Things you wanted to know but were afraid to ask! FOOD!
Digital Drifter
India > Entertainment and Food in India > Community Forums > Indian Cooking and Cuisine
#1
| bang a whore? Bangalore Dammit!

Things you wanted to know but were afraid to ask! FOOD!

Timmy's question[1] got me thinking on what most non-indians find
interesting, confusing, amusing and downright ridiculous. What you
read below is small snapshot of things which you may normally see,
occasionally glimpse or never see in your lifetime. This column
should also be seen as 'Things that should *not* surprise you when you
encounter it'

1. People eat with their hands as well as knives & spoons. People
will slurp, lick & burp when eating with their hands and this *is*
normal. Burping is a sign that you enjoyed the food (alright,
alright don't overdo it). If you find it gross, most Indians find
people wielding pointy[1] stuff funny or even dangerous. Even bigger
danger is an Indian eating with a knife & fork. He's a weapon of
mass jabbing and gesticulation, steer clear of him when eating[2].

2. People will happily sit on the floor to talk as well as eat even
if there are tables and chairs present. In lots of houses,
prepared food is kept on the table and people eat on the floor on
plantain leaves. You're more likely to see this on festival days
where things are supposed to be done by the book. Sometimes, a
wooden plank is placed and the elders of the house sit on that
while they're served on the plantain leaves.

3. The first handful of cooked rice / dhal is thrown to the crows!
You might notice women throwing some cooked rice on the roof of
the house or leaving it on a parapet and calling[3] out to the
crows. The theory is that crows being omnivorous might take care
of the vermin if they see one or keep vermin away. Likewise, the
first mouthful on the plantain leaf is set aside for the dogs,
yes the street dogs which congregate near the rubbish bin. Again,
the idea being, it's easier for the dogs to control rats & vermin
than trying to poison animals,say.

4. When eating on the floor on plantain leaves, you might notice
someone sprinkling water 3 times around the leaf. That person is
saying 'Grace'[4] :-) but the water part is to keep the ants from
joining the party! Since food attracts ants, the water around the
leaf is (in theory) supposed to keep the ants guessing the way to
the food.

5. There is an order in which food is served & there is also a custom
involved much like the way it's shown on the movie 'Titanic'
except that it's not so flamboyant or involves so many instruments
just to eat! You don't start to put anything in your mouth till
ghee is dribbled on the rice AND the eldest of the house has put
the first morsel in his mouth. The plantain leaf is laid &
oriented such that the shortest end is to your right. First, the
sweets & vegetables are laid out and then followed by rice,
sambar, rasam, payasam[6] and buttermilk. This whole exercise
will differ on certain points depending on the orthodoxy,
religion, caste and the level of education of the people whom
you're sharing food with. The more educated, the less likely its
followed!

6. While eating if you touched food with both hands, don't try to
touch any of the vessels containing food; if you do, most likely
it will not be served to others. No, it's not being racist as
that will be done even if I do the same thing. The idea being,
your(as in you, me or any person) body fluids should not in any
way contaminate food that will be served to others. And for
whatever it's worth, don't ever,ever touch a food vessel with the
hand you're eating while partaking. Depending on the occasion, after
you finished eating, the plantain may be folded, left as it is or be
carried out. So, don't be the first to finish food! While
getting up, please don't step on any food morsels lying on the
floor; if you do, you'll make the women of the house swab a larger
part of the floor while cleaning up! If you sat on the floor &
ate, make sure you do wash your feet and wet the heels[7]. Don't
forget the heels!

7. If you're in the habit of betel chewing, you may find it present
and given to you. Down South it's more of plain betel leaves, with
lime and arecanut or tobacco leaves rather than paan. Choose your
poison. Plain betel leaves are a good digestive aid especially
when you feel bloated.

Don't worry, after you managed to cock it up way beyond the faux pas
stage, you might as well beat an Indian at enjoying food.

Just dig in and throw all the advice to the wind!

--

Footnotes:
[1] http://www.indiamike.com/india/showt...ead.php?t=8341

[2] There has been repeated questions to me about why westerners do
it, is there a problem with their hands, is the typical question!
Ever thought about it that way?

[3] That was a joke, no offence intended to any fellow Indian.

[4] Literally 'cawing' for the crows to turn up which they usually
do!

[5] Some shloka thanking the Gods for the food, which I'm supposed to
know but have conveniently forgotten.

[6] Sweetened rice/lentil porridge

[7] A common superstition to make sure kids cleaned up thoroughly
after eating is the story of Nala Damayanti. As the story goes, the
hero is cursed with misfortune for the crime of not washing his foot
properly! Well, I've forgotten most of the story as my Grandma used
to tell it to me to make sure I did things exactly as told as a kid.

142 Replies

#2
| Oilfield Trash!
That's very interesting Drifter.

Thank you :)
#3
| Nothing is illegal until you get caught~
I really enjoyed reading this post, I learned a few things as well... :)
There is no defense against chaos~
#4
| Member
Lovely. This post is informative and seasoned with humor.
Maybe you could do a follow up on other mysterious hygiene matters like the loud rituals we hear coming from hotel rooms early in the morning?
#5
| Guru
IMHO 3, 4, & 5 are observed only on festival days. #3 is observed only on the anniversary of a family member's death.



small snapshot of things which you may normally see, occasionally glimpse or never see in your lifetime.

1, 2 & 7 may be normal in certain households. 3,4 & 5 would be an occasional glimpse and 6 -- I have never ever heard of. But it might happen in an orthodox brahmin household.

