Many spices were cultivated in India. They were used in cooking for aroma and flavor. India flourished in the cultivation of spices. Many of them were later exported to foreign lands. In ancient Indian food turmeric, ginger, cinnamom, cloves, cumin, cardamom, coriander seeds, black pepper and mustard seeds were common spices. Of these only a few of them belonged to a particular region.
All of them are used and still forms part of the Indian cooking. A subsequent addition was chilies. Chilies came to be quickly absorbed by several of the Indian cuisines. How you season vary a lot depending on the region. In the north there was yoghurt based Tandoori kitchen, in the south very potent spice mixes. A noteworthy mention about some spies especially black pepper deserves a special mention here.
Since ancient times, pepper constituted an important export. The pepper vine played a vital role in shaping southern India's history. Interestingly, Christopher Columbus made his trip in 1492 to the Americas trying to find a faster way to the Spice Island times. At that time, he mistakenly called these islands as the "Indies" & the people "Indians".
Food was greatly influenced depending upon the regions. As a result of this, these influences together with regional climate/soil conditions and demographics created distinct variations in food as well. Like for instance, in the north the food was quite bland with lots of dairy products. Here the staple diet was lentils. However, in the south food was spicy, and had rice as a staple diet. Coconut was a popular ingredient.
Apart from this, we can also find a special mention of forbidden food in the works of Purandaradasa. He condemned the man who ate or consumed sour radish & onions. In another context he also forbade garlic, nuggekai (drumsticks), kavadekai, mulangi (radishes), gajjari (carrots) & pundipalle. The guggari of avari (beans) on Ekadasi, the fortnightly day of fast, was also strictly forbidden.
Coming to beverages, Tea was a popular beverage. It was commonly sweetened with honey and spiced with cardamom and cloves. The yoghurt based "lassi" was slightly salted, and had its roots in the south. Alcoholic drinks were never popular. This was mainly due to the religious taboos put on them.
Thus to conclude, our forefathers consumed plenty of fruits, green vegetables & salads. In addition to this, they were also aware of their high nutritive values. The use of digestive spices such as green ginger & pepper were very significant. The practice of eating rice & soup in the beginning, sweetmeats in the middle & milk products in the end has set a very healthy convention. This custom is followed till today.