No, it’s not just politics.
When I thought about writing an article about the whole beef ban circus, I thought it was gonna be a piece of vegan cake. But I’ve been staring at an empty Google docs page for almost two hours now, typing and backspacing. Like everything I’d written before, I thought I’ll start with a memory. A memory of beef. But I don’t have any. That’s when it hit me.
How do you write about something so mundane as food? (No offense to food bloggers or Zomato reviewers.) Beef has been a part of my diet since I was in my diapers. And knowing the food habits of Mallus, my mother probably ate it while she was pregnant with me, which means I’ve had it even before I was born. It’s like rice or appam or peanuts. Malayalis - Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Dinkoist - have been eating beef for a long, long time. Who cares?
Well, clearly a lot of people.
And apparently, we are supposed to respect their sentiments, which makes me want to form a new religion and claim raisins to be sacred and holy so people would stop putting that shit in everything - cakes, payasams, BIRYANIS!
I was born in a Hindu family. A Hindu family who served beef even during Onam and Vishu. But apparently, my family and extended family are not only bad Hindus, they are also anti-nationals now. What’s on our plate has, all of a sudden, become a national debate. It’s a political stance.
And Malayalis LOVE politics. It’s right up there with gold and well…beef.
Traditional Kerala Beef Fry (It could take upto 5 hours to prepare this!) Image source: Dinetable.com
We politicize everything, especially when it comes to fighting fascism. We even politicized kissing. Remember #KissOfLove?
But this time, it was different. This beef was served to us already spiced up with politics and religion and nationalism. We just had to jump in with our hashtags and beef fests across the state.
A scene from one of Kerala’s beef fests. Image source: thenewsminute.com
But why does it matter so much to Keralites? Is it just about politics?
When I was about to move to Bombay last year, a lot of my friends warned me about the beef situation in Maharashtra. That’s literally the first thing most of them had said to me when I told them I was moving there. That’s how much it matters. It’s easy to just say, ‘have something else’. Have chicken or pork or mutton, just not beef!’
But it’s not just the fact that beef is the king of all meat, the yummiest of them all AND the best beer-companion. It’s about what beef represents. When you are told whom to love, what movies to watch, what to wear and now, what to eat, it makes you wonder if you are actually living in a free country. August 15 starts feeling like some sort of a sick joke year after year.
Fayiz Umer holds a payasam fest to protest against the Onam taboo. Image source: thenewsminute.com
Kerala is a place where a young Muslim man held a ‘Payasam fest’ to protest against an Imam who declared Onam Haram, stating it’s against Islam to celebrate a Hindu festival.
It’s a place where my mother cooks these delicious sweets called ‘Vishu Ada’ during Vishu and gifts it to our Christian friends who in turn gives us an Easter savory called ‘Indri Appam’, as Easter and Vishu tend to overlap.
It’s a place where Hindus, Christians, and atheists rush to their Muslim friends’ house for Iftar.
Yes, we are connected through our love for food. It has been that way since forever. So when we tell you it’s important to us, we are not being corny or just playing politics. We actually mean it.
And I know many of you will object to our love for beef, and from animal rights to religious sentiments, you’ll have many justifications for it too.
But I have only one thing to tell you…eat and let eat.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Arjun Raj
Cover photo credit: recipes.snydle.com