Penance Food

May 2015 – Lucky Peach

Penance food in Palitana

The most difficult meal I’ve ever eaten involved a sum total of ten ingredients, prepared as sixteen distinct dishes: boiled mung beans and a warm broth made from the cooking water; boiled chickpeas, boiled yellow lentils, and boiled split chickpea lentils; boiled rice, a porridge called kichdi made from lentils and rice, and another made from split wheat; sorghum chapattis and pan-roasted flatbreads called thikara, half made from mung and half from chickpeas; dense, rectangular steamed cakes also made from either mung or chickpeas; bitter, doughy little morsels of mung flour and lentils; a tea made from an ayurvedic herb called kariyata (it tasted like an ultra-bitter yerba mate, which made it far and away the most flavorful thing on the menu that day); and a “chutney” made from chickpea flour and water. Anywhere else, you’d call that a batter, but I was in the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat, in a town called Palitana, the holiest place on earth for the Shvetambar sect of India’s small but influential (read: wealthy and highly educated) Jain community, and this was a meal for penitents.

Read the full essay in the “Plant Kingdom” issue of Lucky Peach (Summer 2015)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s