Since my knowledge is wider with respect to the food culture in Tamilnadu, I'll dwell more on that. I have experienced myself when I go to a normal household where when a person enters the house, s/he is offered water and requesting the guest to have food is considered a "dont-miss" formality. Well, formality or not, I feel many households ask that in full earnest.
A typical Tamilnadu meal (be it from any region) is complete, well-balanced and heart-filling. I cannot but wonder how our ancestors were so knowledged (like many other things) about the balancing act in food. And adding to it is serving the food on a banana leaf - our very own native disposable, non-stick plate! Usage of banana leaves makes you assert that our fore-fathers were very hygiene conscious. Won't you agree with me when I say that eating food on a banana leaf enhances the taste of the food itself? I am sure you would.
There's also a procedure as to what is to be served where and when on a banana leaf. I initially thought this procedure was for some superstitious reason but later realised it was for a practical purpose. Like, the broader side of a leaf is to be placed on the right since most of us use our right hands to eat and it would be easy to have the wider part for eating. Salt, pickle, fruit, paruppu (dal/lentils) all have their own places reserved on the banana leaf. I read some interesting stuff here about the banana leaf.
A traditional meal starts off by serving water, sweet, salt, vegetables, appalam other crispies like vadai and finally rice (to be served only after the guest takes his/her seat). Salt is served as an add-on incase any dish lacks salt (don't ask me what if its the other way round). First would be paruppu (dhaal/lentils) and nei (ghee/clarified butter). This is a source of protein and fat. Sambhar, again a source of protein and vegetable, follows. Sambhar is substituted or partnered with similar items like mor kuzhambu, puli/vatral kuzhambu and the likes. Too much protein is too heavy on the stomach. So for digestion, you have rasam made from tamarind extract and tomatoes (occasionally with garlic and lemon juice too) - all these ingredients help in digestion and to "disperse" the gas formed by the lentils. Again, tamarind extract is acidic in nature. So to cool the effect of this, you end your meal with curds. Just before curds you have payasam (calcium from milk added with raisins and cashews). Your skills on eating from a banana leaf are best known while having rasam saadham and payasam (The rasam or payasam should not drain down your leaf). But inspite of the intricacy of this ordeal, the taste of payasam on a banana leaf just after rasam is just awesome. You should experience it in order to enjoy it.
And to add to these, you have the vegetables for vitamins, nutrients and fibre (roughage) content, crispies for 'accomplice' , the seasonings - mustard seeds and curry leaves (source of iron too) and banana for digestion and the final betel leaves with betel nuts and lime (chunnambu) to give you that extra punch ;-) (not sure about betel nuts but betel leaves are definitely good for health - esp throat).
I can rest assure that of all the places in India (or probably the world), its only in Tamilnadu that you would find an eating place (good or not) in almost every corner and also catering to the hungry mouths almost round the clock (more so in places around Madurai).
I feel the "allergic" or "dosen't suit my health" factor is purely psycological. Given the number of people who cannot afford even one course meal a day, I would only request people not to be too choosy about food and be thankful for whatever we get. If being choosy over food is bad, wasting food is worse. I am sure each one of us can do our little best to avoid wasting food. Like it is said "Take all you like and eat all you take". Some thoughts...
- Pack leaftovers from the hotel and give them to the deprieved lot on your way back home or use them for your next meal.
- Serve leftovers at home to people in need, if not, atleast to dogs, cows, cats or birds.
- During big functions like marriages, intimate orphanages or old age homes who would be ready to take un-served, leftover food. (Ofcourse, make sure to intimate them well in advance). The food left over on plates can be given to animal shelters for serving animals (I have heard that some establishments dry the leftover food in sun and use them as plant manure).
"Every grain has the eater's name written on it" so says Kabir in his doha. So be thankful to God for all the grains that have your own name on them and make sure you consume them in the best possible way i.e., by sharing!