
of boiled venison, its broad sides white with fat, and they set 
the pot on the fire. Then, in the open, where it is lovely 
with wild jasmine and nightshade flowers, they eat their rice 
cooked over sandalwood branches, sharing it out on the wide 
leaves of plantain trees that grow dense clusters of fruit!" 

The word taste strikes the mind if one speaks about food.Tasteless food is not considered as food.The food item is considered as complete food only if it has all six tastes of food.So,to provide all six tasty food,wide banana leaf is chosen and the leaf is spread in front of the diner, with the tip pointed left,as most of the people use right hand.Serving begins with salt and pickle being placed at the extreme left.The first course is sweet--everything has to begin with a sweet whether it is an infant's first solid meal or the newly-wed's first drink.The series of vegetable dishes,pachadi (a vegetable and curd salad) and the crisp appalam,all of which go with the various rice courses,are placed on the top half of the leaf.Rice in the middle.With every course the leaf is carefully replenished, the diner's protests being totally ignored.Even among non-vegetarians,ceremonial feasts are always vegetarian.
PART :24 WILL FOLLOW                                                                                 


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