Last week, Assamese food festival was held in school at CBD, Belapur. The main aim was to introduce the regional cuisine to our Special Children, besides learning the different eating etiquettes.
Three months before the event, the children were informed about different kinds of food that one is likely to see at dinner tables. The flash cards were made, recipes were discussed, and children learnt about this food as per their ability to grasp that kind of knowledge.
Early morning, on the day of the festival, the kitchen kindled up with beautiful fragrance of cooked food. There was so much activity there. some were frying Lusi, other were frying Mosoor bor, a big pot of Aloo Pikika was ready. I was instantly hungry.
The menu for the day was Papaya Khar, Payokh, Masoor Bor, Mati Dal, Rice, Lusi, Aloo Pitika, Labra, Tomato tok. There were also sweet dish, papads and pickles
Elephant apple, hot red chillies and lime were even kept on display because they are used widely in Assamese cuisine. Elephant Apple cannot be eaten raw, it is mainly used in jams and pickle. The red chilies are very hot and is used regularly in some dishes. All the food is cooked in pungent Mustard oil. A traditional meal in Assam begins with a khar, a class of dishes named after the main ingredient, and ends with a tenga, a sour dish. The cuisine is characterised by very little use of spices, little cooking over fire and strong flavors due mainly to the use of endemic exotic fruits and vegetables that are either fresh, dried or fermented.
The festival started with preparation of bhog/prasada to our Gods and a short prayers.
The children came in groups, helped by the assistants to take the servings according to their needs.
They returned to their class room to eat with friends.
I was able to learn a bit about Assamese cuisine and the regional eating habits from a home chef Mamoni Gogoi, a resident of Vashi, Navi Mumbai, who besides catering also conducts hobby classes called "Mamonis-Gifts & Chocolates.
Children learn many things during food festivals.
- They learn to wait for their turn while standing in queue,
- They learn about quantity of food—how much to serve-more/less/ enough/too much,
- They learn about different taste in food- sweet/sour/ spicy/salty
- They learn about the texture in food.. hard/ soft/Solid/liquid
- They learn as how to eat with spoon/fork or fingers
- They learn about cleanliness-washing hands before and after meals, clean the table after eating, not to spill food.
- They learn to share and eat in harmony.
- They learn to eat in silence
- Moreover they learn to appreciate good food and that it is not good to waste.
Do read ‘Assamese Food Festival – Part Two on my food Blog Papad Chai.