April will be here soon and so will be Vishu, one of my favourite festivals that we celebrate quite pompously at home with our family and relatives. The scrumptious Vishu Sadhya comprising of 2-3 payasams, wadas, 7-8 sabjis, sambhar, rasam, papad, chips, dahi and pickles served on a banana leaf is simply divine. This is one day where the entire family sits down on the floor, cross-legged and simply relishes the platter ahead of them rather watch Netflix. Serious food criticisms are passed, an extra dollop of ghee is served to children and one extra bowl of payasam is forced down the throat by the elders are pure moments of joy and oneness. Unfortunately, millennials these days rarely experience this fun and frolic but we 90’s kids simply were the last lucky lot I would say. Uske baad ki peedi is made for quick grabs sadly! Anyways, let me go ahead with my topic of the day – Let’s eat on a banana leaf!
Eating on a banana leaf was often thought to be primitive, but what if I told you that it holds so much scientific meaning too? So, let’s get going from the beginning!
For thousands of years now, India has a tradition of serving and eating food on banana leaves. Back then, people had followed a very healthy, organic and eco-friendly routine which directed them to respect the nature, grow their own food and utilize every part of the plant in their daily lives. These leaves are considered sacred, healthy and fresh, hence are used to offer naivedya / prasad to Gods, especially in southern part of India.
Eating on a banana leaf was a way of life and has slowly evolved into a tradition now. So, in most of the South Indian weddings, rituals and festivals, people still make use of banana leaf to serve food to guests. Off lately, we see many restaurants host Onam Sadhya on a banana leaf which is a huge hit among the masses.
WHY DO WE EAT FROM A BANANA LEAF?
In those days, eating on a banana leaf also meant that eating with your hands, rather than using fork or spoon and sitting cross-legged on the floor, bending your head slightly to take a morsel in. Eating with your hands provided a sensorial experience by alleviating our sense of sight, smell, touch and taste. When we sit on the floor, the heart gets advantage of better blood dissemination. It also strengthens the lumbar region, helps in secretion of digestive juices and also impacts the quantity we eat. So, even today, irrespective of our sophisticated table manners, sitting down on the floor and relishing the food by using our fingers is definitely beneficial.
EVERY FOOD HAS ITS PLACE!
Generally, water is sprinkled on banana leaves before use as a demonstration of cleansing. Then, the banana leaf is placed in a specific way: the tip of the leaf should be on the left side. Every food item has its own place with all the curries on the top part, sweets / payasam on the right side bottom, the main course – rice and sambhar in the middle-bottom part, the papads, chips, wadas, pickles on the left. It simply denotes that one should begin with a sweet on the right bottom and finish it on the left with pickles and curd, that aids in assimilation of food.
BENEFITS OF EATING ON A BANANA LEAF
1. SUITS EVERY SIZE AND OCCASION:
Banana leaves are large and has ample space to serve multi-course meal. In South India, festivals are celebrated with customary grand feast (sadhya) and innumerable items are prepared to satiate all the taste buds. All these food items can be easily served on the banana leaf without any dishes mixing with each other. Also, these leaves are water-proof, which makes it easier to serve and hold gravies without turning much soggy. The size can be tailor-made as per the number of food items and number of guests too.
2. KEEPS GERMS AT BAY:
Banana leaves can be freshly cut before a meal and is considered sterile and healthy. These dark green, big leaves have a wax-like coating on them which prevents dust and dirt sticking on to them. The wax-like coating also makes the cleaning of the leaves very easy. Wiping the leaves with a damp cloth simplifies the serving process too. These leaves, also, are believed to have anti-bacterial properties that helps the food get contaminated by germs or bacteria. Hence banana leaves also aids in keeping our body healthy and prevents the chances of falling sick.
3. RICH IN ANTI-OXIDANTS:
The huge, thick banana leaves are also packed with polyphenols, epigallocatechin gallate(EGCG) that are natural anti-oxidants and are also found in green tea and many other plant based food. These anti-oxidants aids in the slowing of the ageing process, helps build immunity and improves the taste of the food. Any food served on the banana leaves absorbs the polyphenols which on consumption prevents many lifestyle diseases and even some types of cancer. The food also becomes super healthy, when eaten from the banana leaves with the addition of the extra nutrition. Banana leaves also have peculiar anti-bacterial properties that can kill germs in the food and aids proper digestion.
4. MAKES THE FOOD FLAVORFUL AND DELICOUS:
Since Banana leaves are clean, chemical free, not easily punctured and filled with nutrients, they are extensively used to cook, grill, steam and deep fry food wrapped in them. Banana leaves are also used as a wrapping tool to cook the traditional elai-adais (Palakkad Cuisine), Panki (a traditional Gujarati Cuisine), Paneer Bhapa (Bengali Cuisine), among others. The fresh banana leaves also has a thin wax coating that melts when hot food is served on it. This wax-like coating releases a pleasant aroma and infuses an extra flavor into your food by giving us a delightful eating experience.
5. IT IS ECO-FRIENDLY:
Nature has bestowed us with the best for us to use in our daily life and Banana Leaf is among them. We all are aware that plastic and thermocol plates add to the mound of landfill and take thousands of years to decompose. But banana leaves are eco-friendly, easily decomposed and can be turned into manure for further use. Since, banana leaves keeps germs and pests at bay, there is no necessity of using chemical fertilizers to keep these leaves fresh, which in turn lessens the use of water to clean them before eating. In olden days, used banana leaves were given to the cattle. The cows and buffaloes relish these leaves by absorbing all the nutrient, thereby giving us a healthy produce of milk.
This process also eliminates the use of chemical based dish wash soaps that seep into the earth and reduces the unnecessary wastage of water too. We all know that using chemicals will deteriorate our health in the long run. Hence eating food on banana leaves is not only environment-friendly but also rewards us with a fulfilling experience.
6. IT IS ECONOMICAL:
Banana leaves are natural and hence economical too. Thankfully, Banana leaves are available in plenty and are very low-cost plates. We can easily find them in the market sold on per piece or per kilogram depending on the quantity we require. Hence, in South Indian weddings and functions, we can find food being served in banana leaves. This also results in less usage of manpower, there by being cost effective again.
7. IT IS HYGENIEC:
Banana leaves are definitely the most hygienic way of eating as with every meal a new leaf is being used. Normal utensils have to be washed using soap and there are chances that traces of soap may still remain on the utensils even after washing. But with banana leaf, just wash it with plain water or wipe it with a damp cloth, and you are ready to be served. So, the next time you head out to a restaurant and see them serving on the banana leaf, be sure to dig in!
So, let us try this iconic and healthy tradition of our country and give a treat to your eyes and palate as well.
it’s time to go back to the basics!
It’s time to go eco-friendly!
It’s time to adopt a healthy way of eating and give back something to the nature too!
So, let us eat on a banana leaf!
This post is written as a part of Blogchatter’s Causeachatter and I am championing the cause ‘Let’s Talk About Environment’ in this post!