Going through this amazing book has been an enlightening journey about ancient culinary skills of India. Since this series has been started, I couldn’t help wondering and being surprised on the clarity our ancestors in India had about the cooking methods and its importance in health maintenance. Since, we have completed on the first chapter, so here we start with what the second chapter of Kshema kutuhalam is like.
Surprisingly, the book starts with descriptions on spirituality and the purpose of human life. How our body is the key to attain Chaturvidha purusharthas and other related aspects. This in turn is linked to food. The author tells, once our body is nourished by good food, our soul is satisfied and happy. Once our soul is satisfied, it accelerates our journey towards moksha through four purusharthas.
Key points of this chapter are as follows–
1. Kitchen must be built in the South-east direction. It must have adequate windows and it must be clean and white-washed.
2. The fireplace or the cooking area must be long and extend from east to west.
3. Author further points out the vessels which are recommended for cooking. He clearly tells that clay vessels are the best for a positive health and if clay vessels aren’t available, iron vessels are second best option.
Author tells here that both these vessels when used in cooking help in avoiding diseases of the eye and also hemorrhoids.
Copper vessels- aren’t mush advised as it might cause dyspepsia and might reduce the appetite.
Bell-metal- is said to improve intellect when used for cooking.
Author suggests that rich men who can afford could use silver or gold vessels for cooking as they have the property of balancing all doshas.
4. Different vessels for storing different food substances-
— Rice once cooked must be stored in the same vessel.
–Ghee must be stored in a wooden or iron vessel.
–Meat and its related products must be stored in a silver, golden, iron or wooden vessel.
— Recipes made of flour have to be placed in an earthen or wooden vessel.
–Water, milk-products and buttermilk must be stored in either Glass or earthen containers.
5. Further Kshema Sharma says that the vessels used for cooking must be repeatedly examined.
6.Moving on, the text tells various requirements of a kitchen for perfect functioning. Here we must be really astonished to know the clarity and sophistication which existed in a normal medieval Indian kitchen. He tells all instruments right from pieces of cloth, tools required for setting fire, tongs, frying pans, knife, tools needed for grinding all explained in detail.
7. Following few versus aren’t much relevant for present day as, they explain the methods of detecting poisoned food by offering it to domestic animals. Animals like Peacock, Parrot, swan, deer etc which were domesticated then, were offered prepared food and depending on the symptoms they exhibit, food was assessed to be poisoned or non-poisoned.
8. Rest of the chapter is dedicated to features seen in the prepared food if they are poisoned. Like say for Eg- Food which is added with visha (poison) would appear dry, stale and in warmth would resemble neck of the peacock. It would have various colorful appearance like watery look, blackish lines etc.
9. Interestingly, author adds on to say that when a poisoned food is brought near the fire, it turns in different directions and explodes. Though this feature explained can be revalidated by researches, now science has bought us different laboratory techniques which might help in detecting poisoned food.
10. The person who consumes this kind of a poisoned food would exhibit symptoms like Delirium, sweating, trembling and becomes stupefied.
Basically, this second chapter of Kshemakutuhala is a brief guide about storing of food, Kitchen requirements and features of poisoned food. I’m indeed surprised about a systematic approach this author has in writing a culinary book.
Will see you soon with the third chapter of kshemakutuhala.