June 10, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude: Tastes Like Chicken

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. This is not meant to be some homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

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Bill Oliver (aka Ollie), Foodie Extraordinaire

Okay, okay....My dad doesn't actually eat kitties.  He hates them too much to actually consume them.  Yes, the man who hates cats with a vengeance proceeded to have three daughters who adore cats.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Manoj doesn't eat beef, not for religious reasons since he is Christian, but rather for health reasons.  A commenter, Nukkud,  pointed out there there is a small Christian group in India that doesn't eat beef for moral reasons:
Some christian groups in india do not eat beef. Its a moral thing. Its a big misunderstanding when people say it is a religious thing.

Beef is not eaten by many groups in india for the same reason why americans do not eat dog or horse.

The dog is known as a "mans best friend" while a horse is known as a "companion". Similarly, cows are seen as a symbol of mother and motherhood. In india, anything that carries a "motherly" connotation is serious stuff and hence, "beef" related subjects raise strong emotions.

Source: Maternal family are christians from coastal maharashtra and they strictly avoid beef.
Nukkud then goes on to add:
The keralites are an anomaly in india. Actually, a big chunk of hindu malayali population eats beef, though it's done behind closet.
I agree to a certain extent that Keralites are an anomaly, but I would also argue the Keralites are just one of many, many anomalies scattered through India. For example, I have seen so many Hindus over the past 20 years consume beef and only a handful were from Kerala.  The primary problem with discussing food choices in conjunction with daring to enter the choppy waters that comprise the complex cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of a country such as India is this:


Regardless of what I say, it will be wrong.

A country such as India holds just about every exception to every rule and as a writer, every single time I choose to write about India or Indians, I run the risk of someone pointing out the exceptions and exactly where I went astray.

Honestly? I really appreciated Nukkud's comments because they were respectful and most importantly, they made me think. Folks, you are always welcome to disagree with me and bonus points are awarded for making me think.

Generally, I believe morality and religion often have nothing to do with each other since so much religious dogma is based upon traditions with little explanation (two of the most moral persons I have ever known were atheists and grew up with no religion whatsoever.)  Furthermore, religious traditions often become confused and infused with cultural tradition.  I mainly mentioned the "Christian eating beef" thing in regard to my husband because there is a common misconception amongst many Americans where they believe all Indians are Hindus who don't eat beef.  Often I find myself explaining that "Yes, my married name is George and no, my husband did not convert to Christianity for me."  And then, I laugh because it really does tickle me.  Besides, it helps to navigate life with a healthy sense of humor toward these things.

Truthfully, I can only speak to my own personal experiences and quite simply,  I have seen way too many Hindus eating beef, Jews and Muslims eating pork and Catholics eating meat on Fridays to think that religion holds some greater power over our stomachs.

I freely admit that I have few "morals" when it comes to food.  I don't eat horses, cats, dogs or frogs not due to morals or potential companionship issues, but rather due to personal taste.  I love veal and I will happily tear through foie gras.  Perhaps, this makes me a horrible person, but when you begin drawing lines in the sand with food choices, the tide will eventually sweep in to erase those lines.  Even vegetarians have their own issues when it comes to "morals" as folks argue about the benefits to locally grown produce.

Anyway! All of this talk about different food choices reminded me of a tongue-in-cheek blog post that I wrote long ago when I was doing a blogging for our old business FoodieBytes (Full Disclosure: We sold our stake in that business earlier this year and we now own zero shares in it)

I wanted to end this post on a light note because in the end, food should be FUN, right?

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7 Wonders of the Food World That Make Me Wonder

While I like to pretend that my gaping maw is adventurous, I admit that I have my limits. Some of the following dishes definitely look better than others. Some even push the definition of “edible“.
Which ones would you try or have you tried? What is the most unusual food you have ever eaten?

1. BILTONG – SOUTH AFRICA

Biltong is a cured meat process that originates from South Africa – it is commonly made from cuts of beef, but can also be made with venison and ostrich (a version with fish is called bokkums.) Biltong differs from jerky in that the meat strips are a bit thicker and vinegar is used in the cured process. 
Chance of me eating this bad boy: 75% (this looks worthy of my gullet.)

2. TEA WITH YAK BUTTER – TIBET

Okay, I could not help but include this one since I have actually tried it. Truthfully? I liked it. An odd concoction, to be sure, it was milky, salty and a little “oily” — which is an interesting addition to one’s tea. Definitely not a tea you would be served at Buckingham Palace! Although I suspect Tibetans serve their tea with far less attitude than the Queen…….
Chance of me slurping this again: 100%

3. CENTURY EGG – ASIA

Century eggs actually arose as a solution to a common sense problem – how to keep a precious food from going rotten in times of hardship. Generally, century eggs are duck, chicken or quail eggs that are preserved in a “mixture of clay, ash,salt, lime, and rice straw for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.” Personally? I prefer my eggs not to be featured in odd hues of green.
Chance of me eating this bad boy: 0% (although admittedly, the odds would be greatly improved should I ever find myself faced with a Triple Dog Dare while plied with booze.)

