Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Preparation of Food: Beliefs and Traditions of Indian Women

Indians grow up hearing, "Don't waste food, food is God." In the same vein, for most Indian women, stepping into the kitchen without first having a bath is unthinkable. The preparation of food is viewed as much as a spiritual process as it is a material, sensory experience. 

The fusion of two realms - one that is of subtle spiritual energy and that of blending in ingredients that bring about a delightful experience to the five senses - this constitutes a perfectly wholesome experience in the process of preparing food for the family and the loved ones.

Different families have different beliefs about this. In a South Indian Brahmin family that I personally know of, no one uses shoes inside the kitchen because it is considered as dirty and full of germs. So, it is not used where food is prepared for the family. 

Beliefs are not just spiritual but they are also logical in view of the family's own dietary preferences and traditions.

In my parents' home, non-vegetarian food is a strict no-no especially in the kitchen because of the puja that my parents regularly conduct at home. I am the only non vegetarian in my family, all the others are strict vegetarians by choice.

My mother would always have her morning bath, followed by the first offering of breakfast (whatever we eat in the morning) to our deity and only then, my mother would sit down and have her first cup of tea with a smile. She would never enter the kitchen without first having a bath. This has been a disciplined, consistent practice for at least three decades of her life and she continues it, with the grace of God. 

The same applies to lunch as well. Lunch is first offered to God and only then the family sits down to eat lunch. When we have guests staying at home, the food is first kept in the puja room and then we serve the guests. Any fruit or food that is prepared and given to us by others is first kept for blessing in the puja room and then we have it as 'prasad.' 

On special occasions, the traditional brass lamps are lit, floral decorations are added to the festive occasion and different types of prasad are first offered on a clean, plantain leaf with a cup of Kerala's traditional milk dessert called as 'paal paayasam.'

What are the interesting beliefs, traditions or customs that your family follows? Or maybe you know of families where interesting customs or traditions are followed while preparing food? Do share it here on this blog post itself. I'd love to know.

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9 comments:

Ranjan P said...

I am too a Brahmin but from the east and women here, too follow the same as your. My mom is very strict and never let me enter kitchen without bath.

jeyashrisuresh said...

My mom will never allow us to eat without taking bath. But i always wonder the discipline they follow in their life, their actions teach us a lot

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

@Ranjan - I think Indian mothers have a disciplined, in-built spiritual code within. But are we fast losing that strength in the name of being bold and contemporary? Hope not. Thanks for sharing your opinion here.

@ Jeyashrisuresh - Hats off to all our moms. They have taught us the right things but one is forced to introspect and wonder: have we learned to practice anything? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

L KRUPAA said...

At our home too, it is a must to enter the kitchen only after bath and food is offered to the deity. I always think that most age old customs do have a logic, but are losing significance thanks to modernity.

Mom with a Dot said...

Thank you for reminding stuff that was beginning to fade out in my mind.

As for my own habits, here's one I strictly follow. I avoid bringing grocery bags into the dining table or the kitchen island. And even more strict about leaving prasad on these places. Reason being, food might have dropped on these places while serving / eating.

Sreetama said...

Good post. Same is practised at the Bengal households too. But my family is not that strict in following the practice of entering.kitchen after taking bath. But we do offer our first morsels to God before taking the first bite.

Gurgaonflowerplaza said...

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Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

@Krupaa: Yes, you re right. We are losng a lot of these customs in the guise of modernity. Sad.

@Mom with a Dot: That's an interesting point you have shared about prasad. Thanks!

@Sree: Nice to know this Sree, offering food to God before eating is a beautiful expression of gratitude.

@GurgaonFlowerPlaza: Thanks for stopping by. Wish you have read the post...there were no delicious recipes in this one:))

Budget Hotel in Ooty said...

Well Indian culture and tradition is rich due to it,s unique customs. We found different culture and custom followed by different people in India. As far as cooking is concern yes most of the Indian treat Food as God.

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