In ancient mythologies, everything is a gift of the Gods. Even the knowledge of food production is thought to occur by divine intervention. Examples appear cross-culturally. Ninkasi, the Mesopotamian God-dess of beer, helps the dough rise. She is the one who inspired bakers to add sesame seeds and herbs to bread. In ancient Greek mythol-ogy, Dionysus, the God of grape harvest, wine making and wine, gave nourishment and strength to his patrons. In Indian my-thology, a Hindu who sincerely worships is rewarded with rice by Annapurna, the God-dess of food. Anna means food and purna means complete.
Because of its centrality to our lives, food becomes a perfect vehicle for rituals and food rituals become central to many religions. The association between humans and Gods endows food with a sacred quality—a mysti-cal solidarity of man with plants and animals.
Consuming a ritual meal is considered a sacred bond between the participants of the feasts. Consuming votive food gives the feeling that you are consuming some element of divinity.
Food offerings to the deities is a common practice in mythology. In or-der to prevent the wrath of the Gods, priests were obligated to procure food for the sanctuaries.
Some deities have special food preferences. Lettuce is the favorite vegetable of the Egyptian God Set. Butter is Lord Krishna’s favorite, and many temples accept fresh coconut, raw milk and fruits as offerings to the Gods.
In Hindu temples, kheer (pudding) is given to the devotees as holy offerings. Beer is frequently mentioned in the mythologies of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Scandinavia. In Greek mythology, wine plays a prominent role. Both in Greek and in Indian mythology, ambrosia is the food that gives Olympian and Hindu Gods eternal youth and beauty. They believed that ambrosia made even an ordinary person immortal. The Indian coun-terpart of ambrosia is amrita. Folk stories tell us that nectar was found at the bottom of the ocean—a heavenly elixir that ensures immortality. There is plenty of evidence to show that the Gods loved our food.
The Hindu Goddess Annapurna is de-scribed as holding a golden ladle in her right hand and a vessel full of delicious porridge in her left hand. It is also said that she does not eat a morsel unless all her devotees have been fed in her temple.
Malar Gandhi is a freelance writer who special-izes in Culinary Anthropology and Gourmet Indian Cooking. She blogs about Indian Food atwww.kitchentantras.com and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
Perumal (Lord Vishnu) Temple Thayir Saadham
2 cups cooked rice, mashed 1 cup milk
1 cup plain yogurt salt to taste
1 inch ginger root, minced 2 green chilies, chopped ½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp asafoetida
1 tsp chana dal
1 tsp urud dal
few curry leaves
2 tsp sesame oil
cilantro leaves to garnish
In a small pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns and let it pop. Then add asafoetida, chana dal and urud dal. Allow the dals to turn crisp and red. Add ginger, chilies and curry leaves and continue frying for a minute and then remove from heat.
Add the tempered spices to the mashed rice. Then add salt, yogurt and milk. Mix well and allow this to stand for two hours. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve chilled or at room temperature.
Serve this comfort meal as a main course along with pickles and vegetables on the side. This is served as a prasadham (offering) in many Hindu temples in South India.
Anjaneyar (Hanuman) Temple Vadai
1 cup urud dal
2 tsp rice powder
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch ginger, grated
¼ tsp asafoetida
1 dry chili, crushed
few curry leaves, torn into pieces salt to taste oil for shallow frying
Toast the black gram in a wide pan for about 2-4 minutes. Blend into a coarse powder.
Mix all the above mentioned ingredi-ents to the black gram powder, except oil. Add about a tablespoon of water to it, and run it through the grinder, preparing a coarse batter.
Take a small, lemon sized, amount of batter and flatten into 4 mm thickness pat-ties. Make a hole in the center of these pat-ties. This methodology is applied to bring forth thorough cooking (frying) even in the middle, where sometimes the batter can remain uncooked.
Heat oil in a shallow frying pan, and fry these vadas till crisp and brown. Never overload the oil, fry only a few at a time. Remove from heat and drain them on kitchen towels for a few minutes.
Serve warm as a tea time snack. This healthy version of vada is served asprasadham in many South Indian Anjaneyar temples.