Meat and poultry

Meat and poultry

By
Cyrus Todiwala
Contains
15 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742706337
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

I do get confronted many times as an Indian by know-it-all people relating to meat-eating in India.

‘You don’t eat venison in India!’ Yes we do, and have been for centuries. In fact it is also a myth that all Hindus are vegetarians and do not eat meat. According to legend, the God Rama and his brother Laxmana and his wife Sita, were exiled from their kingdom and lived in the forest for several years. During this time Laxman, best bowman of his era, would hunt for deer daily for their meals. That is proof in itself!

‘Indians do not eat pork.’ Yes, some of us do. We have all types of people living in our country and for some, such as the people of Assam, pork is a regular meat, so also in Goa with the Catholic community, likewise the Christians. However the Assamese are Hindus and one must also know that Vasco da Gama was motivated to settle in Goa rather than in Kerala, where they first set base, because he saw the local Hindus eat pork whenever they celebrated. The Hindus of Goa largely do not eat pork now, but they did a few hundred years ago.

‘Your people do not eat beef.’ We eat beef too, but the cow is sacred and hence cannot be slaughtered. You often see stray cows in cities and towns because once old the owner can no longer afford to look after them or feed them, and since they cannot be slaughtered, it is better that they be let loose to fend for themselves. Bulls are allowed to be slaughtered as is the Indian water buffalo, which is also sold as beef.

‘Game would never be found on an Indian menu.’ Game is or was commonly eaten in rural regions and I was privileged to grow up in a household where we often ate partridge, grouse, buck, blue bull, geese and ducks in season and wild boar, and these feature on menus in my restaurants.

‘Indians would never cook with lamb or goat.’ Regardless of which animal it is, both are called mutton in India and this term is not related to the age of the animal or the sex. Mostly goat is consumed, though sheep are also bred and in Hindi they are known as bhaed (though that may not be evident when sold as meat).

We have poultry too and chicken is the most commonly eaten of them all. Duck is popular in Kerala and in some other parts and during the migratory season hunters all over the country will be out in the fields shooting ducks and geese. Chicken is of course widely farmed and the days of eating mostly free-range organic chicken have long since come to pass.

All I say is that we must buy good meat. We must know where it came from and how it was reared. Animal welfare should be at the top of our agenda and hence we should demand the best and often local produce, wherever you are, is best.

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