Do Indian farmers eat pizza? This question has opened the door to all kinds of misinformation, with outrage being manufactured at the sight of the protesting farmers near Delhi eating pizza. Real farmers don’t eat pizzas, we are told. They eat roti, dal, chawal and sabzi, followed by a tall, frothing glass of lassi, because that’s the image that is most convenient for us to believe — just as convenient as the image of a farmer who, having worked hard all day, goes to bed happy in the knowledge that mehnat ka phal meetha hota hai. The bitter fruits of reality — ever-decreasing margins, rising debts, frequent crop failures — might as well not exist.
So let us reframe the question: Can farmers eat pizza? The answer is why not? What is pizza, really? At its most basic, pizza is a food whose primary ingredient, wheat, is grown by these very farmers. It’s cheap, easy to eat and is widely available across India, including the city at whose borders the protestors have been camping for nearly three weeks. And, yes, it is delicious and filling. But let’s ask that question one last time, and get it absolutely right this time: Why shouldn’t farmers eat pizza? Before it became one of the most globalised fast foods, it was a humble peasant dish of flatbread, tomatoes and cheese from Naples, Italy. The modern pizza is, in its own way, a marker of class distinctions — not least in India — but it does frequently breach these lines to be eaten and enjoyed even by those who can’t afford San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella. They simply make do with tomato ketchup and processed Indian cheese.
And, finally, pizza is the ultimate shareable food. By its very design, it is meant to be eaten by a group of people, sitting companionably and reaching over each other’s shoulders to grab a slice. For a protest marked by such a sense of solidarity and fellowship as the ongoing farmers’ protests, pizza is, then, the food that makes the most symbolic sense.