Thursday, 11 August 2011

Food Fight

I have seen a lot of Food Fights on television and in comic strips, but I have never really seen any in real life. The closest we come to having one is probably on Birthdays where cake is smeared on the face of the one who celebrates completing another year on the planet. I think it has a lot to do with our culture, where wastage of food is frowned upon and considered almost sinful. 

I digress though. This is not a post on wastage of food as such, but on the arguments that I have witnessed and been a part of, which involved food habits and choices. All those who know me, will agree with me when I say that I am not really a foodie. I am a lanky person who eats to live, rather than lives to eat. That doesn’t mean that I do not appreciate good food, but it indicates that if I like a particular item, I won’t keep eating it till my stomach bursts.

I am a strict vegetarian, partly because of my religion but primarily because my entire family is that way and so I never really had the need to have non-vegetarian foods. Being brought up this way, I never really felt the need or the curiosity to try food that involved birds or animals being killed. In school, it was a coincidence that most of my friends were also vegetarians, so there were never really any arguments about the place to eat or what to order, but things changed once I entered college.

During my engineering, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only vegetarian person on the meal table, which was not necessarily a good thing. A lot of people are extremely passionate about their choice of food and are vocal about their opinion as well. These people also tend to propagate their choices and look down upon those who do not share their viewpoints. The object of this post is to bring forth the arguments that I have come across which have amused and entertained me quite a bit.

The Non Vegetarian Foodie – I may be biased here, but as far as I know Non-Vegetarians are more passionate and vocal about the food they eat and most if not all look down and pity Vegetarians. I do not have statistics, but I am sure Non Vegetarians outnumber their Vegetarian counterparts by a huge margin. Most of the non-vegetarians (NV from now on) refuse to eat Vegetarian (Veg) food if they are eating out, either at a restaurant or at a get-together.

I was with a friend at a get together once where the waiter serving starters. When a vegetarian dish was offered to my friend he looked at it in disgust and told the waiter that he only wanted Non-Veg and not “Ghaas Phoos” (Grass and Leaves). One of my NV friends once told me that anyone who does not consume Non Veg food is a wasted existence that is only taking up space on this earth. The tender, juicy morsels of a variety of meats have a flavor and aroma that can only be experienced and not described, and someone who willingly chooses to avoid this festival of taste should be declared clinically insane. He then proceeded to have a discussion with a fellow NV foodie about the different types of animals that he had tried and where and how they tasted etc etc.

The NV often turns to a Veg and asks them. After all, what choices do you have? The only dish that a Veg has is Paneer (Cottage Cheese), and even that is cooked in gravy originally meant for NV dishes. And, that if he was meant to eat grass and leaves, he should have been born as a cow/goat instead of a human.

Food habits can change over time and whenever an NV comes across someone who recently became an NV, he instantly gains respect for the individual as he feels that a mere mortal has finally seen the light and proceeds to guide him and enlighten him about the joys of his new found wisdom and taste. Conversely, an NV converting into a Veg is looked upon as a Heretic who has strayed from the holy path and is headed for eternal damnation.

I think the only NV argument that I agree with is that Vegetarians miss out on a variety of tastes, and adapting to foreign countries is more difficult as the number of Non-Indian vegetarians is quite low. And of course, one misses out on the exotic signature dishes of many countries because of this.

The Vegetarian Foodie – Vegetarian foodies are fewer in number and are generally outnumbered when it comes to Food related arguments. That doesn’t mean that they are outgunned though. Veg foodies always take the moral high ground when it comes to food choices and claim that their diet is generally healthier and does not involve killing of animals. (In case a girl is making the argument, then this is often accompanied by adjectives like cute along with some shrills and shrieks for voice modulation). Slaughter of innocent animals like Chickens, Pigs, Rabbits etc is the main foundation of their arguments.

The healthier aspect of vegetarian food is used to justify that it is natural, contains higher fibre, richer in vitamins and nutrients and carries significantly lower risk of diseases. Also, epidemics like Bird Flu don’t affect their eating habits, so they don’t have to worry about changing what they eat depending on what is happening around them. Also, there is a stronger claim for Veg to be cleaner than NV because plants in general are static, and you don’t have to worry about where they have been, what they have eaten etc.

One thing that all Veg foodies realise is that NVs are Omnivores who can and do eat veg as well. But the problem arises when they mouth off on how bad it is, or how they shouldn’t have had to eat it. The most confusing thing about NVs for me is that many of them refuse to eat NV on certain days of the week or during certain months for a variety of reasons. I know that they have their reasons for the same, but honestly it is beyond me to understand it. For a true foodie, what they eat should depend on what they want to eat, and should not necessarily be influenced by unexplainable factors.

The best argument I ever came across was actually from an NV foodie. One of my friends asked the other person how they could eat chickens that have been slaughtered and enjoy the experience. The response was that it is the chickens fault for being so delicious. If god had not meant for them to be eaten, then they should not have been made so tasty in the first place.

I guess viewpoints and opinions on Food are almost as personal as they are for music. The passion for it does vary in a similar vein as well. I doubt if people will stop imposing their Food philosophy on to others anytime soon, and the arguments between the two sects shall continue. Perhaps Herbivores and Carnivores would have been a better method to describe the two sects, but I will leave it as Food for thought for you to decide.

Food [food]
1. Any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc.
2. More or less solid nourishment, as distinguished from liquids.
3. A particular kind of solid nourishment
4. Whatever supplies nourishment to organisms
5. Anything serving for consumption or use