Friday, November 9, 2007

Food for thought.

Another one bites the dust. Pandu met me online yesterday to tell me that his roommate and my good friend, Bunny, a Tam Brahm (yes, another one) has turned Carnivore. And everyone knows about this, except for his live in girlfriend, Akka, who doesn't even eat eggs.
With friends like these, who needs TV?
When I broke up with my ex, I threw out all the remnants of our relationship, except a pair of Levi's low waist jeans (which he gave to me only because he bought it thinking that they were men's jeans, and there were no exchanges allowed. So it wasn't technically a present), a Pepe Jeans top (which my sister had whacked even before the breakup) and Bunny & Pandu. (Come to think of it, that's all I got in the relationship. Hmm.) Bunny and Co. are my "other" friends, and they make great "other friends". They aren't too dependent, aren't too demanding, highly entertaining, always available and refreshingly quirky. But their stories are for another post.
Bunny used to be a confirmed pure Tam brahm. Then he went to Oxford, came back, and started eating eggs, and developed selective amnesia as regards his earlier denouncements of eating omlettes for beakfast as "bloody murder". Pandu, who is currently frontrunner for KFC Brand Ambassadorship, has been trying for years to get him to convert. But, to no avail. Until 20 days ago, when Bunny decided to grab a bite of Pandu's appetizer, a chicken lollipop, on a dare. The following dinner consisted of butter chicken, chicken fry, and chicken biriyani. He asked for a kheema naan, but withdrew the order when he found out that it was mutton, and not chicken kheema. He had decided to take it one animal at a time.
I read a book in which it was said that every woman finds out the problem with a guy the very first time she meets him. If he's a serial killer, he will find some opportunity to make it known, at which she will laugh and say "haha, that' sooo cute", and ignore it.
I found out my boyfriend was a vegetarian even before our first date. We were walking around the streets of old Delhi, when someone suggested we go to Kareem's. At Kareem's, he astounded the waiter and all of us by ordering a Paneer Tikka.
However, I had developed a huge crush on him. He was cute enough for me to ignore that and send him a seedy scrap on Orkut (ugh, yes). The rest is history. I love him, but he's Tam Brahm, and I am a Saraswat Brahmin. To quote Mr. Awchat, of Goa Portuguesa fame, a Maharashtrian Brahmin ("we don't even cook egg in the house") who married a Saraswat, the Saraswat philosophy is "Praan jaaye par prawn na jaaye".
Vegetarianism is alien to me, though I must confess that I turned green for a good 6 month period. What provoked this was an lunch at a place which supposedly served 'great biriyani' near Campus.
What he didn't hear was that the restaurant slaughtered their chicken right behind the cash counter. After enduring 10 minutes of painful squonks and flapping wings, our order was brought to the table. It was packed, and donated to the boy's hostel. And I swore off any food which was once living and breathing.
So I go home for holidays, and as we sat down for lunch, I tell my parents that things were not going to be the same. My Dad nods his head understandingly and says "Ok. Fine. Now eat your fish curry rice."
"But Dad, I just told you, I'm vegetarian."
"Yeah. So?"
"So?"
"This is fish, not meat!"
"You have to eat fish," said my Mom. "Otherwise what will you eat...dal?"
We argued through lunch, I ate my rice with only the curry, and avoided the fish.
And finally.
"Dad, for God's sakes. Stop getting so fundamentalistic over this. Its just food..."
"This," said Dad, spreading his hand above the tava of fried tiger prawns (aargh... saliva on the keyboard!) "is not just food. This is your culture."
Chapter 45 (b) - The Legacy of the Saraswat Brahmin
The Saraswat Brahmins, a subsect of a wandering group in search of literally, greener pastures, had made their way along the river Saraswati. On the way or thereabouts, they settled on an area which was lush and full of potential, however, in a few years, the land dried up and they had to move on. One adamant figurehead, however, decided to stay on. He claimed that this was the land of promise, and this was where he was destined to die, even if it were of starvation. "What eva", said the fellow castemen, and off they went.
As it were, they found a new land, and prospered. One of them decided that it was a good idea to go back and give the Village elder a decent funeral. When a group of Saraswats land up at the former land, they were amazed to find out that not only was the abandoned casteman alive, but he also appeared to be in great health and well fed.
"Fish is the secret of my energy!" exclaimed the Sage.
As this man lay dying of starvation on the banks of the river, for lack of food as a result of the sapping of the goodness of the land, the Goddess Saraswati herself appeared before the near corpse.
"Idiot," she said, "why aren't you eating the fish in the river?"
"I can't," he said. "It is against our religion. Isn't it?"
The Goddess tapped her feet impatiently.
"To cut a long story short," said the sage, "the Goddess herself said that I should eat the fish."
The villagers looked highly skeptical.
"Try these fried prawns. This can only be described as divine..."
As a result, Saraswats never had to move away again, and they settled in Goa, as not only was it close to the sea, but also, the duty on alcohol was the lowest in the country. That again was due to divine intervention, but more on that later. Thus, Saraswats are permitted to eat fish, (later expanded to include feathered fish, also known as chicken, and grass eating fish, known as mutton) by God herself.
***
As it turned out, my parents didn't have to fret too much. I caved in on my next trip home. Never underestimate the power of chicken cafreal.
***
Saraswats are still burdened with the bane of Brahminism, though, so religious functions are still uber vegetarian (no onion, no garlic). They have separate vessels and utensils for non vegetarian food. And they are hilariously hypocritical. They will sob through three days of Ganesh Chaturthi, and when the menfolk leave to immerse the idol, the women will quickly get to work on cleaning and cooking the succulent mackerels available post monsoon. And let's not even begin the stories of Saraswats smuggling dried shark fillets on "Bangalore-Mysore-Ooty 3 night four day package tours" to make the Sambar-Rasam Saadam palatable. Haven't you wondered why MTR is on a sniffer dog hiring spree?
All important non religious functions must conscribe to these long established traditions. The result of deviation is disastrous. An uncle who made the mistake of celebrating his birthday on some religious festival was denied a one year increase in age by my 5 year old niece.
"How can you have a birthday without chicken?", she asked, in all seriousness.
***
Back to the thrilling adventures of Pandu and Bunny, I took the opportunity to invite Pandu and Bunny home for some good ol' home style chicken curry.
"Only boneless," said Pandu. "That way she won't know. She'll think its Paneer."
Bunny has an another woman in his life, and she's one hell of a chick!

1 comment:

Varun said...

nice post, nice way of writing, simple yet cool.