|Culture, Environment, and Food to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency (INFDC, 1997, 208 p.)|
|Part III. Assessing natural food sources of Vitamin A in the community|
|8. India: The rural community of Sheriguda in Andhra Pradesh|
A three meal pattern is followed. Breakfast includes tea, rice, or jowar roti, or leftover foods from the previous day, such as rice and curry. During summer, ragi porridge or kalli (fermented washings of rice) or conjee (excess water drained after boiling the rice) is consumed by some families who feel these foods are "cooling." Such practices are prevalent mostly among lower socioeconomic groups. Higher socioeconomic groups prefer to consume items like wheat roti (unleavened bread) or idli (fermented and steamed cereal-pulse preparations), buttermilk, curds, and other foods.
For lunch and dinner cereal and/or millet preparations are the major items. The accompanying dish is either a chutney (ground red chilies, ginger, garlic, and salt with or without tamarind), a vegetable curry, a pulse preparation, or occasionally a meat dish. Curds or buttermilk is seldom consumed by lower socioeconomic groups. On weekends animal food is generally prepared for dinner, which is a larger meal than lunch.
Food is cooked twice a day, for lunch and dinner at the convenience of the housewife, who is generally an agricultural laborer or who looks after her farm. While the mother is at work the children consume the leftover food from lunch, whenever they are hungry between meals. All members of the family meet and share the food at dinner time. Seasonal variations in availability and preferences occasionally determine the food choice and preparation. Vegetables and fruits are consumed more frequently during October to February when they are abundant. At other times of the year consumption declines. Jowar is consumed extensively during the lean period from April to October. During festive occasions, calorie-dense sweets, snacks, and other pulse and vegetable items predominate. Animal foods, such as meat and chicken, are a must during festivals, especially for lower socioeconomic groups like Harijans.
The female head of the family distributes the food among the members. Staple food preparations with cereals and millets are distributed without any restrictions, as they are cooked in large quantities. The more nourishing foods such as vegetables, meat, and fruits are served in smaller quantities to reduce costs. The male head of the family is given liberal helpings of all food items, especially meat and chicken. No such distinction in distribution of food is made among the other family members.
In the low-income groups, there is no set place for eating. Meals are eaten either inside or outside the house. Food is served on individual plates with spoons, and family members squat on the floor while eating. Members of the higher income families eat inside the house, at a set place, and some of them even sit at a table. Irrespective of economic status all families use their fingers for eating, which is a tradition in India. Lower income groups use an aluminum bowl, but if they can afford it, they use a stainless steel plate (which is a status symbol). Aluminum vessels or earthenware pots are used for cooking in all communities.
Boiling and frying are two common methods used for cooking legumes and vegetables. Certain greens are cooked in excess water and the water discarded. Rice is cooked with kalli (fermented rice washings) or with plain water and the excess water discarded. Very few women reported cooking rice in just sufficient water. Some foods like raw custard apple, sweet potato, and dry fish are smoked or roasted.
Food taboos are widely prevalent. Beliefs center on hot, cold, and vatham (wind or gaseous) properties of food, that prevent their use as regular dietary items. However, certain processing methods are said to alter properties in food and render it suitable for consumption. There are some beliefs that some foods cause joint pains, cold and cough, excessive bleeding, indigestion, diarrhea, etc. These beliefs restrict the consumption of some nutrient-rich foods. Some dislikes are also related to negative health attributes, whereas likes are related to taste, availability, and familiarity with the food.