Storytelling and food From age old ‘ paati kathais’ (grandma’s stories) to public performances like villu paatu and katha kalakshepam, every discourse in our country is a kind of storytelling. “Storytelling is more about body and voice. It creates a cathartic effect on the listeners,” says Eric Miller, Director, World Storytelling Institute. Stories give expression to words, help express values, teach the listener and convey a lot about culture. It is a great way of connecting with one self as there is a different world one is drawn into and marks a striking resemblance to one’s life elements. Listeners are drawn in, and feel involved and engaged.
They relate to the teller and to what is being told. They tend to forget themselves, and flow with the characters. They put themselves in the place of the characters; they relate to characters’ situations and decisions, on the levels of feeling (emotion) and intellect (thought). The story is important to both teller and listeners. Stories are a great way to learn about a certain culture. It gives one a sense of wholeness where the pieces of one’s life fit together and add up to something interesting. Storytelling is a very powerful medium of connecting to children as it enables children to think in term of sequences, of progressions, of events.
This helps them to recognise patterns of behaviours and actions, in story and in life. Children’s minds are full of creativity and stories opens a world of dream, magic and lessons implied as a result. Their imagination takes new flights of fantasies as story narration begins, hence the times that are the toughest like feeding food, it’s a good idea to involve the child into a story. Food time is generally a stressful-time for most of the parents as children are not “as enthusiastic as” they should be. India is a country where parents, grandparents, relatives are all overtly concerned with children and their feeding habits and storytelling comes to rescue at most instances. India has its long association with different forms of storytelling and it is a proven fact that traditional forms of storytelling are now more relevant and significant than ever. India’s storytelling traditions are as diverse as the culture of the country, as can be seen in Nalini Ramachandran’s book, Lore of the Land. Mr Miller feels that ‘Many children in cities today are being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.
Storytelling can help develop their abilities to sit down and listen, especially if it is told in an interesting manner like interspersing with songs,’ he says. Stories help the child to sit at one place and hence feeding is less cumbersome. Storytelling and story-listening are synesthetic experiences, involving immersion in all of the senses. While listening to a story (or reading a story) one creates internal imaginary visualizations. This is active and hard work, involving the use of language, the exercising of judgment, and critical thinking. Whether a story’s characters are humans, animals, divinities, aliens, or other types of beings – all stories are about characters in psychological, emotional situations Storytelling negates the rampant problem reported by most of the parents that their child doesn’t eat food without the mobile in hand. Hand held gadgets give authority to the child to manipulate it without connecting really to what is on the plate.
It is strictly advised by paediatricians as well as nutritionists all over the globe to remove the phone away at mealtimes as it hinders in the child’s capacity to judge its satiety cues and they might overeat Hence storytelling a far better idea to carry out at the mealtimes. It is definitely an art as how one narrates the story to capture the attention of children since they have limited attention span. It is often recommended that if your child is a fussy eater or a picky one, let him/her sit with you in the kitchen and involve him /her in the process of cooking the particular meal. Story narration , poems can start from here as the child can be drawn into the world of vegetables, fruits, and popular stories like ratatouille, or Stanley ka dabba, raheem ka khana, or the ”Food of the god” and many more.I can vouch for this as it definitely made me a foodie for all good reasons! Story listeners (or readers) project themselves into these characters, and imagine themselves in these situations.
The listeners can consider if they might do things similarly to or differently from ways the characters are doing things. Others like to let the story speak for itself, and permit listeners to generate their own interpretations and meanings. Storytelling has added benefits like discussing and re-telling stories can help children develop their understanding of grammar, and to increase their vocabulary, especially when the child is learning to speak. They also learn to use expressions, intonations , role playing at the same time unleashing their creativity without making food times distressing or boring for children as young as 3 years old.It is also not necessary that storytelling needs to be limited to oral recitation. It can take form through drawings, paintings, dance or even puppet shows. So, not only “Nani” or “Dadi”, parents too brace up your skills not only on feeding your child but stocking yourselves on stories that would be served on platter to your child!! Happy feeding and reading.