Elders Eat First

Context and Background:

Food is a big part of Indian culture and here, my informant is almost like my grandmother and my late grandfather’s family friend. She tells me a belief about food in India. 

Performance: (via phone call)

There is a belief that whenever we are making food for the family, the first bite is always eaten by the elder of the family. Elder meaning, the oldest child of the family. In a family of mom, dad, and two children, this means, either the elder child can eat it because they are the oldest sibling, or the mom and dad can eat if they were the older sibling in their family. It excludes the younger sibling for eating the first bite. The reason behind this is because we believe that if the elder eats the first bite, there will be plenty of food for the entire family. But if the younger child eats first, there will be a shortage of food. 


After recording this conversation, my and my friend also had a conversation about her childhood. She told me she had 11 siblings and most families in her village were quite big. At the time she was born, in the 1950s, it was common to have a lot of children because there weren’t many birth control options. These villages could also be poor, so food on the table was something they had to worry about. This folk belief is a natural consequence of their circumstances, they had to make sure there was enough food on the table for everyone. If believing that the older child ate first gave them some peace of heart and so they adopted and spread this folk belief. Even in the 2020’s, my mom always makes me eat first bite because of this belief.