National myths and lies

Few myths persist longer than those referring to the customs of different nationalities, even more so when these reflect the eating habits of the country in question. We all know that a Texan is happiest eating a huge T-bone steak accompanied by endless Buds, or that the Norwegians eat rotten fish washed down with aquavit. So everlasting are these stereotypes that even after we have witnessed a Texan eating bellota ham and drinking fino de Jerez, or a Norwegian cooking steak Wellington and opening a bottle of Planter's Punch, nothing makes us change our impressions. Nearer home it is a given that all Spanish people live off the healthy Mediterranean diet, the French cannot survive without their frogs' legs and Bordeaux wine, or the Russians without their caviar and vodka.

Our imagination works overtime even though we know we are involved in a typecasting that is both valueless and misleading. But we manage to live with it, and even have a bit of fun at the expense of the poor victims - behind their backs of course. Rather less amusing is the discovery that someone somewhere is trying to create a false impression for whatever reason. This is exactly the case with Indian national gastronomic stereotypes, and the Indian government is behind the proliferation of the fable.

Most of us believe India to be a vegetarian country, where cows are sacred and never eaten. In fact meat-eating is far more widespread than we imagine, and the Hindu 80% of the population does not go short of chicken, goat and other types of meat. This was revealed in a recent American study of Indian eating habits, and has blown the myth of India being a mainly vegetarian country out of the water. Fake news indeed, fostered by the government on behalf of the Hindus, and although nobody gets hurt in the process it is difficult to see the point of it all. If the process of fabricating national myths becomes widespread, we may even find that the Spanish, instead of living off fruit and vegetables, olive oil, and blue fish, actually prefer roast suckling pig.