A slice of culture

Food is an intrinsic part of the culture and we often guess the nationality of people through gastronomic preferences whenever we are unable to do so through physical features alone. There is no denying the fact that food is not just about individual preferences but also a source of information about the topography, climatic conditions, economic levels and survival instincts of people. There is nothing to beat food when it comes to emotional connect which is why advertisers continue to push many a product from tea to 'rasam' based on childhood memories and aromas of food that invariably connect you to mothers and grandmothers replete with great memories and warm feelings. There are foods for every season and every reason, every stage and every age. Ever since the emergence of the Telangana State in 2014 interest in the State's cuisine has taken centre stage and many food festivals have celebrated its uniqueness. About five years into the new State blogger, food enthusiast, and writer, Jyothi Valaboju, who has been at the forefront of popularising Telangana cuisine for perhaps the same time comes up with her latest offering, the book 'Telangana Ruchulu' on this subject.

Beginning with the satiating aspect of food Jyothi traces references from literature and showcases the manner in which ingredients were mixed, various utensils used over time and the manner in which geographical indicators for food preferences emerged. She mentions cuisine with seasonal variations linked to festivals and special occasions like marriage, motherhood and childbirth in a woman's life. Ancient literature and inscriptions of the Kakatiya period talk of the vibrant markets outside the Warangal fort which sold a variety of fruits, vegetables, pulses and oils. "References from literature tell us that apart from normal oils, cooking oil with the fragrance of the samapenga (Magnolia Champaka) flower was used. We also know that workers received food grains as wages and that rice was cultivated as the main crop since the time of the Reddy Kings. Food was an important aspect for both scholars as well as ordinary people and found an important place in folk music too," she mentions. The well-known proverbs about food are also used to state the relation between food and socio-economic conditions recorded in history and immortalised as part of our rich and hoary tradition.

With vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes that are a gourmet's delight Telangana cuisine which makes generous use of corn, peanuts, jaggery and, tamarind found in abundance in the hardy Deccan plateau is gaining worldwide recognition. Meat dishes, recipes from beneficial herbs and varieties of sugarcane from which jaggery making emerged as a special skill, all make Telangana cuisine distinct. Millet recipes, 'sarva pindi' made from rice flour and gravy dishes called 'pulusu' well known for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare are a treat to those who relish healthy and tasty food. Listed in this book brought out by the Department of Language and Culture are also the different kinds of food offerings for the nine days of Bathukamma, the festival that has become extremely popular in the Telangana. "The variety of food in Telangana is mind boggling and I am experimenting with these as well as sweets and delicious snacks which I try out frequently. I look forward to a book with authentic recipes," says Anusha, a second-year student from a reputed culinary institute. This probably is a sentiment shared by many food lovers. With recipes for a number of dishes, the nutritious value of foods and relevant information pertaining to Telangana cuisine 'Telangana Ruchulu' is a wholesome meal. It is a slice of culture celebrating the birth of a State proud of its rich heritage.

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