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IMPORTANCE OF TRADITIONAL FOOD SYSTEM

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Abstract

According to Indian Philosophy, Anna or food is an aspect of Brahman. It is a gift from Paramatma. So, it should be treated with great respect. The physical body is called AnnamayaKosha, i.e. food body, because body nourished and grows by absorbing the energies from food. Food should be eaten for the survival and strength of the body, but not for pleasure. Fasting is another aspect of traditional food system. It is meant to purify the mind and the body. These traditional food concepts have been changed drastically in our society because of our contemporary lifestyle. The various aspects of traditional food system has been recorded in ancient scriptures, literature and as well as in oral narratives of folk. We may find special food items and many dietary varieties in Karnataka. These varieties have a number of little used; uncommon vegetables with perceived health benefits. Key traditional staple food and other food groups such as nuts, seeds, wild fruits and vegetables used in the diet are area specific. Traditional food system plays a significant role in maintaining the well-being and health of Indigenous People. Yet, evidence abounds showing that the traditional food base and knowledge of Indigenous People are being eroded. This has resulted in the use of fewer species, decreased dietary diversity due to household food insecurity and consequently poor health status. The knowledge of the traditional food system can change this scenario. Awareness created on traditional food system can contribute to create a healthy society to build strong nation. The traditional knowledge of food is considered to be the best for particular geographical condition. Changing food pattern can damage the good health of the society. So, it is vital to know the importance of good food habits of our own tradition and balanced diet. In this chapter, importance of traditional foods like staple, special, seasonal, region specific and their methods will be discussed.
IMPORTANCE OF TRADITIONAL FOOD SYSTEM
Shripad Bhat
Assistant Professor,
D.V.Gundappa adyana Kendra,
Tumkur University, Tumkur 572 103
ABSTRACT
According to Indian Philosophy, Anna or food is an aspect of Brahman. It is a
gift from Paramatma. So, it should be treated with great respect. The physical
body is called AnnamayaKosha, i.e. food body, because body nourished and
grows by absorbing the energies from food. Food should be eaten for the
survival and strength of the body, but not for pleasure. Fasting is another aspect
of traditional food system. It is meant to purify the mind and the body. These
traditional food concepts have been changed drastically in our society because
of our contemporary lifestyle. The various aspects of traditional food system has
been recorded in ancient scriptures, literature and as well as in oral narratives of
folk. We may find special food items and many dietary varieties in Karnataka.
These varieties have a number of little used; uncommon vegetables with
perceived health benefits. Key traditional staple food and other food groups
such as nuts, seeds, wild fruits and vegetables used in the diet are area specific.
Traditional food system plays a significant role in maintaining the well-being
and health of Indigenous People. Yet, evidence abounds showing that the
traditional food base and knowledge of Indigenous People are being eroded.
This has resulted in the use of fewer species, decreased dietary diversity due to
household food insecurity and consequently poor health status. The knowledge
of the traditional food system can change this scenario. Awareness created on
traditional food system can contribute to create a healthy society to build strong
nation. The traditional knowledge of food is considered to be the best for
particular geographical condition. Changing food pattern can damage the good
health of the society. So, it is vital to know the importance of good food habits
of our own tradition and balanced diet. In this chapter, importance of traditional
foods like staple, special, seasonal, region specific and their methods will be
discussed.
Key words: Tradition, food, nutrients,
Introduction
A food system which has a long tradition would never be changed
immediately. Change of place, change of career would be the reasons for this to
happen. Apart from these, political and historical reasons may also cause
changes in a particular food system, thereby creating society’s health and total
food insecurity. We can identify some of the important reasons for the change in
traditionally developed food sequence.
In the recent times, the adverse impact of changed traditional food system
is being seriously considered by all those whose are socially concerned. “The
traditional vegetables and food means have become so facile to us during the
last four centuries. Which means, generally, instead of our own food means we
have more attached to the glamour of foreign commodities. Therefore, there is a
shortage of means of vitamins which were naturally provided to the body
through vegetables, green grass, seed, and spice materials”1. This upholds the
concern over the changed food system in our society and its impact. There have
been constant efforts to gain attention towards changed traditional food system
and also the impact of health and social problems caused by it. A research study
has been conducted by National Botanical Research Institute on this subject.
“Our hospitality during festivals and other special occasions had included the
subtle thought of providing necessary vitamins, contented balanced food and
shadrasas’ according to the seasons. It is true that, 400 years ago, before
Europeans coming to us our food substances had been chosen according to our
tastes. More importantly, there used to be wisdom as to adopting vitamins which
had medicinal quality to protect health. But now, due to the influence of alien
food habits, problems have been triggered causing shortage of vitamins required
for the growth of the brain. Shortage of required vitamins in the development of
the brain can be clearly seen in decreased creativity, quest for cogitation among
Indian children.