Do keep in mind there is no single consistent Indian tradition. Some people say you will find more diversity in customs within India than the rest of the world. I am curious as to homw many households Digital Drifter observed before comming to these conclusions.
#6
| gotta pee ...

crvlvr

picky, picky ...
#7
| Loud Noisy Bird
I've had water poured over my hands and feet before a meal, and over my hands after a meal. Never heard of the postprandial footwash before, though.

And I know a lot more about crows now :)
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
.
#8
| bang a whore? Bangalore Dammit!

Originally posted by: open_airLovely. This post is informative and seasoned with humor.
Maybe you could do a follow up on other mysterious hygiene matters like the loud rituals we hear coming from hotel rooms early in the morning?



err...I don't have the habit of listening too closely to next door noises but I'll take a stab at it.

Most probably, it's someone hawking or clearing their throat after brushing/gargling.
#9
| bang a whore? Bangalore Dammit!

Originally posted by: crvlvrIMHO 3, 4, & 5 are observed only on festival days. #3 is observed only on the anniversary of a family member's death.



That's not completely true. #3 is certainly *not* done only on the anniversary of the deceased family member. It's done on...umm..occasions where there's a need for it.(Orthodoxy is not my strong point). The offering to the crows is done everyday,at least in my house. Setting food aside for the dogs is *also* part of the ritual of 'shraddam' during eating.

Originally posted by: crvlvr
1, 2 & 7 may be normal in certain households. 3,4 & 5 would be an occasional glimpse and 6 -- I have never ever heard of. But it might happen in an orthodox brahmin household.



You're right on 6 but it depends on the household's grip on practises.


I am curious as to homw many households Digital Drifter observed before comming to these conclusions.


Being Indian, quite a lot I'd say. Being non-religious now, it allows one the luxury of reasoned thought which religion denies you(Obviously,I don't mean *you* personally).
#10
| Maha Guru Member
the observations appear to be related to south indian cultures (plantain leaves) are normally not used elsewhere!

yes, indians love to blurp after meals - indicates satisfaction!

yes, some of them keep aside a tiny morsel before starting on the meals. a token of thanksgiving.

yes, sometimes people do sit on the floor even if chairs and tables are available - in order to appreciate the tv soaps!
mooning over a moon journey
#11
| Maha Guru Member
Hi Drifter and sadhuji
y another thread was needed?

i still have my unansered question already:) there, in the link u have mentioned
Like ......

it is only in India? -IS IT?

U know we get a veg hamburger in India?

Why do see lot of Garbage under the sign of "dont put garbage here" ? ( all over india)

Why do people spit near the spot where the sign board say 'DONT SPIT HERE' (seen in Maharashtra mostly-- i was there in MAH 18 to 20 yrs in Maharashtra )

The last question for toady is that , why do our intrest in photography goes very high and take photographs when we see the sign board saying "Photography is Prohibited" ....?? ( seen everywhere in India or also in abroad?????????)


I had put some photos tooo:) in that post
usha
Life is a beautiful journey so keep travelling with a SMILE :) :) :)
#12
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: sadhujithe observations appear to be related to south indian cultures (plantain leaves) are normally not used elsewhere!

yes, indians love to blurp after meals - indicates satisfaction!

yes, some of them keep aside a tiny morsel before starting on the meals. a token of thanksgiving.

yes, sometimes people do sit on the floor even if chairs and tables are available - in order to appreciate the tv soaps!


Well
I have seen different kind of leaves used in Maharashtra. It may be just becoz of plantain leaves were not available so easily there like in southern part of India.
IN south too apart from plantain leaves they do have other leaves to make different special items like 'vatta appam' etc....
Life is a beautiful journey so keep travelling with a SMILE :) :) :)
#13
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: sadhujithe observations appear to be related to south indian cultures (plantain leaves) are normally not used elsewhere!

yes, indians love to blurp after meals - indicates satisfaction!

yes, some of them keep aside a tiny morsel before starting on the meals. a token of thanksgiving.

yes, sometimes people do sit on the floor even if chairs and tables are available - in order to appreciate the tv soaps!


One more thing in Indian tradition,
By having food with our own hand, rather than with a spoon and fork, is a way of respecting food too...:) They do sit down in floor too :)
we shouldnt forget that:)
at the same time few of us comfortable with a spoon or fork and we like to sit on the chair and have food from dining table ..i do agree..but i cant say the change is just becoz just in order to appreciate the tv soaps!
Life is a beautiful journey so keep travelling with a SMILE :) :) :)
#14
| Maha Guru Member
Can anyone tell me how you're meant to eat south indian food? Particularly rasam and that white coconutty stuff -do you mix it with the other food or eat it on it's own or what?
I can eat the dosa part without any problems but am easily confused by side dishes :p
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#15
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: guerikCan anyone tell me how you're meant to eat south indian food? Particularly rasam and that white coconutty stuff -do you mix it with the other food or eat it on it's own or what?
I can eat the dosa part without any problems but am easily confused by side dishes :p


I have seen few of my guests drinking rasam like soup.. ( ya in winter it is a good substitute for tomato soup..no doubt)..
I think u are mentioning about that conconutty stuff is either coconut chutney, or Pulisseri ( made of curds and coconut) ?
Pulisseri u can mix with rice and eat ..
In north too they have a variation of Pulisseri which is called Kadi . Instead of coconut they use gram flour. (basan).
Life is a beautiful journey so keep travelling with a SMILE :) :) :)