pAkashAstra: Hindu and Hinduized alien food

The field of pAkashAstra is well worthy of study as it is dying along with many other shAstra-s. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to some remarkable pAka texts that I examined in the city of my youth. Towards the very end of the last decade in bhArata, ekanetra inspired by ST induced me to take up the issue. ST, who is the living tradition of pAkashAstra, reminded me of those texts again and I only put down some notes relating to the discussion. Not having most manuscripts with me I cannot give the precise indices for the same.

There is a text called the pAkashAstra that I examined. The manuscript transcribed in shaka 1598 (1677 CE) is in legible nAgarI form and to my knowledge has never been published. Comparing it with the mAnasollAsa suggests that it is a late text. The language is late saMskR^ita. It has 3 sections: 1) bhaktAdi-prakaraNa; 2) phala-shAkAdi prakaraNa 3) bhojana-prakaraNa. The 2nd and much of 3rd were stained by some liquid and not easily readable at all. The first section gives vidhi-s for preparation of the following dishes that my mAtAshrI was able to identify and has full knowledge of:
pAyasa (milk-lentil variety); polikA; laDDuka; bindu-modaka; dugdha-kara~njikA (actually it was made very rarely, and only in my maternal lineage); jalebI; pUrikA; vaTaka (the one with the hole in the middle); sUpa; pApara (the rice variety which is fried and sprinkled with pepper. I cannot forget the immense resistance we would face from our elders when we would want to eat this in the famous fair in the karnATa country).

ST was able identify the lApAsI and kasAra as godhUma dishes that are still extant in the lATa country. But ST mentions that the wheat precipitate (which my maternal clansmen mentioned as requiring a few hours in the old days to generate), which was in the originally, is not used in the modern form. ST as a proper molecular biologists said that precipitating the material with ammonium chloride works, but the prospect of having ammonium chloride remaining, even after washes is less appetizing (?). ST has also identified and successfully reproduced phenikA, koharI, bahurI and kasAra. These last ones, along with the jalebi, are actually of turuShka origin. These things entered the shAstra and since then have become a part of Hindu existence. Keeping with the Hinduization of the turuShka-bhojana we actually heard vAtavyAdhi indignantly declare that we were discrediting Vedic cooking :-).

Are there older, pre-mAnasollAsa pAka texts surviving? There were two dateless manuscripts that I examined which might be pre-mAnasollAsa texts. However, the condition of the manuscript as well as the writing precluded me from making a very detailed study. The first of them is the sUdashAstra. The sUdashAstra is cited by the chakrapANidatta, the great physician from Meghalaya, who wrote his medical works around 1070-1080 CE. The sUdashAstra manuscript had a description of the preparation of some quintessential dishes that define a Hindu: “dAl”, modaka and laDDuka. Additionally, I noticed that this text had a cake known as shaShkulI made from a large white rice and sesame and the well-known apUpa that survives in classical form only in the drAviDa country. The citation of chakrapANidatta relates to the modaka supporting that this sUdashAstra indeed (at least in part) is the one from before his times. In support of this at least the parts of the manuscript I could examine had no alien foods typical of the later texts. The other manuscript was samIraNa-sUnu’s sUpa-tantra (i.e. bhImasena’s work on cooking). This also appears pretty archaic because it has no mention of the alien foods or substances and has certain preparations that are not known today. Something recipes that could be easily identified as being still extant were: lime and tamarind rices, dal-s of different types, pAyasa-s and pAnaka-s. He also mentions some weird curries, such as one from the neem tree berries prepared in a special way to counter its innate bitterness. This was supposed to have remarkable curative properties.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on December 13, 2008.