Tafel-spitz, Schweine-braten, Gulyas, Gschnetzeltes Kalbsfleish and the humble Wurst in over 1000 varieties! These are just a few names of the many local dishes that you come across in Europe. Unfortunately though I won’t be able to give you a culinary account of the above dishes.
Travel is just not for your sense of sight. A good journey should involve a thorough stimulation of all five human senses. In my opinion, the 2nd most important responsibility of a traveller is to ensure his palate is constantly acquiring new tastes though food enthusiasts may argue otherwise and shift it up to the top.
Unfortunately for this nomadic Hindu, it is not always possible to do so. You see, it’s that whole holy cow issue that we are famous for around the world and at the table-centre of many food quips.
I am not going to explain the religious reasons for this not eating beef thingy because firstly I am actually a bit hazy on why exactly myself and secondly if you know anything about Hinduism then you’ll know the texts are broken down in the time periods it happened and each time period the many Gods depending on their skills and moods I guess, took different Avatars to wipe out whatever evil they had to and which in turn made for more stories and reasons and depending on which part of India you descend from, each story is then slightly varied according to the local translations and depending on how sober the translator was at the time. So no matter which timeline and grid axis you follow you will eventually come to an explanation (oh but you will!) and you can choose whatever reasons take your fancy. For me, I guess the one I have stuck with and actually haven’t felt compelled to question is that cows are symbolically seen as a mother-figure since she sustains us with her milk. (An explanation I would not extend to the fact that I have lately acquired a taste for goat-cheese!) Our parents brought us up in this manner and it was only till such a time they could actually impose their beliefs on us. However even through an extensive atheistic period in my life, I still did not contest this belief. I’m not sure why. Some of my siblings have chosen to depart from this belief, which makes the rare family dinners a bit awkward, but then family dinners are always problematic especially in our household!
Anyway so this small choice has a big big impact on my travels. That means I can’t take advantage of the specials at the pub, choices are limited and sometimes it looks like a miss-out on some bloody good grub! It takes a longer time for me to decide where to eat and leaves me an in awkward position to explain that no I’m not vegetarian…and it doesn’t end there. I don’t eat pork either! But lets not go there.
I am a big fan of trying out local dishes and usually do a tsk-tsk-and-shake-of-my-head-thing when I see hoards of tourists in McDonalds’ and Starbucks especially in cities like Vienna.
Sometimes our personal beliefs can overshadow our passions. However I don’t let this choice preside over my life. I am not a zealous follower who goes over each and every other ingredients of a product to determine whether it is safe to eat. If the label says chicken, great I’ll take your word for it. I know for a fact that most restaurants have the same beef gravy that they serve over all their dishes including the schnitzels (my favorite pub food); do I make a fuss about it? No. That, I am ok with.
The thing with religious choices are that it may haven been passed on to us by the generations, but the choice remains with us if we want to carry it through and it is also our choice to the degree we carry it with. In the end, it is between you and your God and whatever it takes to click between the two of you.
The most popular question I get – “If you were in a survival situation and hadn’t eaten for days, would you consider eating beef?” My answer: “If in that situation, I would vote myself team leader and move the motion that we eat the weakest person in the group so we can all live. I have a feeling that that person might be you!”