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Like in any well-defined culture, food is an important aspect of the Indian way of life. Food is an important part of the Indian social fabric and families take pride in serving the best Indian cuisine and sharing it with their friends and kinsmen. The Indian cuisine has a wide variety of dishes and it is distinctly known for its reliance on spices. Nevertheless, Indian food encompasses diversity that comes from the vastness of its geographical origins. Furthermore, Indian food is influenced by climatic conditions of various areas, ethnicity, religion, culture, and economic class (Srinivas, 2011). Vegetarianism is a vital component of Indian food. This paper is an evaluation of the Indian culture through its cuisine.
The significance of food within the Indian culture dates back to about 7000 BC. However, by around this time most of the foods that make up the modern Indian cuisine were non-existent. Spices and most of the other condiments that characterize Indian food today were introduced to Indians at around 3000 BC. Some of the spices that became part of Indian food in 3000 BC such as pepper, mustard, and turmeric are still in existence today. Other types of food that have become staples in Indian cuisine were introduced to Indians through cultural interactions. For instance, foods such as potatoes, chilies, and tomatoes were introduced to India by immigrants but these items later became key components of Indian cuisine.
A typical traditional Indian meal is composed of about two or three main meals that are accompanied by several side dishes. Indian foods are often classified in accordance with their region of origin. Differences in Indian food are characterized by their areas of popularity namely eastern, western, northern, or southern. The most important components of Indian food are rice, flour, spices, and pulses. The most common spices in India are of the curry variety and they are often put in vegetables and other dishes.
Food in the Indian culture has a spiritual significance because it is understood to be a key component of all lives. For instance, the ancient texts of Rigveda contain a hymn that praises food and refers to it as the ‘Lord of all creatures’. Furthermore, “it is stated in the Prasna Upanishad that God created food and all the individuals, vigor, rituals and activities depend on it” (Narayan, 2005, p. 65). Within the Indian culture, breakfast is an important meal that mainly consists of a tea or coffee beverage. Dinner is the most ‘ceremonial’ meal of the day whereas families engage in social talks. It is common for Indians to engage in dietary restrictions in accordance with religious values. Most people eat Indian food when they are seated in the floor or on low-lying seats.
My research of Indian food revealed various cultural aspects about India that were hitherto unknown to me. One of the facts that appeared interesting to me was the age of most Indian cuisines. Through my research of Indian food, I discovered that some of the main foods that make up the Indian cuisine have been in existence for thousands of years. This ‘antiquity’ is quite uncommon among western cultures where most cuisines are almost ‘fads’ (Kittler & Nelms, 2011). For example, in my country the suitability of any cuisine depends on how ‘fashionable’ it is. It was also interesting to learn that ‘Indian food’ is not a term that applies to all the food that is found within the ‘sub-continent’ of India. I learnt that there are regional variations within Indian food in accordance with their area of origin.
Popular media such as the television show ‘Big Bang Theory’ often puts Indian food in competition with other foods such as Chinese and Italian cuisine whereas food from India always comes off as being inferior. My research into Indian food included eating Indian food for the first time. My experience with Indian cuisine showed me that people who consume it tend to overstate the effect that spices have on their digestive system. On the other hand, I found some of the breads that were served as part of Indian food to be quite tasty. After enquiring about what else was offered as part of Indian cuisine, the server informed me about sweets and other confectionaries that are popular in India.
Consequently, I became aware of the ‘fun’ side of the Indian culture where confectionaries are enjoyed by both adults and children. The manner in which Indian food is served is also a strong indicator of the importance of hosting within this culture. Food is presented with outmost care and as a precious commodity. For instance, even food stands that serve Indian food do not necessarily offer ‘rushed’ service to their customers. Nevertheless, my most important experience with Indian food was learning that it is strongly tied to the people of Indian ethnicity. This fact was realized because eighty percent of the people in the Indian restaurant that I visited including customers and servers had authentic connections to Indian culture. I also realized that there is a general lack of capitalist intentions surrounding Indian food as there are with other cultures and their foods such as Chinese, Mexican, and Italian cuisines.
Kittler, P. G., & Nelms, M. (2011). Food and culture. New York: Cengage Learning.
Narayan, U. (2005). Eating cultures: incorporation, identity and Indian food. Social Identities, 1(1), 63-86.
Srinivas, T. (2011). Exploring Indian Culture through Food. Education About Asia, 16(3), 38-41.