Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It runs in the family.

Flashback: 1981. My parents lived in Germany for about a year. Vegetarianism was a rarity there back then, and the Germans found it difficult to understand why we do not eat meat. They probably could not understand the concept of vegetarianism as a custom.

Some of them even seemed to think that we were vegetarians just because we did not know how to cook meat. As a result, when my parents received dinner invitations from German friends, they had a lot of explaining to do before they accepted the invitation. Then the poor hosts were usually clueless about what to serve my parents - they usually played it safe by serving them half a dozen varieties of cakes and pastries - and sometimes, my parents saw themselves staring at just a pile of boiled rice, or a plate of mashed, salted potatoes.

Anyway, at one such dinner, along with the cakes, the hosts brought out a bowl of off-white chips, and excitedly offered it to my

Amma: What is it?
Hostess: Just eat it and see, I will tell you what it is later!
Amma and Papa pop the chips into their mouths.
Amma: *gags as a disgusting taste fills her mouth.*
Papa: *Hmmm.... something's fishy*
Both of them swallow with great difficulty, and follow it with glasses of water.
Hostess: So, how did you like it?
Amma: *Putting Indian sensibilities aside*: I didn't like it.
Hostess: *crestfallen* Ohhhhh.
Amma: What is it?
Hostess: Pig skin chips.
Amma: *Oh yuck!*
Papa: *Hmmm.... I knew something was fishy.... errr.. porky...*

Back to the present: 2006. My sister P, after having completed two months in the US as a student, living on just cereals and cheesecake, starts hankering after spicy food. Penniless, and unable to afford eating at Indian restaurants unless somebody treats her, and too busy to cook for herself, she sets out with her flatmate A to Walmart to find something spicy to eat.

Rejecting the regular salted Lays and Pringles, P and A come across a packet of chips with "Hot and spicy" printed on it. They immediately buy a packet and run back home. They make nice hot cups of tea, and sit down comfortably. They open the packs. Smiling and eager, they put a couple of chips in their mouths. It is certainly hot and spicy, and tastes not-too-bad. But some inexplicable instinct makes both P and A stop eating and look at each other. They pick up the packet and read everything written on it. Underneath the tempting words "Hot and Spicy", written in small print, is "Pork skin chips".

Like I said, it runs in the family.


Viky said...

Muhahahaha...Rolling on the floor, he he!!!

And yes, I'm first.

Shyam said...

ugh ugh ugh :) Tell you what, a lot of people in the West STILL dont understand vegetarians, especially of the Indian variety. They keep offering me mock-sausage, mock-meat dishes (made of soya protein or whatever) and cant understand why I dont like them. They just dont get the idea that I dont NEED any meat-textured, meat-flavoured vegetarian substitutes for dead animals! :) Or else they go "well, i guess vegetarians can eat fish and seafood, right?" Wrong. It's a slow uphill battle here, folks!

Rk said...

Funny but sad.
When is your turn ? ;-)
Ps:Word verification word is "vegfake" :))

vidya said...

Ohhh, thats so sad!! I will try and invite her and her roomate over for some spicy food,, since I live pretty close to Palo Alto!

Shruthi said...

Viky, heh heh :D

Shyam, ROFL!! More power to you, poor Shyam! :)

RK, now that's a coincidence, isn't it? :D
And about my turn - I have learnt my lesson - I will not eat any chips that looks even remotely suspicious :D

Vidya, oh how sweet! :) She will be mighty pleased ;)

Bhargav said...

hmmm...interesting. Ask Sandy what he had at the harbour!! I guess it runs in your adopted family too.

Prathibimba said...

Though this might sound funny to some people, only those who live abroad will know the seriousness. Though I have not consumed anything non-vegetarian(at least till now and hopefully so in future), it is with the greatest trepidation that I set foot into hotels. And every trip in Walmart takes eternity to read the ingredients on the covers.
Safest way is to make anna saaru at home and eat...and on trips, take the electric rice cooker with you whereever you go like I do. Saves all hassles.

mysorean said...



Next post nalli nodkotini ninnanna!

chitra said...

Hmm having spent more than three years in UK, I have become sorta wise at this one, i can spot vegetarian stuff in the supermarkets just by the look of it, atleast most times. (BTW, here everything vegetarian is marked with green coloured "V" on packing, my eye can spot that "V" is what I meant ;). About p's pork skin chips .. poor little P. I had a similar experience just a couple of weeks ago, office dinner at a chinese joint, it was a buffet, I spoted quite a few vegetarian stuff for the main course and was thrilled, for startes i was scanning through stuff and asked the waitress to point out the vegetarian starters .. she was eager to help me but pointed at fish fingers ..phew.. I tried a different trick and pointed at some white fried stuff and asked her if it had no meat, no fish either , she said no they don't, they were crackers .. i thought they looked like rice crackers .On confirming it was vegetarian i tasted a small piece and it tasted somewhat like our rice sandige( indian fryams).. i quickly gorged on a few of those it was only 5 mins of thrill but soon my colleague told me they were prawn crackers .. yuck!! My dinner went for a toss .. could not enjoy any of the vegetarian main course. Well, I have gotten wise, except for these one odd hard-luck experiences.

