With the district administration busily making arrangements for conducting the two-day Annual Summer Festival atop the Yelagiri Hills (also known as Poor Man’s Ooty) this weekend, farmers and social activists have put forth a plea to use the occasion to promote traditional food as this year’s theme for the festival. The festival attracts thousands from across the district. Stalls are put up by various government departments to sensitise visitors about its welfare schemes and achievements.
Social activist R Chandrasekaran said that stalls must be put up exclusively to display valuable details about traditional food items such as small millets, vegetables and fruits to create awareness among the youngsters who would be visiting the festival in large numbers. It would go a long way in shaking off the fast food culture and going back to traditional food. This would not only promote good food habits but also pave the way for a healthy district in the long run, he added.
He said that villagers from the Hills and a group of SHGs in the district could be given the task of managing the stall where they could demonstrate how to prepare traditional food items such as kali (ragi ball), koozh, rotis made of corn, cumbu, thinai and samai, snacks and healthy drinks made of small millets and raw vegetables. The stall could be designed to emulate a typical village household where the visitors could squat on the floor and enjoy the food items in a traditional way.
Food experts could be invited to help visitors learn the recipes with hands-on demonstration sessions. The festival could also include a cookery competition focused on traditional food items and special prizes could be given to new recipes. Special talk shows (such as patti manrams) involving the visitors on food and health-related issues could also be organised on the occasion. Cultural programmes such as the drama, skits and music shows being planned at the festival should also focus on creating public awareness on the traditional food items.
Agriculture, Horticulture, Public Health and Tourism departments could jointly put up digital banners explaining the nutritional value of the traditional food items, how to prepare them and how to consume them.
Handouts in Tamil and other languages could also be made and distributed on the occasion.
R Mullai, State Executive Member of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, affiliated to the All Indian Kisan Sabha, said the festival should be utilised to help local farmers. Stalls could be put up to explain how they could migrate to traditional cultivation methods, displaying traditional collection of seeds and low-cost small machinery.
NGO activist Ruby Nakka said the administration should plan suitable activities at the festival to promote better living conditions for hosting villagers from the hill, while taking measures not to disturb the ecological sensitivity of the region.