Monday, May 10, 2010

The Size of My Eyes

Dear Rushina,
So I went to the farmer’s market in Bandra with my friend Faiza. It was a sweltering 1:30 pm and the crowd had thinned. Some stalls were even unattended. Hungry as I was, we headed straight to the food area and disappointingly, there were only four stalls in total. The only non-veg one was a sushi stall that to be honest was charging too much (Rs.300 – 350 for a plate). But the stalls inspired me nevertheless. I got to thinking how great it would be to set up a Naga food stall and introduce people to the joys of pork and bamboo shoot. So we went to meet the woman who organises this market and I asked her if she’d allow a stall that serves pork and beef. She gently said no, and asked me, “You want to make momos?”
A Laugh Out Loud moment, if ever there was one! It reminds me of my sister’s experience, when she had just joined work. As the senior doctors ordered lunch for everyone, they paused briefly when they got to her and without asking promptly decided that she would have chowmein. Or the time I went to a friend’s place to eat chicken curry, dal and pulao and instead was proffered a huge feast of Chinese food. For the record, I don’t like Chinese food. I can eat it, but having grown up in North India, nothing beats a good dal makhni and butter chicken. And of course, part of me likes to resist the stereotype.
Another stereotype which is harder to resist is that Nagas eat dogs. Many of them do, it isn’t a myth. I have. One of my most cherished and traumatic memories from childhood is relishing a dog brain curry at my maternal grandmother’s home. Being slightly incontinent as a child, I stepped out in the middle of my meal to answer the call of nature and on returning, discovered that my plate had been taken away. As my tantrum masterfully approached its crescendo, it was cruelly cut short when the cook scolded and asked how one could eat and do ‘other’ things at the same time. (Glutton that I was, my incontinence never surfaced while I was eating after that day) That was also the last time I ate dog meat.
Dog meat is believed to be very healthy and is recommended to athletes, the sick and the aged. And for some young men and students, killing and partaking of dog meat has become almost a rite of passage, a masculine bonding ritual, much to the horror and devastation of bereaved dog owners.
Many Nagas do eat dog meat, and like chowmein or Chinese, and even make and eat momos. But not all. That’s the thing with stereotypes and having your food habits decided for you by the size of your eyes or nose. Sometimes it makes for a good laugh. Sometimes...



Simran said...

I am with you on food stereotypes - everyone assumes I should eat meat because I am a Punjabi and I am forever explaining it's okay for me to be a vegetarian.

By the way, I am totally unimpressed by the farmer's market. Maybe I am drawing the wrong comparisons with London's Borough and NY's Union Square but this one is truly sad.

The knife said...

@Theyie, it's sad that we know more about distant lands than about parts of our country. Your articles on A perfect Bite definitely help dispel a lot of these.

I have been sharing your explanation of 'dog meat being lean and healthy' with other people, including, boo boo, tow dog lovers.

Talking of stereotypes. I like to buy and cook fish. Not eat them

The knife said...

I agree Simran, this farmer's market struck me as being very sad and fake.