Supremus said...


Been in similar situations myself, and I must admit I have tasted all living things knowingly or unknowingly in this country :D - Though I settled for chicken as the only non-veg food I would eat. After all how far is chicken from the egg, eh?

That said, mayhaps u wanna let your sister know that the yogurt you get here in US has some chemical formed from cow's intestines; that preserves it longer. I hope I dont spoil her or your appetite hehe :). And oh, if she loves mexican food, warn her that most Salsa contains chicken broth.

Suyog... signing off before your sis runs to kill me!

Anonymous said...

whats the fuss all about...be roman in rome :-)

Inder said...

haha... i have seen it happen.
no wonder the europeans and americans look at us quizzically. they see in us something that they have not come across often. but still, nowadays vegetarianism is finding takers among the europeans and americans :)

they are mighty confused when indians say, "i do eat meat, but not on fridays" or "i eat chicken, but not pork".

food at indian restaurants abroad are damn costly. it is better to cook our food ourselves :)

Anonymous said...

hmm the three of them can now share their experiences, which probably you will never understand! unless you too... (I hope not)


Shruthi said...

Bhargav, S denies any knowledge of what you are talking about :)

Prathibimba, yeah I am sure that comes with experience!

Mysorean, ;)

Chitra, ha ha! coincidentally, just yday someone told me that his colleagues mistook prawn crackers for rice sandige and ate them :) I am sure a few more months and P will become smart too ;)

Suyog, Oh!! Not just my sis, but I am sure a lot of other people are going to be shocked at this info! :) Me included :O

Anon, great, go ahead and eat the skin of dead animals - enjoy! :)

Inder, ha ha, fridays-no-meat - I am sure they don't understand that one! :) Yup better to cook at home - its the safest!

Chaitanya, my stories --- some other time! :))

Anonymous said...


Atleast in US you can read that it had some pork stuff... when I was in Germany, I had a tougher time, I didn't even know what half the ingredients meant!

So the safest place to shop was Indian stores ;-) and cook at home :D

ASI said...

Very nice...I also would like to share my expereince in US being a vegetarian. I had visited my neighbour one afternoon while she was cooking ladiesfinger( called "okra" here) with some meat. We had a small talk and she got to know that I was a vegetarian. She offered me the dish she had prepared...I refused as it had meat in it. Then she realised that I was a vegetarian and you know what she did...."
she took out the okras from the meat and offered me only the okras"...hehehehe :). They just dont understand the concept of being vegetarian.

N said...

Some more "gems":
- Rice in Taco Bell is veggie but rice in Taco Mayo has "small" chicken pieces.
- Some yoghurt brands have gelatin. Gelatin can come from plant and animal sources and guess what is in abundance in the US of A? It is the place where apparently cow is fed leftover cow meat pieces/beef. So, is milk veggie? You would think that milk has only milk - but no - it has to have a bunch of chemicals to increase the shelf life.
- French fries may be fried in vegetable oil but so is other stuff like prawn, chicken wings and so on.
- How about lard (beef fat) in tortillas (similar to chapattis)?

My friend doesn't let people at subway cut his sandwich since they use the same knife to cut meat subs also. Where can this stop?

A good website is:
Hope and pray India doesn't go full-blown into processed foods.

GuNs said...

PIG SKIN chips? Are these people MAD? I mean, cant they find ANYTHING else to make chips out of? Eyuckk...even hearing it makes me cringe. Next in line - cowdung chips ! Go feed your firang friends some of it.


Emma said...

Reminds me of an incident the first time my friend went to the States... She is a pure vegetarian - one who stays away from eggs as well. Craving for spicy food, one evening she decided to get herself a pizza. She looked at the menu and ordered what she thought sounded like the most spicy pizza on the menu - pepperoni pizza. From the name she just assumed it is made with a lot of pepper. The look on her face was all worth it when the pizza actually came - and she realized what she had got instead of a lot of pepper :).

Sanjay M said...

ugh typical... adh tinde avarige jeerNa ne aagalla ansutte...! :-) Actually I've come across a couple of Germans who have been pure vegetarians since childhood inspite of family and society.

If I ever write the Vegetarian's Guide To Deutcheland here would be some pointers...

