What can be a possible common ground between eating, aesthetic taste and ethnic representation of a community? To add, there is a large absence of a gastronomical account of taste and eating habits in the cultural history of Maithil community explored so far. Maithil community is popularly believed to be keenly invested in a distinct aesthetics of food, the unique Maithil food. There is a large body of oral accounts, prescriptions, proscriptions, norms, customs, rituals around fasting and feasting of this community.
There are architectural considerations too in keeping the food a sacred business which can be observed in the concept of chinbaar चिनबार (worship and food preparation in the same corner to maintain utmost food hygiene). There is a distinct identity and aesthetics which is developed and nourished for long of this food conscious community with elaborate, complex food recipes, consumption pattern of vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties.
This unique community also enjoys the reputation of being followers of Shakta-Shaiva-Vaishnav interchangeably with least effort and gastronomical entanglement of this plural worldview does not interfere in swift role reversals. Hence Maithil cuisine has a special space in locating its cultural landscape. Let’s begin with some prominent, undisputed Maithil cuisines:
Chuda-dahi is a common man's diet from an agricultural, aquatic community called Maithils. A meal of flattened rice, curd and sugar with no oil, no spice composition has clear health benefits of its own. It's a gender neutral food as preparing or putting together this humble meal doesn't require any specialised gendered culinary skill with elaborate kitchen labor generally assigned to womenfolk from this region. Apart from being a daily low maintenance diet it has great digestive value attribute as well. It finds a special place in several indigenous rituals of the Maithils such as जितिया (Jitiya a rigorous fast observed by women for the wellbeing of children), नवान्न (Navann- arrival of fresh paddy) तिला संक्रांति ( Tila Sankranti- a festival assigned to shift in solar movement). It has interesting connect with Maithil ritual such as सामा चकेबा ( Sama- chakeba a festival to celebrate sibling bonding) दुर्गापूजा and द्विरागमन ( second marriage ritual of departure of daughter from parental home) as daughter and deities alike are fed this food as a sign of saying goodbye with a sweet offering. Usually this food is assigned a popular connect with Brahman caste from the region, finding place in popular sayings such as:
"बाभन जाति अन्हरिया राति एक मुट्ठी चुड़ा लै घुसकल जाथि
चूड़ा दही बारह कोस, पंडी जी पंडौल के
चूड़ा दही कमतौल के,
ई कुलबोरनी तीन तीमन नोन तेल मिरचाइ,
हम कुलमन्ती छुच्छे खयलहुँ चूड़ा दही मिठाइ।
जय जगदीश पांचे पचीस जे दिए चूड़ा दही तेकरे दिस ,
तीन तिरहुतिया तेरह पाक ककरो चूड़ा दही ककरो भात
पंडीजी परनाम चूड़ा दही आम ,
तरे तरे चूड़ा दही ऊपर स एकादसी"
either these proverbs are indicative of astute poverty of this particular caste who could travel miles in dark for food or a non- cultivating category in the social hierarchy. In popular writings from the region such as खट्टर ककाक तरंग by हरिमोहन झा it’s called त्रिवेणी संगम, तम- रज - सत गुण, सृष्टि में सबस उत्कृष्ट पदार्थ( the best product in this universe), equal to सांख्य दर्शन etc.
It can be considered a fast food in modern times, which is repackaged in a more palatable way to Maithil diaspora. It's a genuinely representative food of this community with minimalist, realist attribute. It's natural for a scholar community of philosophers to invest less time on a well packaged, filling, high nutrition diet. Chuda-dahi is indeed a celebration of an anthropological journey of our people free of consumerist worldview.It is a part of the series of engagements with culture that form ethnic identity.