Why Kodavas eat pork and not beef – Part 1/2

Coming back, all said & done I am sure the land was infested with Kadu-pandi (wild boars), the ancestors of present day domesticated pigs. Boars also known as suid, sus scrofa, wild swine & Eurasian wild pig, etc., are originated in Asia but where I have no idea!! Till the arrival & settling of Chandravama & Co., the land perhaps was filled with scores of free roaming wild animals. With no one to fear except the tigers and maybe leopards, & with plenty of water bodies/swamp, greens, roots & games, the highly adaptable hogs must have ruled the land with polle-pandi (female – sow). With the arrival of the humans & their farm lands & their domesticated animals it must have been a feast for the hogs.

The boars are opportunistic omnivores with voracious appetite (hence the term eat like a hog) & will eat anything that they can lay their hand sorry mouth on. I wonder how strong their long nose & lip must be as they plough anywhere & everywhere including under the bamboo bush which is hard surface to access. They are habitual rooters along with their strong nose in a constant search for food. With snouts to the ground, they eagerly push away the soil in search of tasty morsels including mushrooms. With their acute sense of smell acting as a guide, the dig-up gaily any rooted crops like colacasia, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric, etc. In the quite of the night months of work destroyed overnight. They affect agronomic crops as well as pasturelands, staying in an area long enough to devour its resources before moving on & crops like cardamom bushes are destroyed overnight. Vegetable patches, paddy fields, sugar cane plantation, you name it they attack it. They not only eat but also destroy everything beyond repair. I have seen their power of destruction with my own eyes when I was young. As a little girl I remember my father going wild-boar Bote (hunting) & it was/is considered a delicacy. Once killed it is usually shared among the hunters, neighbors & relatives, & at times dried for later use.

The boars are widest ranging mammals in the world as well as the most widely spread & their adaptability is the secret of their survival. They attack when they fancy, mostly moving in packs. Boars will mate with any sow in season, often battling for the opportunity but just does not perform any familial duties. The species lives in matriarchal societies, a sow herd consisting of young males, inter related females & their kutty (piglets – young ones). The groups known as drifts or sounder travel together as well as back each other against danger. Piglets likes to play, running around in circles & chaseing each other, barking & grunting in delight. Like most mothers sow is a superb protectoress & fearless when it comes to the protection of her young & they can form cooperative groups, & in danger they sound shrieking squeal & are smart enough to place their piglets in the center of their vicious circle of snapping, foaming jaws. However fully grown strong robust males are usually solitary outside of the breeding season. The matured ones with their powerful fangs are very ferocious & are capable of attacking humans & other mammals.

The law of jungle, the survival of the fittest & a hunger game of the yore.. Showcases the naked truth: Either you eat them or they will let you starve to death!! Or even you might become the victim… So the wise men/women seem to have come up with the indigenous idea. Instead of killing them outright why not make them the food? Against the back drop of mass killing of scores of foxes in New World by the newly arrived immigrant just because they linked the fox to witch craft back home or killing of tigers & elephants for fun.. or for that matter the recent killing spree of the over populated wild camels in Australia. But controlling the menace & making use of it is really ingenious!! Seems one of the most practical & smart idea from every angle. Everyone has to pay a price during the process of the cycle of evolution, why not make it advantageous? That’s what I would call the Art of Resource Management!!

Thus began the pork culture of Kodagu & became part & parcel of their culture. To go further they invented the perfect masala & vinegar which is laudable. I bet with you that no one can prepare pandi-curry like the Kodavas do!! The ruby red meat cooked with kartha (black) masala & kachumpuli is exceptional!! Kachumpuli also acts against the tape worms* & also reduces fat from the body. They also have chillie pork another specialty & of course the famous pandi chudukuva & the dry pork preparation. (I will post the recipe some time later). They also found a perfect combination kadambutt (round steamed rice balls) with the locally grown rice to go with it. So now it is the most famous combination not only with the Kodavas but also with the visitors, which strangely could be enjoyed any part of the day. Pandi-curry also goes well with otti (rice roti), taliyaput (cousin of idli), etc.

Kodavas made the boar hunting part of their sport activity too by organizing the group hunting trips. Annual Kailpodu (equivalent to Aayuda pooja) is the first festival of the year for Kodavas, just after they finish their transplantation work as an antidote for both the tired body as well as the pallet. Moreover they have to guard their future paddy crop & ensure the family is well fed throughout the year. So all the weapons, like guns, swords etc., resting in the Kanni Kombare (the prayer room) comes out, well cleaned & polished. Kodavas could keep the guns at home without license until a decade ago. Now we Kodavas can still keep the gun but with a license. The bravery & the necessity & of course the wise usage of gun had prompted the Britishers not to withdraw the guns from Kodavas also. Guess Kodavas were the only privileged ones in that respect in whole of India, like kukri for Ghurkas & kripan for Sikhs.

It is noteworthy that Kodavas don’t kill or eat piglings/piglet or the mothers in consideration to Mother Nature (obey the law of nature) & also to ensure both the supply as well as not to push them towards extinction. I remember my father telling me that no one on earth has the right to take the life of a (any) baby or deprive the baby of its mother. What a lesson passed on & included in our culture by our forefathers. Hats off to their forethoughts & it shows how advanced thinker they were. No wonder Kodava culture treats their children as poo-kunjis (child delicate as a flower) irrespective of the sex without gender bias.

In olden days, a day before the wedding the family used to organize boar hunting to throw banquet to their guests along with other mouthwatering delicacies. With the increasing population of people pouring into Kodagu, the boars have dwindled & hunting boar is prohibited which makes it a tradition of the past. However, the pork still stayed on as delicacy in their pallets along with scores of their dishes.

Basically boars (pigs) are clean & does not urinate of defecate in their sleeping quarters. With their thick skin, Boars are extremely heat sensitive & to cool themselves they roll in mud or wade in water. Pigs like to scratch & rub against trees, fencing & anything they deem fit. This also help them rid of parasites. It’s widely accepted fact that any animal that are allowed to roam & forage freely will be healthier & richer tasting than the farm fed as the muscle-enhancing movement generates a deeper, more flavorful meat. Logically the feral hog meat should be healthier than we give credit for as they are free roaming souls & eats loads of different roots & vegetables. It is said that hogs also eat small insects, birds & mammals if & when they can lay their mouth on.

I remember reading in many Southern parts of USA they are facing the problems with hogs especially the Texan… may be they can take lessons from our forefather’s Art of using Resources to their advantage than wiping out like the fox population… It can be used as a closed-loop system for sustainable meat: landowners can recover costs by selling their trapped pigs, & consumer can have the opportunity to eat some truly exceptional meat at a cheaper rate.

* Because of their constant contact with the soil, the boars are susceptible to tape worm infestation which could be passed on to humans unless the meat is cooked well. This is also applies to leafy vegetables grown in the infested soil so its wiser to wash the leaves especially the ones consumed raw such as coriander, lettuce, etc., in salt water. interesting winery incident on it later.

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