Yes, that’s my plate. Yes, it’s a leaf (albeit a big one). Yes, silverware is mostly lacking, as is a napkin. You use your hands, rinse them off with water afterward and dry them on a (cotton) towel. Out in the countryside, that leaf will probably come off a banana tree in your yard or neighborhood, and then you’ll feed the leaf to your cow after the fact (if you can afford one). Either way, it doesn’t get thrown in the trash.
I took this picture in southern India back in 2005, slightly before sustainability became the hot-button, slightly trendy topic it is today. This meal pretty much epitomizes sustainability; as I mentioned, the plate is made of a freshly picked (and cleaned) banana leaf. The food is all locally grown, consisting of rice, pulses, coconut, onion, spices, veg, yogurt and wheat flour. You eat with your hands, sometimes using the roti as a sort of pincher (ignore the spoon), or just using your fingers to delicately scoop the food into your mouth. While the latter skill took me awhile to master, it’s really a very graceful way of eating. From left to right, and slightly clockwise:
Salt, spicy lime pickle, coconut chutney with carrot and moong dahl, potato curry, green pepper and tomato curry, onion raitha, roti, peanut rice. We’re drinking water, and the white substance is lassi, a popular yogurt drink in India. The round ball you see is a dessert called gulab jamun, which is basically a donut soaked in cardamom syrup. This, for the record, is one of the best-tasting meals I’ve ever had.
**the “featured image” you see above is of a typical Indian-style market. Quite different from the sanitized, orderly world of Western grocery stores (okay maybe not always orderly, have you been to Trader Joe’s or the 14th St Whole Foods during a rush?). In India, you always bargain, everything is fresh, and it is 100% full of awesome.