Food, Flavours and Ancient Cooking by Jyoti Kerkar

Food is called “Purnbrahm” which means it is a complete being of God, Food is something that provides nutrients , nutrients are substances that provide energy for activity, growth and all functions of the body, such as breathing, digesting food, and keeping warm, and also the growth and repair fo the body and importantly keeping the immune system healthy.

From Ancient times food has played a pivotal part, in Ramayan we know about the payasam or kheer  which the Queens of Ayodhya partook, Even Sita was very good with herbs and Ayurveda , she directed the cooks what should be beneficial to have and in eating according to the seasons. Prince Laxman  was an excellent cook, who when in exile with Sri Ram and Sita cooked food for them. 

In Mahabharat we have King Nala, he was an excellent cook, and we have his food scriptures still in a book called “Pak Darshana” when he left Damayanti for smetimeand came back to her father’s kingdom no one recognized him, as he had changed his looks, but Damayanti  recognized  him after eating the food he cooked for the royal family , she recognized the flavors’. 

We have read about Sudama giving puffed or pounded rice, Poha to Sri Krishna. When the Pandavs were in exile, Kunti being a bit jealous of Draupadi who always kept the Pandav brothers happy hid all the staple food, out of what was left , some flour and spices it is said that she prepared a flavored water and flat bread puris for the brothers and which now we call as Pani Puri . Prince Bhim was a foodie so also an excellent cook when the Pandavs were in hidden state , the (Angyat Vas) Incognito , Bhim was the cook of the Matsya King Virat called Balav, one day he didn’t know what to cook so he mixed all the vegetables and made a vegetable with coconut and spice and now we call it Avial . 

The greatest civilization is the Harrappa and Mohen-ja- Daro the earliest civilization  needs special men000tion, we have evidence that they eat sorghum, rice, millets, ragi, they also grew lentils and other pulses such as chickpeas, green gram, black gram, their main staple was wheat and barley, K T Achaya writes it in his book, the revered scholar who as analyzed food and wrote many books.

Food is the most important thread that binds civilizations across, we relish the Sambhar which is the staple of South India, but was discovered by the Maratha Prince Sambhaji when he visited Deccan, and Tanjore ruled by Maratha King Venkoji or Ekoji as he was called. During one of his visits he helped the cook to make this sambhar with dal and vegetables and used the souring agent Tamarind for it. In his honour the dish was called Samba and now Sambhar. 

There are many such stories about food invention and flavors , in the Mughal era the food that still is cooked in Delhi, Lucknow and other parts, the Emperors when they grew old had no teeth and were non vegetarians, so the Khansamas – their cooks invented different recipes to make the meat soft so that the Emperor did not need to chew, the classic example is the Galouti Kebabs.

Ayurveda have given us the basic principle or Tridoshas 

  • Vata : is the energy of movement 
  • Pita : is th energy of digestion or metabolism 
  • Kapha : energy of lubrication and structure.

Plus we have basic six major taste according to Ayurveda, 

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter and Astringent. So our ancient people always insisted we ate. with our hand to get the right taste. There are some tribal like Warli who don’t use salt, but instead stir their thumb as they believe it gives the required salt to the dish. 

We can safely conclude that Food plays an important part in our growth mentally, physically, environmentally too.