Ingredients for a good lunch (mix and match):

- plain rice/noodles - Chinese Restaurant (parcel)
- Vegetarisch rice/noodles [ " ]
- Vegetable soup [look particularly for ohne fleische - in any supermarket]
- yoghurt
- bread [bakery]
- Gemuse Mac [Mac Donalds]
- Vegetarisch Sandwich [Subway]

gemuse mac = vegetable mac (which is vegetarian)

In general...
gemuse = (gey - mu - say) = vegetable
vegetarisch (v is pronounced as f, so fey-ji-taa-rish) = vegetarian
kein (ka-ina) fleisch = no flesh
ohne (oh-na) fleisch (fly-sch)= without flesh
bitte (bit-tay)= please

Anonymous said...

Entschuldigen Sie.... Last I saw, Mac has stopped selling Gemuse Mac

And for Germans, 'Vegetarisch' includes Fish


India lost said...

Porky -- LOL!!!!

I had similar experience before... I was expecting Egg burji ,but they served me Panner...

I don't eat veg!.. I don't eat anything that wasn't alive..

Anonymous said...

Hyuck hyuck...paapa Sis. Aaah...sakkath kashTa veggie irlikke... :)

Pritika Gupta said...

hehe.. is ur sis still veggie??

Vinod R Iyer said...

It runs in the vegetarian's community I guess. US & UK , i persume are still ok. Imagine being in a place like Japan!

Shruthi said...

Shark, Oh yeahhh that was something I hadn't thought of! :))

Adi, ha ha :) For a lot of people, that's perfectly acceptable you know, even in India! :)

N, Hmmm.... nice trivia :) does your subway friend know that they use the same ladle to dish out veg and non veg curries even in restaurants in India? :))
Good site, btw!

Guns, heh heh! cool it! :)) That was my first reaction when I heard my parents' story for the first time!

Emma, I won't laugh! For a very long time, I also believed that pepperoni was a kind of pepper :)) I didn't eat it, though!

Shruthi said...

Sanjay, yeah maybe you should put up a post on this topic ;)

Shunti, hey what does Entschuldigen mean? My German is not that advanced!

India lost, ha ha :)) Strict non-vegetarian, huh?

Kshama, Oh yeah it can get messy! :)

Pritika, ha ha, yes, as far as I know ;)

Vinod, oh yeahhhh.... and China - phew! Only Maggi and MTR packets work there, or so I heard from friends! :)

Shastri said...

I have not remained a vegetarian all my life. Now I am one though.
When I was in Singapore, I asked for mock-meat [the one shyam mentioned] and the guy heard it as 'pork-meat' [whatever that means] and I realised what I was eating after a few bites. At that point, I was not a pure-veg guy so really did not mind too much. As inder says, not much point in saying I eat chicken, but not pork. If you can eat one, you can eat all.

On a more serious note, I am still confused on where to draw the line. Should being a vegetarian mean I must abandon all products of animal origin? How about milk? Or how about my leather wallet and shoes? [No, not for eating ;) ]
I assume most of us follow vegetarianism not because of religious but because of philosophical beliefs. Hence I wonder if there will ever be an universal theory of what is vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

'Entschuldigen' -> Excuse me...
A friend, who thought he had eaten every NV thing there is to eat, had to refuse a dish (in china), after he realized that it was made of a Pig's tongue

- Shunti

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. I have been battling with this being a foodie (and a vegetarian) and residing in Taiwan and spending time in Iran. Since I have outgrown religious need to be a vegetarian, my rule is simple 'What I dont know and what I have not see wasnt eaten by me' Let me blog some interesting insights on vegetarianism

Amit said...

It happens in all families. :)


travel plaza said...

Aww...The poor thing. I wish she lived closer to Chicago..Like Vidya, I would have invited her over too. But I'm sure there are a number of Indian stores, especially in California where you get most of our spicy Indian snacks. I'm sure in time, she'll discover those.
We have a friend who ate cheeseburgers thinking they were just that..cheese, until he found out they have beef patties in them. Poor guy...

Bhargav said...

Well it was not anything related pigs. It was something to do with the bovines and the word they use to refer to their meat. We were at the Baltimore Harbour and at one of the diners ordered 'spicy' chili. We were hungry, and myself and my roomate, even after staying here for 2+ years back then, completely ignored what chili really meant. After a few scoops, we realised there were no chili in them and thats when it hit to us it was beef. I feel really sorry for 'S' for letting this happen to him.

Anonymous said...

uh oh! not again!!
What is it, some kind of nemesis following your family? next time you are abraod, read the contents carefully!!
Hahha, poor thing

Shruthi said...

Shastri, you are right. Many of us are vegetarians by "custom". And I think each one of us has a convenient place where we draw t he line. Even in that case, when you accidentally eat chicken, I dont think it arouses in you that kind of a feeling that knowing that you have just eaten a part of a pig, does! What say ;)

Shunti, Ah, bitte schon! Pig's tongue??? Yeeeewwwww! The skin is much better! :D

Ann, :) Interesting rule :) Would love to read your thoughts!