But, the research shows that the attitude of the quest for cogitation
remained firmly among 10 to 15% of citizens who have retained the old food
system. Both World Food and Agriculture organizations have expressed more
anxiety in this regard. Indispensable ingredients of our cooking such as neem,
tamarind, pepper etc., have also become boring to us nowadays. Instant spices
are available at the doorsteps! Besides, the vegetables that come from the other
countries have become more recommendable than that are available in our own
hometowns. Not only that, cool drinks, chips that have been rejected by the
intelligent lot as junk foods in foreign countries have been liked most.
Apart from this, there is an increasing tendency of using processed food
with artificial chemicals than naturally available food materials, directly gifted
by the nature. Totally, the nutritious foods from this soil that is necessary for our
new generation is not made available due to the changes in food culture.
According to our traditional knowledge, region and season specific foods
which have been prepared by means of local fiber roots, roots, fruits, leafy
vegetables, vegetables and grass are necessary for us2.
This research does not stop here. Further, it provides caution against
eating roasted, fried foodstuff. “Eating deeply fried eatables made out of potato
and other such foods, containing glucose would lead to cancer due to the
formation of acryl amide. China has taken an intelligent step on this issue. It has
enacted a law way back in 1956 and made it mandatory to have good nutritious
food available in the locality3.
There have been various reasons for the changes in food consumption
methods. Maslow, an eminent scholar who studied the human mellowness has
advocated a theory. It may be significant to mention here. He divides
fundamental human needs into physical needs those are essential for leading life
and those which require social dependency and self awareness. His doctrine
advocates that if minimum satisfaction can’t be attained through necessary
supply, human desire of searching for new things arises and that shall be the
root cause for encouragement. Human beings turn towards others only when
they can’t derive satisfaction from one. Generally these wants go up in the
sequence of survival, security, dependency or shelter, prestige and self
awareness. The process reverses when there is a dissatisfaction4.
Man eats any kind of food when his main desire is to survive. Food is the
only ultimate immediate necessity of that moment. It is fundamental. After
fulfilling this desire, there arises the necessity of security. When hunger arises,
ensuring sufficient food is stocked, is the necessity of food security. Once
economic condition is improved, the individual scales the necessity phases one
by one. Man becomes nervous because of insecurity of food during natural
disasters and devastating situations like wars. Once the fundamental necessity
of hunger and security desires are achieved, man can’t keep quite. Even
regarding food, he starts contributing towards psychological necessity. Varieties
in food, creating various tastes, making art out of that etc., come during the next
phase.
There are so many reasons for the change in the food system. More
important among them are ecology, science and technological advancement and
economic conditions. Geographical condition alone plays an important role in
the food system of a particular region. Some communities from some coastal
regions in Uttara Kannada use more sea foods such as fish, crab, prawns etc.
Vegetarian food is mandatory in Brahmin community. Though, non vegetarian
food is prohibited among them, the Gowda Saraswat Brahmins use fish and
other seafood. It is not prohibited in their community. They do not consider fish
as non-vegetarian. Apart from this all other non-vegetarian food is not accepted
by them.
Science and Technology also contribute to changing of food habits. When
there was no refrigerator, we can observe that folk groups gave more attention
to protect easily perishable food items such as milk, vegetables and other such
consumables. We can find that they had followed more procedures particularly
for protecting such goods. Rules such as ‘don’t keep other food items with rice
items, don’t touch other food without washing hands while you touch rice items,
don’t keep non-vegetarian food items with the vegetarian items. These have
been gradually vanished after the existence of the refrigerator.
Economic conditions also play an important role in changing the food
system. Economically backward tribes such as Siddi community living in the
Western Ghats of Karnataka do not have their own food systems. In situations
like pay only money to get food, more importance has been given to money and
basic needs of fulfilling hunger becomes more important. In such conditions it
is very difficult for an economically backward community to retain its own
traditional food system. These folks can only enjoy the traditional food on
special occasions like festivals and other celebrations with great difficulty.
Food system has also undergone changes due to the impact of
urbanization. If you consider Bangalore, from Meck’s chiken to Masala Dosa,
Afghan roti to jowar roti, pure Dravidian puliyogare to Humas of the Middle
East, everything is available here5. Many people, even if they are not hungry,
want to taste food for mere enjoyment. It depends on the individual’s appetite.
Hotels and food avenues in metros sell varieties depending on the individual
tastes of those who have money. Other matters pertaining to food are not
important for such food industry.