4. DURIAN – ASIA

Obviously, any fruit that gets itself banned from mass transportation is worthy of some sort of title. However, it is not clear whether it is the actual stench or the fact this fruit looks like a lethal weapon that prompted such a ban. In that vein, the durian is probably the Official Stinkbomb of the fruitworld. As such, Wikipedia had this to say regarding the durian:
The unusual flavour and odour of the fruit have prompted many people to search for an accurate description, with widely divergent and passionate views expressed, ranging from highly appreciative to deep disgust.
I admit that I am curious enough to try this.
Chance of me eating this bad boy: 90% (Why not? At least it did not once have a heartbeat, right?)

5. ANTS

Actually, ants are eaten in a variety of locales all over the world including Australia, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Columbia, etc. (the ones pictured are Honeypot Ants which are eaten by Australian Aborigines). I remember reading about this as a kid, so perhaps this is why it does not freak me out nearly as much as say, a roasted tarantula.
Chance of me eating these bad boys: 90% (Not much would be needed to bolster my gastronomical resolve on this one.)

6. SANNAKJI – KOREA

I will never forget when my Korean marketing professor in college told our class about his favorite dish, sannakji, a food that he missed desperately from back home. In short, this consists of eating octopus while it is still alive. He even giggled when he described how the tentacles would stick to the inside of your mouth. Oh sure, I love me some squid/octopus, but I would rather my food not be able to mount a rising protest while I am consuming it. If you have a hankering for such fare and you find a spot serving it, don't hesitate.  You probably should hit that before PETA gets a whiff of this potential animal rights violation.
Chance of me eating these bad boys: 0% (Consuming food as it is fighting for its life is simply not My Thing.)

7. BALUT – ASIA

File this under the “Interesting in Theory, Not So Much On My Plate” category: balut is a fertilized duck or chicken egg that has not quite completed its development, much less hatched. While it is considered a delicacy in parts of Asia including the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam, I hesitated including this stomach-turner. However, it won out in the Interest of Interesting, although I did decide to spare you the pictures (click the link if you have a strong stomach.) Oddly, I could not find any restaurants serving it in NYC, Boston, SF, Chicago or DC. I wonder why.
Chance of me eating this bad boy: 0% (Dude. No WAY.)

7 comments:

Average Jane said...

Don't know if you ever saw this, but a friend of mine made a video as she and her kids tried durian fruit: http://amyeats.blogspot.com/2011/03/durian-fruit_10.html

Dawn said...

I am a pretty adventurous eater. There are a couple things on your list that I would most likely TRY once, and god knows I LOVE an oyster raw with vinegar and hot sauce.

The one thing I Didn't like, while trying very much to like it? Snails.

Honestly, I tried. I am in a land in which all things are fair game (Montreal). They will happily serve you horse steaks. With a Wild boar meat sauce.

The trouble is that they tasted just like they Smell in the garden. And the smell is kind of moist, slimey loamy earth. Usually tinged with my rage at having found a beloved plant chomped up. And the texture? Exactly what you think might be the texture.

I swallowed my one and politely pushed the rest of the serving to my lunch partner.

Olivia said...

The only thing on that list I would try is the biltong. I try to be adventurous, my heart is in the right place it's just that my stomach differs.

luckyfatima said...

I have tried a few of the items on the weird-food list. I'll let you guess which ones. :D

No one can ever generalize about India, but I think we goris get more scrutiny on possible generalizations because the assumption is that we only know what we know through our husbands, which may be true in some cases. (Though obviously not in your case) Like you, I have had NRI or US born/raised Hindu friends who eat beef and don't believe in food taboos. Most Hindus I know would never dream of touching beef, though.

I had read once or twice that there are some Muslim and Christian communities who prefer not to consume beef because of their Hindu cultural retentions after the (more recent) conversion of their forefathers, and their proximity to Hindu communities. I have never actually met anyone like that, though.

Many non-Indians also don't realize that a lot of Indian Hindus in India don't eat pork, either. They associate abstaining from pork with Muslims and Jews. For whatever reason, most meat-eating Hindu NRIs I know DO eat pork outside of India. I don't know why. But in India, pork is seen as gross and dirty like dog meat by many Hindu people. And then you have some Hindu communities who DO eat pork, like the Kodagu/Coorg people, and some other groups. I have been told that Nepali non-veg Hindus do eat pork as a regular eating meat, too. But that is too much to explain to anyone who doesn't know much about India or South Asia. So one ends up just not saying anything at all. And then there is silence. And we know better, but we don't pitch in when we hear people say erroneous things like "Indians are vegetarians" and "Indians don't eat beef."

I hope you continue talking about food. I think you already know that with anything to do with India, with so much mind-blowing diversity, there is always gonna be something to contradict what one knows, and that is just the beauty of India.

Rozanne said...

Wow. I've never heard of most of those things. I'd try the durian, but that's about it. Interesting to read about them from a safe distance, though.

D. said...

I grew up with the century eggs all around me, and it took until I was a teenager to try and appreciate them. They're actually really, really good if you can get past the color.

I can't bring myself to do insects, and the fertilized egg is way more than my stomach could ever handle.

Nukkud said...

Here you go