Amit, pig's skin? ;)

Travel Plaza, so kind of you! Yeah she is already discovering stuff, and on her way to becoming an expert ;) And poor friend! Can't they give the burgers more descriptive names? :D

Bhargav, S says that he remembers that incident, but denies having eaten it :) You can settle it with him directly, heh heh!

Usha, I have learnt my lesson, and well! Thanks ;)

Viky said...

And I think each one of us has a convenient place where we draw t he line... I dont think it arouses in you that kind of a feeling that knowing that you have just eaten a part of a pig, does! What say ;)

I say there was no need for a space in the "t he" or the comma in "pig, does!"

*devilish laughter*

Anonymous said...

Germany is still not much advanced yet. It is still difficult to make people understand why we don't eat meat. In any case, fish is considered vegetarian. There are quite a few Germans who are vegetarians but they eat fish. So, one has to explicitly say " Keine Fisch". Living in Germany in the past 4 years has taught me to be very careful. I have now learnt to live on boiled potatoes. ;)

Kulpreet said...

This is my fisrst visit to ur blog.
Being an author, let me admit: you write well.

Yes, life for veggies is indeed very difficult abroad, in fact anywhere outside the Indian subcontinent.

Srik said...

Hallucinations or hibernations!! ;)

Waiting for ur new lessons.....impatiently, professor!!

Anonymous said...

Prof, Its high time you post another article pls... Its runs in family is too old now :-)

Shastri said...

Yes, of course, all of us have a convenient place where we draw the line.
Just wanted to quote this passage from ಪೂರ್ಣಚಂದ್ರ ತೇಜಸ್ವಿ's book ಪರಿಸರದ ಕಥೆ. I am quoting from memory so might not be verbatim.

ಕೆಲವು ಜಾತಿಯ ಜನರು ಕೆಲವು ಪ್ರಾಣಿಗಳನ್ನು ತಿನ್ನುವುದು ನಿಷಿಧ್ಧ. ಶ್ರೀರಾಮ್ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ಅವೆಲ್ಲ ಅರ್ಥಹೀನ. ತಿನ್ನಬಹುದು ಎಂದಾದರೆ ಏನನ್ನಾದರೂ ತಿನ್ನಬಹುದು ಎಂದು ಅವರ ಅಭಿಮತ. ಕನಿಷ್ಠ ಆ ವಿಷಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಅವರು ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ಜಾತ್ಯಾತೀತ. ತಾತ್ವಿಕವಾಗಿ ನಾನೂ ಅದನ್ನು ಒಪ್ಪುತ್ತೇನಾದರೂ, ಕೆಲವು ಪ್ರಾಣಿಗಳ ಮಾಂಸ ತಿನ್ನಲು ನನಗೆ ಒಳಗೊಳಗೇ ಅಸಹ್ಯವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಆದರೆ ಶ್ರೀರಾಮ್‍ರ ಶಿಷ್ಯಂದಿರಾದ ಕಡಿದಾಳ್ ದಯಾನಂದ (?), ಗಾಂಗೇಯ ಮೊದಲಾದವರು ಇನ್ನೂ ಒಂದು ಹೆಜ್ಜೆ ಮುಂದೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಪ್ರಾಣಿ ಪಕ್ಷಿಗಳಲ್ಲದೇ ಕ್ರಿಮಿ-ಕೀಟಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾವುದು ರುಚಿ ಎಂಬ ಸಂಶೋಧನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ತೊಡಗಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಅವರ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ಎರಡು ಕಾಲಿನವುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮನುಷ್ಯ, ನಾಲ್ಕು ಕಾಲಿನವುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕುರ್ಚಿ, ಮೇಜು ಬಿಟ್ಟು ಬೇರೆ ಏನನ್ನಾದರೂ ತಿನ್ನಬಹುದು!!!


[for those who can not read Kannada, the last line translates to 'among two legger one, you can not eat man; among four legged, you can not eat chairs and tables. Everything else is just fine' ]

Anonymous said...

Hey, thoroughly enjoyed this post! Also the rest of the blog posts also read great! I think I have visited your blog before. Nice work... keep it going!

Shruthi said...

Viky, aha, at it again, are you? :) Laugh away, laugh away!

Gini, oh, boiled potatoes in different variations, I am sure :) Maybe at the end of your stint, you can write a recipe book on boiled potato recipes ;)

Kulpreet, Thanks a lot! :)

Srik, Good one! :)) I should seriously think of changing the name!

Anon, Ok ok, you got it!

Shastri, ha ha, good one indeed! :)

Sudipta, thank you! Of course, we did visit each other's blogs regularly a long time back... we are already acquainted ;)

Sayesha said...

Pork skin chips?? :O :O :O

Never heard of 'em before! :O

Shruthi said...

Sayesha, sigh, don't even ask! :)

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