Consuming food is an integral part of being a living being, as it is a source of life and energy. Food also constitutes a large part of cultures across the world. There’s a quote in my community for when an old person passes away, “Nen ho do jom pure kidah” which means that the man finished eating his share of food in life. It’s a quote for those who age to a ripe old age and die a peaceful death. This quote signifies how important food is for all of us.
In my Ho Adivasi community, there is a delicacy that has earned the status of being ‘the last wish of a dying person.’ This dish is none other than the Porom Laad Jilu, often called as Laad Jilu in the Ho language. This is a traditional chicken recipe, prepared especially during the Gowan Bonga festival which is celebrated during winter.
This traditional chicken recipe is known as the Laad Jilu in the Ho community of Jharkhand.
The Recipe And It’s Preparation
The word porom means to wrap, laad means to steam and jilu means meat.
The chicken is wrapped with Saal Shakwa leaves; the saal leaves are the most important ingredient which add the flavour of the leaves to the chicken. The other ingredients used are arwa rice, on which the blood of the chicken is poured to add a more traditional twist. Turmeric powder, salt and mustard oil are also used in the process.
The amount of ingredients used depends on the quantity of meat. When the mixing of the ingredients and wrapping is completed, the final stage is to make a fire using firewood and place the wrapped-up chicken into the fire and leave it to steam for about 15-20 minutes. The slower the chicken is cooked, the better the taste.
The ingredients used in the recipe are arwa rice mixed with chicken blood, some salt, turmeric and mustard oil and most importantly the Saal Shakwa leaves.
The Importance Of Chicken In Adivasi Communities
Adivasis use chicken as a devotional offering in almost every festival, prayer and orison, so it’s difficult for a lot of us to become a vegetarian. My community selectively uses only desi chicken and avoids the high breed/poultry chicken which is commonly available in markets. If the two are compared, the desi chicken is better than the poultry in terms of quality, safety, health and taste. Moreover, eating desi chicken is a matter of pride in the Adivasi community.
The Sustainable Preparation Of Porom Laad Jilu
The saal leaves are collected from the nearby jungle without destroying the Saal tree.
If we look at the method of preparation, this recipe does not harm the environment. The saal leaves that are used are brought from the jungle, plucking only the leaves without cutting or breaking the branches of the saal tree. The sticks and tiny raw wood for the fire are naturally available in villages, jungles or in areas surrounding the house. The chicken and arwa rice used is from the house itself, almost every family in the village keeps chickens at home and grows their own rice so that they don’t have to buy it from the market.
Although tribals are minimally dependent on the market, ingredients such as mustard oil, salt are bought from the market.
The sticks and tiny raw wood for fire are easily available around the house in the village.
Thanking The Ancestors Before Consuming Food
Everything we eat today are gifts to us from our ancestors. Our ancestors were not selfish, they have left enough sources of food for us today and that’s the only reason we can enjoy all the things nature has to offer. We are able to fill our stomachs, nobody in the community is dying of hunger. With the utmost respect, gratitude and honour, the first share of food is always offered to the ancestors. The ancestors were like soothsayers, they intelligently conserved the forests, rivers, trees for the future generations to come.
In our community, the first share of food is always offered in the name of Ancestors.
Let’s inherit and put the ideas of our ancestors into practice to help the coming generations.
To everyone who thinks that it is not our responsibility to ensure a sustainable future for humans in the future, here is saying in my Ho language-
“Tising ka redo chuileh, aanj ka redo okoi?” “If not now then when, if not me then who?”
This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz