An Introduction to Tibetan Food Culture
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“ I sometimes think that the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships” – Dalai Lama
Although Tibet is a very religious country, not that many Tibetans are actually vegetarian. Tibet is a very cold country so nomads consume a lot of meat and milk products in order to stay warm. Their meals would consist of usually two or three dishes, generally including a meat dish, a soup, and a vegetable. Yak meat is consumed most, as the animal is big. One of Buddhism main teaching is to not take anyone’s life, so in order to cause the least harm to a living thing; Tibetans tend to slaughter big animals as it would feed more mouths whilst only hurting one soul. They would therefore avoid poultry, egg, fish, and crustaceans. After slaughtering an animal they would repeat the “Om Mani Padme Hum” prayer for the soul that is leaving the animal’s body. Vegetables are actually very limited and therefore are consumed less than meat, but the main vegetables grown are turnips, radishes, and peas. Potatoes, onions, asparagus, and watercress are also the common vegetables. I
Food has an important connection with religion. When offering food to the spirit of the land, handful of tsampa is tossed in the air, along with incense and a song of prayer. Tsog offerings, ritual feasts, are offered to the deities that protect the Dharma. Tsampa mixed with butter and sugar for, a rich cookie-tough and is decorated with color. It is placed on the altar and consumed after receiving blessing from the lama. Giving and receiving food is a form of expression to show the relationship between Tibetans and the spirits. Tibetans do not eat garlic in the month of Valsakha (April-May) as it causes foul smell when they go to the place of worship. They also do not eat meat for the whole month of Sagadawa (May-June), which is considered to be a very holy month.