In the world with walls, inclines and declines the South Indian way of eating out of a banana leaf offers a degree of equanimity !
For those that aren’t in the know, traditionally food is served on banana leaves, in the South ! With ‘progressive’ generations moving on, steel, plastic and other material have come to occupy the primordial place that the banana leaf used to enjoy, when the average southerner was hungry !
In the modern times, a wedding or an ‘authentic’ restaurant tries to cater to the nostalgic South Indian mind with a leafy serving ! That said, it is easy to see that the banana leaf is perhaps the earliest version of common place ‘use & throw’ system. Natural. Bio-degradable. And green too.
A typical lunch would mean three or four vegetable curries served from a bucket straight onto the leaf. Arranged on a straight line that could resemble a battle tank formation !
The remaining place is strategically kept for loading heaps of rice, where the mainstay of the battle is. (As soon as the rice arrived, i didn’t click any more pictures. Well…). Usually filled with three categories…of well, lets call ‘toppings’ (for want of a better word) !
Some Ghee – Sambhar ‘topping’ for round one.
Some rasam ‘topping’ for round two.
Some curd / butter milk ‘topping’ for round three !
(Topping isn’t accurate at all ! They are not toppings. They are massaged with five fingers into every morsel. Right there on the banana leaf !)
Bliss. Often times announced with a burp that could well set off an anti-aircraft missile in Pakistan!
If you are used to spoon, forks and plates, well, you are in for trouble. That is to put it mildly. Very mildly. For the banyan leaf has no ‘walls’ nor any ‘height variant’ ! But then a hungry southerner, who is used to having food out of a banana leaf would have let go the burp, by the time you finish reading this post !
(We eat in some hurry. As though, there is a Olympic medal that will do the country proud! That’s for another post though).
What got me started on this post was a lunch that well meaning colleagues took me out for. At a Gujarati restaurant.
This was our table, as we approached it ! The array of containers to hold the different types of accompaniments to the ghee laden stuff was simply mind blowing. Lets not talk about taste here. For whatever was served there, disappeared before the chap could count get started counting 1-2-3 !
I learnt my lessons rather well. And here it is : For a battle hardened veteran the field doesn’t matter ! Be it the plains of the green banana leaf or the shined walls of the Gujarati Thali containers !! Food is a great leveler. Leveler. ( Some word that is).
Of course. Two minutes on the lips. And a lifetime on the hips. And everywhere else too.