Sunday, January 21, 2007

A carrot among the pigeons

At a dinner, during a recent visit to Manila, our host ordered pigeons, a delicacy that the restaurant was famous for. The cooked pigeons were carved out and dressed in our presence and everybody at the table, except me, dug into the dish with great relish.

The host went on to share details of other interesting culinary experiences. In his province, he said, rats were caught in the rice fields, cooked in an open flame and eaten by the locals. The meat was so tender and tasty. And, whereas the appearance of a python would make a person in the city recoil in fear, back in his province, it would make the farmer’s mouth water in anticipation.

It was a myth, he added, that only the Koreans loved dog meat. In his own province, he said, dog meat was highly valued. He then explained, in painstaking detail, how the dogs were hunted down and cooked.

How could he forget the time he was served scorpions, fried in his presence, when he was visiting China? He was initially quite nervous, he admitted, when he saw that its fangs were still intact, but when he put it into his mouth, it tasted quite delicious and he asked for some more.

But, the best and most exotic meat that he had had the privilege of tasting was the wildebeest meal that he tried out during his visit to Africa. The meatiest meal in his life.

Munching my meal of boiled carrots and broccoli, I wanted to cut him short here and share some interesting vegetarian culinary experiences that I have had. Like the time, I spotted this big purple brinjal in Pondy bazaar, brought it home, had it minced and turned into chutney. Or, about those ripe, juicy tomatoes which were ruthlessly squeezed, and added to boiling rasam. And the episode where we plucked out mangoes with our bare hands, cut them into little pieces and heartlessly pickled them with burning chillies. Not to forget the time we picked up a kilogram of potatoes, skinned them and mashed them out of existence.

I wanted to tell him all this, but I didn’t. All these gory details of brinjals being minced, tomatoes being squeezed, potatoes being mashed and mangoes being pickled were routine stuff for an hardened vegetarian like me. But I had to respect the sensibilities of my host, who could find such finer details highly disgusting and repulsive. No point in upsetting him. After all, he was footing the bill.


Anonymous said...

Check this out -
I am sure your Filipino host would have enjoyed this dish!

Raj said...

Murali, I admit I have seen more 'placenter' things in my life.

Anonymous said...

I guess, it would have been interesting if the host had shared the recipe and not the ways to clear the insides ; the fun stories on those camp-fire days and not the desciption of the rat. Anything can be made appalling when it is not presented the rt way.