Well known Tamil and Sanskrit scholar P. N. Parasuraman talks about handling food in the hygienic way of eating on a plantain leaf in this column.
The restaurant was crowded. There were no tables free. A solitary table in the stuffy dark corner, however was not occupied. And a well-dressed gentleman walked across the room and occupied that place.
The bearer came to take the order, and the gentleman placed an order for a plate of idli, but specified that the idlis should be kept only on a plantain leaf on the plate and wanted a spoon for eating.
The bearer served him just as the way he wanted but was curious to know as to why he wanted the idli to be served only on a plantain leaf and not on a plate?
“ I expected this question from you. What do you know about hygiene? Hundreds of customers come to your hotel and you serve them food on the same plate, how can it be clean? A plantain leaf is disposable and is hygienic. Sad that you do not know even these basic things,” mocked the elite gentleman.
The waiter after giving him a patient hearing pointed out in a soft tone that a spoon had more scope for contamination than a plate !!
Nobody likes it when they are proved wrong and our friend is no exception. He chided the bearer for being impertinent and asked him to just mind his own business!!
This is just to drive home the fact that people do not like to accept things which they do not like or which is not very convenient for them even if it is proved correct.
In those days every house had a garden and in every garden, there were trees especially banana trees and there was no shortage of plantain leaf. It was a custom to serve food only on the plantain leaf. With the advent of apartments, our living style has undergone a vast change and it is a common practice nowadays to eat food in plates and the markets are flooded with so many attractive varieties of plates.
It has been scientifically proved that eating food from a plantain leaf is very good for health. It is particularly good for respiratory problems says the book- “ Asaara Kaandam”
Also while laying the plantain leaf, the tip of the leaf ( nuni) is always laid towards the left. This also has significance. The tip of the plantain leaf is always furled and there are chances that it might have insects or worms somewhere in the corner which might skip our attention while cleaning the leaf. Hence when that portion is towards the extreme left hand side, it will not get mixed with the food served and there are no chances for contamination.
While leaves like plantain were recommended for serving food, lotus leaves are not to be used for serving food, quotes ‘Arapalesura Sadhakam’. This book further states that consumption of snacks too often, and eating too little or too large quantities of food, is not good for health.
Our ancient literature has health tips not only for the patients but has guidelines for doctors too! The concept of window shopping even for health finds a mention in the book, ‘ Dadhu Parikshai’. It advises medical practitioners to stay away from dishonest, immoral people and also says that should not offer medical advice to people who keep going from one person to another without having confidence or belief in their doctor.
Pic courtesy: Sunday times.lk