August 5, 2008

Eating Habits, 1921 (Sialkot)


The zamindar and those who help him in the work of the farm have a very light meal as soon as they rise in the morning. He then goes to his work, and his wife or one of his children brings him a good breakfast of home made cakes and buttermilk at midday when he and his cattle have done from three to five hours work. This he eats in the open, and then takes a rest. He starts work again early or late in the afternoon as necessity requires, and returns home at sun down. The zamindar then eats the heaviest meal of the day, and retires to rest early. The huqqa is resorted to, by those who smoke, at all hours of the day. The quality of the food varies with the time of year. During April and May sattu, barley grain parched or ground before it is fully ripe, is the staple food. It is soaked in salted water, buttermilk, or a sherbet made from molasses. The early breakfast (chhahwela) consists of unleavened bread (chapatti) with buttermilk, if that is available. The heavy breakfast (bhattewela or protiwela) consists of sattu or missi roti, cakes made of mixed wheat and gram or mixed barley and massar. This is flavoured with salt and chillies, and is washed down with buttermilk (lassi). The night meal consists of dall and wheaten chapattis and often a dish of rice also, or more rarely sattu. This is taken with the sherbet made from molasses or else with milk and water mixed. In June and July sattu is little used, and ambakhrian, young mangoes chopped up, take the place of dal. In August and September the cakes are usually made of wheat, barley or gram flavored with onions. In October and November, the usual articles of food are rice, maize cake (dhoda) and sag or dal. The poorer classes who cannot afford dal substitute a spice made of salt and chilies mixed with water or buttermilk, roasted maize cobs or also eaten at this season. During December, January and the early part of the February, when the weather is coldest, the favorite foods are khichri, mixed rice and dal, rice and maize. By March grain is becoming scarce and unless a zamindar is thoroughly solvent he finds it hard to buy grain from the dealers on credit. The Jats call this period, which corresponds with the Punjabi month of Phagan, the “13th month” as people have to eat what they can get in the shape of herbs and vegetables, such as turnips, carrots, coarse radishes and the leaves of the mustard plants, whence arises the proverb-

“Phagan kahnda Chetar nun ki kariya bhai
Main laye jhun jhan tun banne lain”

Phagan says to Chetar Brother what are we to do:

I have gulped down every scrap.
You must carry on to the end.

The amount of food daily eaten by each person varies naturally with the age and sex of the person and with the season of the year, but it is possible to form a rough estimate the people themselves say that taking small and big, male and female together, a zamindar consumes 24 seers of grain per mensem that makes the consumption of a family of five three maunds a month.

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