I have learned over the years that when I make up my mind on something, it is very difficult to change it. It is extremely tough for me to displace deep rooted perceptions, especially when it comes to things I am enthusiastic about, such as politics, people, cricket, and food. But I know it is not impossible.
Consider bananas. As a kid I detested them. I remember having them once, and then getting into the vicious circle of vomiting everytime I consumed bananas. The fear of bananas would dominate the rest of my childhood and teenage years, with me skipping the coconut oil smelling wafers from Kerala, or the refreshing banana milk shakes made at home.
A couple of years back during my post-jaundice recovery cycles, I came across banana again. Used to spending significant time outside home over weekends, I faced the challenge of not eating anything outside home. Fruits in this case turned out to be my savior. Bored of apple, papaya, and pomegranate, and frustrated at the prospect of not eating mangoes for a complete season, I met banana again. But this time our encounter was pleasantly different. The mushiness of the fruit, its sweet starchiness reminiscent of a gooey aloo sheera (sweet prepared from mashed potatoes), and its distinct smell oozed flavors rather than the earlier nausea-inducing fumes.
I had embraced bananas.
And I realized that it is not that difficult to change your mind.
Consider brinjals or eggplants. I absolutely hated brinjals. Be it in curried form, roasted and mashed form (bharta), or the fried form (baigun bhaja). I didn’t know many kids around who loved it either. I would pick on the potatoes in the preparation and completely neglect the bhaja served with the durga pujo bhog.
But then a few years back on my visit to Anandvan (Baba Amte’s ashram near Chandrapaur), I was served a brownish-red curry of potatoes and brinjal. There was strong whiff of chilly in the air and one could have simply guessed the burning aftertaste of the dish. My love for chilies made me accept brinjals that day, and the relationship blossomed with plates of dohi-baigun, baigun bhaja, aloo-baingan, bharwa baingan, bharta, and baba ghanoush being consumed over the coming years. And yes I loved its flavors combining with a tangy, slightly ripened goat cheese on my recent trip to Spain.
I accepted brinjals too.
But can I ever accept pigs? I don’t think so.
As kids I always thought of pigs as the epitome of uncleanliness. There huge families walked in a neat file, often in not so neat surroundings. The grunts were unbearable, and so was there mere presence in the surrounding. I remember playing cricket during my summer vacations at either Jabalpur or Devas, some of our best shots hitting the pigs, resulting in weird noises and bonus runs. But the person who had hit the ball was always supposed to bring it back. Sometimes intelligent mammals (as told to us in Biology classes), sometimes cute (in movies such as Babe), and occasionally susceptible to human-like behavior (In the Orwellian world of Animal Farm), pigs were still nothing more than dirty creatures to me.
I always thought, for a moment I can probably leave aside my religious belief and eat beef, but I will never ever eat pig’s meat.
But I was wrong, at least for sometime.
I first tried bacon with eggs. The saltiness didn’t work for me. I tried some sausages. They were tasty, but still I couldn’t get the thought of pigs out of my head. I was hesitant in trying pork chops, goan sausages, and other piggy delicacies, as it was very difficult to get rid of those images of pigs rolling in filth.
On my trip to Spain I came across Jamón- dry cured ham from Spain. Given it is one of Spain’s most famous food items, I had to give it shot. I tried everything, from the regular cured ham coming from white pigs (serrano) to the acorn fed ibérico. Nothing ever worked. Be it with crackers, montaditos (Spanish mini sandwiches), or with eggs, it was a difficult barrier for me to overcome. The waxy shiny surface of Jamón strips, bubbling with droplets of fat were inviting, but then a bite through its chewy structure was always followed by a certain set of images. Although there were moments of affection spent in the company of chorizo sausages, I still didn’t feel any pleasure in eating pigs.
So will I ever embrace it? Might give it another chance. But will I learn to stop worrying? Never.