I have not been to one Brahmin wedding without a banana leaf meal. In my culture almost all auspicious occasions, food is served on banana leaves. I personally feel a satisfactory meal should be served on banana leaf. Infact, only in the late 1980’s silver plates came into play. All Brahmin Indian households will contain banana trees in their backyard.
Why do South Indians eat on Banana leaf?
Well there are several reasons to this.
Banana leaf – Offerings:
Banana leaves are used as a plate or a tray to place the anything that is offered to God. Offerings can vary from fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, flowers and cooked items. It is considered unpolluted.
Banana leaf on Occasions:
Banana leaf is an easily and readily available plate in India, especially in South India. The tradition is to eat on banana leaves during any occasions. It is easily available and readily disposable. That is the reason why, the banana leaves are used in functions like Marriages/weddings, Birthday celebrations and other celebrations at home. These used banana leaves are given to the cattle, which is again disposed without causing much pollution.
Banana leaf at home:
Eating on a banana leaves is considered hygienic and healthy. Any guests will be served on a banana leaf which is considered humble and respectful. It is even more respectful to give food in the blunt end of the leaf. Usually, the head of the family have food in this leaf or the center person of the occasion has food in this leaf. Since it is long it will be cut into sizes enough to serve food items. Usually the blunt end will be cut in the shape of a tongue.
Eating on Banana Leaf:
Usually varieties are cooked during occasions. So the banana leaves have enough spacs. The basic Items like salt, pickle (2 varieties, chutneys (2 varieties), dry sweet. (Four tastes are usually served bitter is not served as it is not considered right to serve bitter taste on occasions). Then you have aviyal, thuvayal, poriyal – all side dishes; then the main courses Dhal, kootu, curry, sambar, rasam, tamarind curry, and curd. Payasam, appalam and vadai, banana plantain chips are usually served.
No forks, no knives and no spoons:
Since it is served on the leaf that is tender, you cannot use spoons, forks or knives. One’s fingers are one’s forks, spoons and knives.
According to traditions, one has to eat carbohydrates (rice) first, then protein(Dal), iron rich(vegetables) and fat (curd). This is the order food is served and consumed as well. It is even more traditional, to sit on the floor on a paai (straw mat) while consumption of food.
But nowadays, people find it difficult to sit on floors for various other reasons like physical uneasiness, old age etc. So they will be served on table & chairs. Eating on banana leaf is still considered auspicious. It has medicinal properties too. Eating on Banana leaf consistently, your face and skin will have shining radiance.
Other uses of Banana leaves:
Banana leaf and fire victims:
Fire victims, who are having third degree burn are made to lie on this leaf which will be cool for the person. The fieriness of the burn will be minimized to a greater extent.
Thus Banana leaf has a great part in day-to-day life of people in South India. My wedding meals were served on banana leaves.
If you have any other suggestions please feel free to share it under the comments section.