Friday, 18 September 2015

HOW TO SERVE MAHARASHTRIAN MEAL ON A BANANA LEAF

VADANI KAVAL GHETA, NAAM GHYA SRI HARCHE      (वदनी कावल घेता, नाम घ्या श्रीहरीचे )
SAHAJA HAVANA HOTE, NAAM GHETA PHUKACHE     (सहज हवन होते, नाम घेता फुकाचे )
JEEVAN KARI JIVITVA, ANNA HE PURNA BRAHMA       (जीवन करी जिवित्वा, अन्न हे पूर्ण ब्रम्ह)
UDARA BHARAN NOHE, JANICHE YADNYA KARMA     (उदर भरण नोहे, जाणीचे यज्ञ कर्म)
JAI JAI RAGHUVEER SAMARTHA                                       (जय जय रघुवीर समर्थ )


When ever we visited my native place Guhagar in Ratnagair district, this prayer before starting our meal has always been a ritual ever since childhood. Chanting of the prayer itself brings back fond childhood memories when we used to impatiently wait for these prayers to get over, of course, in anticipation of the sweets served right in front of us (we were not allowed to touch food till then)

The way food is arranged on a banana leaf / plate is of utmost importance which has a scientific base to it. The food has not only to look appealing but also its arranged as per the sequence in which it is supposed to be consumed, with equal emphasis given to the right and left sides of the leaf for it to also look well balanced.

The Maharashtrian food spread is vegetarian, very simple, earthy and rustic and it reflects not only on the produce of the land, but also the people who are equally simple and rustic, but rooted and grounded to their family traditions and legacy. Minimal spices are added in the meals, the emphasis is always on enhancing the flavour of the basic ingredient and not to mar its flavour by the use of excessive spices and flavourings. The ingredients used though are usually influenced by the geography, topography of the region and the crops grown. The Konkan area has an abundance of coconut, banana, mangoes, kokum, rice plantations....

Now this ancient tradition is being disappearing at great speed especially with the advent of the more convenient buffet system than the traditional sit down. But in the olden hey days this method was followed during all the traditional but formal functions and festivals, including weddings, thread ceremonies etc. This method of sit down lunch / dinner, i.e. serving food at a time  to a large number of guests was called "PANGAT / पंगत ".

 In a Maharashtrian pangat the banana leaf is always kept upright or standing contrary to the ways of the south where the leaf is kept across. If there are any special guests or the guest of honour then the top pointed portion of the banana leaf is used, its called "AGOTLA / अगोत्ल " in marathi.  Otherwise even the central portion of the leaf is used where the entire large banana leaf may be cut into 2 - 3 pieces depending on the size of the entire leaf, with each leaf cut the approx. length size from your finger tips to the elbow. The banana leaf is always held at length with the cuts given across so each leaf will have two symmetrical sides. The entire full sized banan leaf is called "DANG / डांग ". The portion immediately below the Agotla is quiet wide so it is cut in half lengthwise. The central joint which holds the two symmetrical sides together is called "TATOLA / टाटोळा ". Since in this portion the Tatola is quiet thick so the leaf does not lie flat, so it needs to be cut or atleast trimmed from below.

Once all the leaves are cut to proper size, wash them carefully, wipe them dry. Arrange them on top of each other such that the face of 2 leaves are on top of each other. Roll them up, and cover with a clean cloth till further use.

ARRANGING THE FOOD ON THE BANANA LEAF



Each food has its specific designated position on the leaf / plate and that's also the sequence that is followed even for re-serves. Arrange the position of the leaf in such a way that the AGOTLA is away from the guest, pointing towards the outside. The sequential arrangement is given starting from the top left and top right arranging all the things one below the other, leaving a little gap between the two so that they do not mix into each other.

LEFT SIDE (starting from top)
1. Salt
2. Lemon / limbu
3. Chutney
4. Panchamrut
5. Koshimbir

LEFT SIDE (towards the centre)
6. Dahi

LEFT SIDE (towards the base)
7. Papad / Kurdai / Chikvadya
8. Alu Vadi / Kothimbir Vadi / Bhajji
9. Puri / Poli / Chapati
10. Puran poli / Ukdiche Modak / Gulachi Poli / Sanjyachi Poli

RIGHT SIDE (starting from top)
11. dry vegetable 1 / suki bhaji usually Ukadleli Batata bhaji
12. dry vegetable 2 / suki bhaji usually Matkichi Usal / Valachya Birdya

RIGHT SIDE (towards the centre)
13. Masale Bhaat / Vangi Bhaat / Tondli Bhaat
14. Varan Bhaat with toop

RIGHT SIDE (towards the base)
15. Kheer  / Gavhale kheer
16. Puran

RIGHT SIDE (in bowls)
16. Aluchi Patal Bhaji / Amti / Tomato che Saar / Kadhi
17. Taak / Buttermilk

The person consuming the meal starts his meal by first taking a spoonful of water in his right hand and circling the water around the food from left to right  (पाणी फिरवणे) joining hands together in a namaskar and start with consuming the Gavhale kheer first or in its absence any other sweet.



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