Saturday, January 23, 2010

Meat of the matter

i discriminate & am prejudiced. No.. these are not character traits that i would like to flaunt, but I do it nonetheless..especially if the case on the table is meat. Yes, the type you eat...or in my case, the type i dont.

For the first 22 years of my life, i've been a very modest meat eater. Unlike many non-vegetarians, i liked veggies better.. no kidding. Back home in Kerala, growing up we used to have fish everyday - curried mostly and at times fried. (All that omega 3 explains how mallu girls have better hair!!) Fresh sea-water fish brought to the door steps on a cycle. The fish-monger would have a typical 'pooooi' sound he makes...and my mom could, by the energy & enthu in his 'poooi' make out if he had a good catch for the day. His salesmanship depended on the credibility of the prices he quoted..not for the current offering, but about the price our next-door neighbour paid for the same fish.

On top of it there were the weekly grocery shopping trips to the bigger local markets. Here one could get the big ones & the special ones. As any true blue mallu or bong man would tell you.. spotting & bargaining for the catch of the day is an art and science in itself. A mallu guy comes of age when he can go in and come out with a reasonably good catch without being fleeced..or worse, manhandled. I stopped accompanying my dad after a few such trips.. i couldnt stand the smell and the incessant haggling. A pity, i now realize.. i could have got a tip or two on the art of persuasion from the fish-monger/ress.

Sunday was also the day we bought chicken. Almost always chicken and once in 2-3 months,beef as well. This again used to be a chore in itself. There were no supermarkets where u go in and just dump the breast-slices only/curry pieces only/drumsticks only into ur shopping cart. A tried-and-tested poultry shop it had to be. You go in, take a coupon or stand in the queue.. state your requirement - how many kg / dressed-or-not / curry-cut-or-whole.

The guy at the counter would take a hen or cock which comes near to your required weight (adjusting for the feathers and other non-requisites), hold it by the neck and take it to the room out on the back side of the counter to give it the inevitable. It always did make me wonder that 'dressing' a chicken is infact..undressing it.. Back home, the pieces are kept in a special dish (used only for this purpose) and the usual complaints from mom about how the pieces have been cut too small, or too big, or the hen being too old etc. are heard and dismissed. She would then proceed to make a chicken dish from that bookmarked recipe in the latest 'Vanitha' women's magazine.

One anamoly of kerala is that even with a majority of hindu population, there was no stigma attached with the consumption of beef. Sure..sure..cows are godly creatures and all that..but beef roast syrian christian style is just divine. Most hindus here eat non-veg, of which, a good chunk eat beef as well. so there!!

it would be pretty accurate to say that my gastronamic adventures stopped there. Chicken, fish and beef..that's all the non-veg that've had for the major part of my life. And later, i was to find it better stay so.

First time i had turkey, i ended up in the hospital for 2 days with an IV up my vein. This was in Pune and for Easter. Second time - 2 years later, i had turkey, i ended up in a clinic this time tearing a magazine into shreds and pinching my friend's arm in pain. This was Chennai and on new year's eve. I got the message : never did try anything other than what i've always had till about 3 months back.

And then i came to Germany, land of pork & pork eaters!!!...where it starts with a weiƟwurst (white sausage) for breakfast, speck(bacon) for lunch, schinken (ham) for tid-bit snacks & schweinesteak (pork steak) for dinner. Then there are turkey, rabbit, deer, beef..and the rare chicken. It also did not help that germans liked their meat tender and juicy and wanted to taste the meat what they were eating. A far cry from our indian cooking stlye where we camouflage the taste of meat with triple the quantity of spices.

When in rome, do as romans do?? not really..if i could translate the menu, chances are high that i wont be eating it. Ignorance is indeed a bliss for me. I now discriminate against meat based on the appearance rather than the origin. So much for my decades of steadfastedness ... maybe my limited forays were rather due to lack of opportunity rather than any real show of character.

I believe this was the point when hubbs used the word 'hypocrite' when i wriggled my nose at his pork-vindaloo, but gorged on Maultaschen. You see, my palate doesn't recognise my prejudices.

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