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From Beef to Beep, yet food fest cancelled in Kolkata

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Kolkata is not new to food festivals. Rather this is one city where food fests are celebrated with the same fervor as Durga Puja is presented. All round the year several food festivals take place in the city, drawing huge crowds, from Pithe Puli Utsav to Mango festivals, to Jamai Shashthi to Hilsa fests. Bengalis are after all great worshippers of gastronomic delights. Yet, it came as a complete shock, when a Beef Food Festival of Kolkata had to be called off due to several threat calls. 

A city that once upon a time took pride in serving the best of non-vegetarian dishes, where a Bengali’s Sunday lunch was never complete without that kochi panther jhol or the typical Bangali styled mutton curry, where Christmas was celebrated with the Turkey and Roast Pork buffet lunch, Ramzan with the best of kebabs and Haleem on Zakaria Street, suddenly had to put a stop to a Beef Food Festival.

Was it then the name ‘Beef’ that irked a section of the city in this new intolerant cow vigilante India? May be yes, that’s why to save their skin, the name of the festival was changed by the organisers to ‘Beep.’ Unfortunately, they could not save their idea of holding such a festival and despite several advance bookings, they had to finally call off a food fest from a ‘food loving’ city. I was just wondering what the reaction would have been if the festival was called ‘Kochi Panthar Utsav’ or even ‘Harek Machher Utsav’ or something like ‘Chinky Chicken Fest?’ or even ‘Porkaholic Fest?’ They are all meat forms, yet one name sends shivers through even an apolitical food festival. Beef! It is said there were more than 300 threat calls within minutes and the organisers could not afford to take a risk. 

What would have Swami Vivekananda said had he been alive? Who doesn’t know that he had cooked delicious non-vegetarian dishes, including beef balls for his disciples and loved learning recipes from a Muslim cook who was a part of his paternal household kitchen. But this gradual food intolerance has been silently invading our daily lives for almost a decade. I remember my son in his school was often hounded by his non-Bengali strictly vegetarian friends for taking an egg sandwich for his tiffin. When I made a French Toast one day, he just said ‘no.’ I was thus not surprised when the Beef Festival had to be stopped. Were you?