Beggars’ Lunch

By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues

any traditions are observed during wedding preparations in Goa. Though a number of them have been discontinued, may still observe the tradition of serving a meal to beggars, which is called "Bicarenchem Jevon"(Beggar’s Lunch),

held in honour of departed souls of the house. The souls are represented by the beggars.

Special paddy is boiled for this meal and the wedding. On this day, while washing the rice, zotis are sung

 

Noman, noman, noman bapa re viva

Noman, noman, putra

Ora viva tanduanc bensanv

Sorguimchi Sorguimchi Ankvar Moriek

 

Before the cooking for this meal starts, a coconut is broken in front of the house by the elder of the family.

The specialty of the day is the "sambarachi koddi" a heavily spiced aromatic curry. The preparations for making the curry are done days before. All the spices have to be well dried under the sun as well as the onion, ginger and garlic that go into the making of the masala. Thereafter, all the well-dried ingredients are taken to the mill to powder. This powder can be used for months, if well stored.

The curry is prepared with coconut juice and cooked with dry prawns and mango "sol" (dry unripe salted mango). It is prepared on the previous day and allowed to pickle.

Special sweets are prepared for this meal and include ‘soji’ made of wheat and sugar cooked in coconut juice, and "onn" made of coconut juice and gram dal. Bread and a banana is a must for this meal and small size ‘oddes’ made of rice and ‘udid dal’. The ‘oddes’ are made on the day previous to the day of the meal and the rice in olden days was ground at home on grinding stones (dantim). Today they take the rice to the mill to powder. It is interesting to note that "oddes" were of small size - the size of a rupee coin, and were flattened individually between 2 jackfruit leaves and a large number of these were poured into the oil for frying at a time. The act of frying these oddes is called ‘caili’. All this is accompanied by zotis. These are songs sung during various festive occasions by Goans. These were also sung when other items were prepared.

Different vegetables are cooked with pumpkin mergull being a must. This is prepared by boiling the pumpkin and adding to coconut and sambaracho masala to it. Similarly, tendlis (jerkins) are also prepared. Fish is fried and another prawn or fish coconut curry is also made. This curry is made because some people do not like to eat the "sambarachi koddi" given its spicy nature high calorie count. The rice served is local boiled rice. Liquor and beedis are also served.

This lunch is served on a "patravalli", a plate made by stitching together jackfruit leaves.

Before serving the meal the food is put on a "patravalli" with all the items cooked for the lunch along with bread, banana and beedi. The latter was made of "dumpti" (tobacco wrapped in dry jackfruit leaf). This is then kept outside the house and only after the crow starts eating from the leaf, others are served.

In the village of Merces, the bicareanchem jevon is a vegetarian repast, served days before the wedding day. However, in many villages, especially in Salcete, the meal is usually served on the day previous to the wedding day. On this occasion beef, pork and chicken preparation are also added to the menu.

In case no bicareanchem jevon is served, then beggars are given 1 measure of rice and some money.

A mat made of bamboo strips called vatoll is put on the floor and people sit on it. It is interesting to see many people sitting on coconut husks, which act as stools. The food to be served is kept in the centre of the mat in big containers. The rice is served in a new pantulo (basket), made of bamboo strips specially bought for the occasion. The spoons used to serve are the traditional doulo, made of a polished coconut shell with a bamboo stick inserted in it. A patravalli is given to those sitting and the food is then served to them.

The bicareanchem jevon is also served on the occasion of house warming, month’s mind or first death anniversary.