Indians Can’t Digest Any Criticism About Their Food. This UK Prof Learns From “Idligate”


Indians Can’t Digest Any Criticism About Their Food. This UK Prof Learns From “Idligate”

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

India is a land of many cultures and traditions. Our distinct cuisines and tastes are a testimony to our diversity. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that besides our families, food is the other half that defines our identity and personality. Nothing binds Indians quite like their love for food, not even cricket. But for a country that thrives on its lip-smacking recipes and spices, any unnecessary “hot take” on our personality food isn’t welcome here. And taking on “Idligate” the past week was Desi Twitter’s reminder of the same.

Lockdown beloved Zomato asked a simple question on Twitter: “What’s that one dish you could never understand why people like soo much?” Pretty harmless, right?

Well, wrong.

While responses ranged from pav bhaji to pizza to gulab jamun, one such mention faced the wrath of South India. “Idli are the most boring things in the world,” Edward Anderson, a United Kingdom-based Professor of history and expert in India-Britain studies, wrote.

There was never a better moment to define “all hell broke loose”. The post instantly caught the attention of South Indian Twitter and idli enthusiasts, who absolutely detested such a “blasphemous” opinion.

Film producer SR Prabhu declared that “whole of South India is united through idli”.

Few left Anderson a light warning.

Others fought the good fight to uphold idli’s dignity.

The idli debacle went on to catch the interest of Ishaan Tharoor, who termed Anderson’s taste as “the most offensive take on Twitter”.

Needless to say, it eventually made it to Ishaan’s father and Thiruvananthapuram Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s timeline. And he dropped his two cents on the anti-idli sentiment that had the desis in splits.

“Civilisation is hard to acquire: the taste & refinement to appreciate idlis, enjoy cricket, or watch ottamthullal is not given to every mortal,” Sr Tharoor tweeted. “Take pity on this poor man, for he may never know what life can be.”

Anderson did his best to salvage the situation at hand. He also pointed out that his in-laws were from Kerala, hoping it would help the idli-warriors calm down.

He also expressed his fear of the “world’s most famous Idli Evangelist” aka Shashi Tharoor catching a whiff of the idli banter. But Anderson had a few tricks up his sleeve.

And while Tharoor was kind enough to drop the British man an idli recipe (like many others) that would be “the closest thing to heaven on this earth!”, Anderson decided to go ahead and just order some. “Having accidentally enraged the entirety of South India (and its omnipresent diaspora) on Twitter, it was only right to order idlis for lunch,” he tweeted. Nonetheless, his opinion remains unchanged. Just like the priorities of our politicians and media.

The worst, however, was yet to come. And you thought the US Presidential debate was the last of the tomfoolery you would see out here.

Can we take a moment to appreciate this pun, though?

For a country so fixated on food, you bet this wasn’t a one-time incident. Last year, columnist Tom Nichols was called out for his “hate” against Indian food and labelled a racist.

TBH, the clapbacks were spicier than Nichols’ hot take.

Food, as they say, is a feeling. You eat when you’re hungry, happy, sad, bored, in love, heartbroken and so on. But clearly, one bad word against Indian food and the only feeling it will evoke is anger.