People from all regions do live in metros. Because of geographical
reason, it may not be possible to prepare traditional food for all due to non
availability of means of their food. So hotels and food avenues strive to attract
such consumers. Thus, in Bangalore traditional food courts providing North
Karnataka region specific foods such as jowar roti, brinjal salad, varieties of
chilly powders, ball meals, sambar prepared by various grass, sprouted seeds,
have gained more demand. Previously, ball meals were not made available in
hotels. But now it has a special place in the menus of all food avenues starting
from fast food stalls to five star hotels. Donne biryani, kheema, pork, Maratha
style, Hyderabad style, sea foods of Karavali and so on… there is no end for
tasty food in Bangalore6.
Fast food has become an inevitable part of the hectic lifestyle of metros.
It provides for the immediate need of appetite but at the same time aggravates
the worry of health care.
The variety of traditional food systems in India speak about the richness
of the food availability here. As foreign attacks have its own impact on the land,
it has also affected local people’s behavior, thought and food. Many foreign
groceries, vegetables started growing in India. How brinjal of Southern
America, guava, chayote, jowar, chilly etc. became popular here, how they got a
place in the native food and medicines, gradually, what were the social, political
reasons behind them etc. have been mentioned in detail with pictorial
description by Mr. B.G.L. Swamy in his book “Namma Hotteyalli Dakshina
America”7. (South America in our stomach).
Historian Will Durant documents that all regions here had richness of
food till Britishers came to India8. “Till 1757, whoever may have ruled India;
there had been no deficiency of food grains delivery to the people even for a
year. Later resources of India had been looted like anything and even if the total
of it would have been invested in India, it could have been 4000crore dollars!
India, once, one of the richest countries, had become a very poor country
because of their loot. As a result, India faced terrible famines frequently, which
were never heard in its history or globally, Durant documented with proofs.
Before the British how India was self sufficient in food security and through
that formed its own cultural resources would be learnt by his descriptions. After
one or two centuries how it became poorer could be clearly felt”.
This inscription effectively brings outs how political stands play a major
role in food fortification and how food poverty makes total society, culture and
whole civilization suffer poverty.
Food security has become a major problem for administration during post
independent days. Agriculture had been given much importance in five year
plans and initiatives to fight against hunger and achieving security started
through Green Revolution, White Revolution. Many researches, studies have
been undertaken and still have been continuing9-10. All these have thrown light
on the present scenario of food and related challenges in India.
To achieve food security for all has become the national aim since 1947.
Towards achieving this goal the government has undertaken programmes such
as Rastreeya Krishi Vikas Yojana( Rs.25,000 crore), National Food Security
Programme (Rs. 6000 crore), National Horticulture programmes (in which
Rs.22,000 crore has not been utilized still).
However, the food grain production witnessed 0.11% growth every year
since 1891 to 1946 and goods produced other than food witnessed yearly
growth of 1.37%. But this ratio was not enough to meet the demands of rapidly
increasing population. Because of this reason food deficiency highlighted in the
nation. In recent years, the concept of food security has witnessed many
quantitative changes. In olden days, the system that provided people with
minimum food grains that were available physically used to be considered as
food security11. Food security has been described in the following manner:
“Providing necessary food throughout the year, physically and
economically for all people, for productive and healthy life is called food
security”, said the World Bank way back in 1986.12
“Food security means availability of food to all people of the world
without the deficiency of nutrients and capacity to harmonize with the use of
nature based means: effective and availability of food produced at a very low
cost”, declared the International Food Regulatory Research Organization in the
year 2002.
This statement efficiently advocates the importance and necessity of
traditional food system.
End Note:
1. Eshwar Daitota, Sooji Mallige, Aronada, Bangalore, 2010, P.10.
2. –ibid, P.62-63.
3. –ibid.
4. Maslow A H, Motivation and Personality, Harper & Row, New York,
1954
5. Vijaya Next, Kannada Weekly, December 3-9, 2010, P.4.
6. –ibid.
7. Swamy B.G.L, Namma Hotteyalli Dakshina Amerika, Bangalore
University, 1991.
8. Will Durant, The Case for India, Shivanna Dodda Hanumantayya (trans),
Muttajjana Bhavya Bharata, Stand Book Stall, Bangalore,2009
9. Yojana, A Development Monthly Magazine, Food Security, Special issue,
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, October
2010.
10. Yojana, A Development Monthly Magazine, Indian Agriculture at the
deciding stage, Special issue, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,
Government of India, January 2011.
11. Yojana, A Development Monthly Magazine, Ministry of Information and
Broadcasting, Government of India, October 2010, Pg-6
12. -ibid.
... Changing food pattern can damage the good health of the society. So, it is vital to know the importance of good food habits of our own tradition and balanced diet [6]. ...
... The interest in returning to organic farming and the habits of traditional food culture is obvious at the level of European economic policies. There are many studies advocating the importance of returning to traditional eating habits [3,4], [7] and [17]. ...
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