Nutritious food bursting with flavor spices up meal time whenever Indian families gather. As a guest, you will be welcome with open arms provided you do not commit an egregious cultural faux pas. Avoid missteps by understandng how the eating habits in the Indian culture are largely based on religion and tradition. A high-vegetable diet with no beef and generally no pork comes from the Hindu religion. Habits of how and when food is eaten are based on social traditions, and most families form their particular habits around a combination of cultural and family traditions.
Eating habits of the Indian culture are based on culinary traditions. Most dishes feature meat or vegetables mixed with sauce and rice. Since many Indians are vegetarian, the menu for everyday meals is based mostly upon a diet without meat. When meat is incorporated in dishes, it is most commonly in the form of chicken or lamb, and sometimes seafood, such as prawns. The majority of the Indian population is Hindu, so beef and pork are often excluded from Indian dishes due to religious requirements.
There are three main meals in the Indian culture, so the meal timing is similar to western cultures. In India, most people eat a morning meal, a mid-day meal and an evening meal with occasional indulgences of healthy snacks. The evening meal is generally the biggest meal of the day, followed by the mid-day meal. Green tea is more apt to be served with evening meals than alcohol, which is not heavily consumed in India.
Family is central to Indian cultural values. Meals are most often eaten with family members. Everyone gathers around the table or relaxes on floor mats while eating chutney and curries on a big banana leaf. Women traditionally do most of the food preparation for the household. Meals are served when the majority of family members are home and prefer to eat.
Cutlery is not traditionally used to eat food in the Indian culture. Food is meant to be a whole sensory experience, so an eating habit in the traditional Indian culture is to consume Indian foods such as curry, rice and naan bread by picking it up using the hands. Bread is often used to scoop up the curry sauce and rice, and it is then dipped into traditional soups such as daal, a lentil-based soup. Indian people wash their hands meticulously before and after eating. The right hand is preferred over the left hand when eating or handling food. The left hand is considered less hygienic because it is used more for such tasks as removing shoes and toileting.