Curried pig and I: Part One

by Gautam Raja

“The creatures outside looked from pandhi curry to man, and from man to pandhi curry, and from pandhi curry to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
George Orwell in Animal Farm, writing about me

‘Pandhi’ means ‘pig’, and a translator would be forgiven for rendering it ‘pork’ in this context. But ‘pork curry’ doesn’t begin to convey the sheer hoggishness of this dish. Pandhi curry to me, will always translate to pig curry, the very word ‘pig’ being like a hungry gulp: beginning at the lips, passing through the mouth and going down the throat.

Pandhi curry is among my top five favourite dishes in the world. This isn’t to suggest there’s a neat list, but rather a scrimmage, with at least ten dishes jostling for first place. Pandhi curry is, to my swinish, belly-worshipping self, one of the crowning achievements of the Coorg or Kodava community.

The curry is traditionally made from wild boar hunted in the forests of the Western Ghats, is served at special occasions. Pork in India is still as fatty as Gluttony itself, so it’s a meal that’s unhealthful beyond measure, especially if you, like any self-respecting Coorg, know that “the fat is the best part”.

The Coorgs are the perfect Indian community for reasons I will list after this message:

I would like to state that if you are a Coorg reading this and are outraged that I reduce your community to such an insulting, stereotypical, matchstick-man sketch, let me remind you my wife is Coorg. What’s the most you’ll do? Leave an angry comment? Send me hateful e-mail? Hah, I say, hah. Once my wife reads this, and read it she will, I will be (just as in those Russian fairy tales we read as children) drubbed to within an inch of my life.

Now the reasons the Coorgs are great:

1)In India, where almost all traditional weddings are meat-free, and, I dare say, all alcohol free (I’m talking about the actual wedding here), the Coorgs serve pork fry and let you watch the ceremony from the bar, sipping on a rum and Coke. (Not if you’re the bride or groom though. If you’re the bride or groom and watching the ceremony from the bar, sipping on a rum and Coke, you will be exculpscoriated. Unless you’re the groom, then they’ll think you’re Da Man. It is sad, but brideses have less leeway on such matters.)
2)The wedding ceremony involves everybody lining up to hand you envelopes of cash.
3)If you get married at the Kodava Samaj in Bangalore (the cultural home of the Bangalore Coorgs), you will find that the main food hall has tables at each of the cardinal points, all serving the non-vegetarian food. Somewhere at the back of the hall is an open door, with a sign saying “Vegetarian”, pointing outside the building. I don’t know where that door led, and none of my all-carnivorous friends and family do either. The popular theory is that the sign pointed to the Ramesh Cafe (100% Veg.) down the road.

Part Two