In a last-minute decision, the National Museum has barred non-vegetarian dishes from being served at Historical Gastronomica, a weeklong exhibition-cum-event on culinary history that offers “the Indus dining experience” through an “ethno-archaeological kitchen of the Harappan culture” on the museum lawn from February 19 to 25.
Organised jointly by the National Museum, the Ministry of Culture and One Station Million Stories (OSMS), a private firm, the event’s menu with vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, along with an invitation for online booking, was showcased on the museum website and also on social media by the government.
On Tuesday, however, the museum cited unspecified rules and asked OSMS to not serve non-vegetarian food during the event.
While sources in the Ministry of Culture said that “a couple of MPs” reacted to the menu shared by the ministry online, additional director general Subrata Nath denied knowledge of any “external interference” in the matter.
Asked about the rules cited by the museum, Nath said: “Actually, there is no rule as such. But we have to respect the museum’s tradition. So we emailed the private organisers yesterday.”
On other museums, such as IGNCA, NMML and crafts museum, not having any such curbs, Nath said: “I won’t comment on what others do. This museum has so many idols of gods and goddesses, and a relic of Lord Buddha. International dignitaries visit this museum. We have to consider these sensitivities here.”
Explained: What did the Harappan people really eat?
On why the government cleared and advertised the non-vegetarian menu in the first place, Nath claimed that the OSMS did not discuss the issue in detail. “Their Harappan menu is very well researched but they should not have opted for the non-veg dishes. In any case, we had a discussion and were able to avoid just in time what could have become an embarrassment.”
OSMS has stopped accepting bookings for the non-vegetarian tasting menu and dinners. The dishes that are no longer available include fish in turmeric stew, quail/fowl/country chicken roasted in Saal leaf, offal’s pot, bati with dry fish, meat fat soup, lamb liver with chick-pea, dried fish and Mahua oil chutney.
Somi Chatterjee, one of the directors of OSMS, did not respond to phone calls and emails from The Indian Express seeking comment.
According to OSMS’s promotional material, curating the Harappan menu involved research in identifying ingredients and general dietary patterns, and “connecting the dots — from material found in the Indus-Saraswati Valley and its inland and foreign trade network with Mesopotamia and Egypt and later traditions”
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