Weaving my way through Naga bazaar, in search of an address, it feels like Sausage land. Creepy Crawlies on sale everywhere. Nothing, it appears is inedible. Platters of dog meat line the sidewalk. Animal entrails hang in the air. Intestine. Lungs. All minimally cooked & eaten with relish, for the region boasts no culinary skills whatsoever. Unlike other meat loving areas where food is painstakingly cooked aided by an assortment of aromatic spices & garnish, here it is simply a matter of putting it into a pot of boiling hot water with a dash of chilly & salt. And, Hey presto, a meal is ready. Eaten with rice it is delicious too. By all accounts.
So what do we have here? Grasshoppers. Insects. Both enemies of agricultural crops. The variety is astonishing as is the price. Frog, snail & caterpillar at Rs 200/Rs 200/Rs 300 a kg. Well, snail is good for the eyes. Or didn’t you know. Pork goes for Rs 170. Beef is at 120 & chicken 150.
This information was gleaned from my host Zhavi Wiso. “Sorry,” I tell him. I don’t mean to be rude but I just gotta know “. He can’t see what the fuss is all about & readily gives a low down.
Cow is reared for meat & dung. Not milk. A cow in Nagaland is small in size & yields little milk.
Pigs are reared for meat. They are healthy & clean & slaughtered during festivals to be distributed among friends & neighbors.
Dog meat @ 400 is a delicacy. It comes from dogs reared in farms in Assam & smuggled across the border. 60 – 70, put into sacks & transported in an Alto. (The north east accounts for the largest sale of Maruti cars in the country) If caught police levy a charge of Rs 70 an animal. Call it a fine, tax, bribe or what you will.
And not only is it a delicacy, but is a cure for malaria & tuberculosis as well.
My contact in Assam vehemently rubbished this story. There were no dog farms, he said. “The Nagas enter our villages like marauders & make off with the strays. Fed up with the menace the locals sell these for a fast buck sometimes.”
By now I have turned vegetarian, inside out & crave some comfort food for sustenance. There are ‘Rice Hotels’ galore. So called, because they serve only rice/not roti, together with —-you know what. They look dingy & uninviting. This option is therefore completely ruled out. At the Ozone Café later in the day I have a passable vegetable sandwich with a mug of steaming hot coffee & music for the soul. On the way home I pick up small eats & a Naga cake (made out of rice flour) This is to be breakfast for the next 4 days as most restaurants in Kohima do not open until well past noon. A vegetarian can easily subsist on a diet of sandwich & noodles. The helpings are large but you would be hard put to locate the vegetable in the dish. Quite surprising really as there is plenty to be seen around the market
Much to our amusement Mr Wiso Senior expounds on his philosophy of food.
Why did God create plants? For animals
Why did God create animals? For man
Why do other people die of animal/insect bite? Only because it is not part of their diet
Asked to explain the anomaly of his keeping a dog as a pet, Wiso pats Snowy on the head & says: “ O, we can eat our pet. We often do. I once ate mine after keeping him for 4 years.”
Then with a twinkle in the eyes.” If pet disobeys we give capital punishment”
“ Does it not sadden you?”
“ I once tried to hammer a dog to death but missed. Instead of the head I hit him on the face & saw tears roll down his cheeks.
(This is the preferred mode I discovered. Was witness to it once & man was it grisly!)
That day I felt a little sad……. But I ate …………..
Silk worms. I do not eat”