Than focusing on blind question of where they lived, we can put it as whole Tamil community had spread and lived in five types of lands. It might be true that initially, they survived on meat and lived life as hunters however, when they used to identify river and valley based civilization they become civilized and then they had included fruits and rhizome in their foods which are inferred from ancient notes.
From the book named Tholkaappiyam, we got the following information that Tamil community had their shelter and food in five types of land surfaces. The food items named moongil arisi (bamboo rice), thinai (a cereal), and honey plays major role in kurinji landscape which are predominantly mountain based areas. Saamai and varagu are main food items of mullai landscape which is predominantly forest based. Regarding cultivable land based marutham landscape; brown rice and white rice are predominant food. In water based neithal landscape, water based foods like fish is dominant.
Apart from this, usage of milk, curd, buttermilk, butter, ghee, cheese, paneer from their owned cattle’s are also in the referrences.
At very early stage, steaming, boiling, and frying were their cooking methods. In later period, they used ghee to fry their food items. We also have a poem with an evidence that frying of meat using ghee along with pepper.
Rice is the predominant food among Tamilians, where they used raw rice as well as, boiled rice (puzhungkal rice) that we are using nowadays. However, it is necessary to quote that, almost all the ancient rice varieties are extinguished. In ancient days, they used varieties to cook and had rice along with kuzhambu, koottu and poriyal.
It is a unique pride that Tamilans used leaves as plates which is still in practice. They used lotus leaf, banana leaf, manthaarai leaf for this purpose and they used to have food in group which is inferred from quotes, “சிறுஞ்சோற்று நிலை (Sirunjoatru nilai)”, “பெருஞ்சோற்று நிலை (Perunjoatru nilai)”.
They also used to have liquor like drinks named kal (liquid oozing out from coconut/ palm tree) in their food practice. Only after the evolution of bhakthi movement in Tamilnadu, the food practices of other people communities (from various landscapes) coalesced with the former ones.
Till now, we discussed the ancient food habits of Tamilians. In forthcoming posts, we will see about, how they used food as medicines and vice-versa.
Original – www.siththarkal.com
Translated by Lalithambika Rajasekaran