Great wars can be fought over food, and it isn’t restricted to Biryani or Pizza anymore. Comfy and humble foods too have ardent fans and you shouldn’t mess with them, at least on the Internet. Recently, British daily The Guardian wrote an article on jackfruit and how the fruit has become a “vegan sensation”. The article written by Zoe Williams went viral but not for the reasons the author would have liked, as it angered jackfruit-loving people not only from India but also from many parts South-East Asia, where it is enjoyed a lot.
Writing about the national fruit of Bangladesh and state fruit of Kerala, the writer in her article wrote, “The Indian fruit used to be left to rot on the tree, but has become a fashionable meat substitute.” The statement triggered a negative response from desi ‘chakka’ and ‘kathal’ lovers as they argued, the fruit is consumed widely by Indians in both its raw and ripe condition. Also highlighting how the fruit is not exclusive to just India but is widely available and consumed by many other tropical countries.
“A spectacularly ugly, smelly, unfarmed, unharvested pest-plant native to India,” the article continued to describe the tropical fruit which many saw as a slander. “Some people ate it, but only if they had nothing better to eat,” the article read.
As the writer tried to highlight how jackfruit became a hit meat substitute among vegans only in 2017 and many international brands like Starbucks used it in their vegan wraps, many highlighted how it has forever been compared to taste like meat and even has a name, gachh pantha (lamb of the tree) at least in Bengal.
While some questioned the research that went in writing the article, others dubbed it as “food racism” online, slamming the newspaper and its writer. Many also wondered why it isn’t a thing until discovered by the western world and blasted the writer for her “colonial hangover.
This isn’t just offensive it’s… spectacularly ignorant? Like, how culturally unaware do you have to be to write an article like this?? https://t.co/lqixANo58V
— Nuri Tal (@CastNuri) March 30, 2019
Why is it that only if the Western world says ‘yes’ then it’s acceptable/fashionable food? It’s an insult to the people who eat jackfruit/ackee etc to be told these are weird. Totally disrespectful article @guardian Please get someone authentic to write about these foods. https://t.co/5p1aOB6kP3
— Susmita Bhattacharya (@Susmitatweets) March 30, 2019
Hey @zoesqwilliams your story in the guardian is bullshit.. without any basis you’ve claimed that Jackfruit rots on trees in India.. have you even BEEN to India? Doubt it !!
— #Chowkidar Rammohan B Alurkar 🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳 (@RammohanAlurkar) March 30, 2019
@zoesqwilliams told my Bengali mum about your jackfruit article. She was not happy. She said the writer needs to go and talk to an Indian or Bengali grandma. We make chutneys, biryani, feed it to the cows, you can eat the blossoms with salt and pepper and tamarind
— S (@scootinby) March 30, 2019
“Pinterest named it as one of the hottest food trends in 2017”
I am so over these western “food trends”. EVERY single one of them have been around for CENTURIES and are staples in many non-western diets. https://t.co/RAv4S4dT6r
— Iman (@peakiman) March 30, 2019
.@zoesqwilliams your @guardian article about Jackfruit is uneducated and racist. Jackfruit has for example been used in Indonesian cuisine (Gudeg) for many, many years. Your claims about its status 5 years ago are 100% bullshit. @guardian you should delete this article, its false
— Dave (@the_bitter_end) March 30, 2019
White people ran out of countries to colonise, so now they’re colonising our fruit https://t.co/vcJqH0OFE6
— ꦲꦶꦏ꧀ꦩꦃ (@hikkuT) March 30, 2019
There is literally a jackfruit tree growing in the backyard of my childhood home, and probs a ton of SEAsian homes as well. SEAsian vegans also have been using jackfruit as a meat sub since the movt started in this region. White people are so tiring honestly?? https://t.co/DJGquYVGFd
— 🌿 tita niyong lahat 🌿 (@yourtitakate) March 30, 2019
Y’all we have DIFFERENT preparations of DIFFERENT stages of the jackfruit in Bengali cuisine. Let me go back home to my cookbook/notes but off the top of my head, kathal bichir jhol, the seeds in a soup. Echorer dalna, the fruit in a curry. This is making me personally offended.
— Pratiti (@DebPratiti) March 29, 2019
This article is written from a completely western and white perspective and shows a clear lack of understanding of food journalism. Zoe’s first encounter of Jackfruit was in @Starbucks, which is not her fault but is she really the right person to be commissioned to write this?
— Katrina (@katrinamirpuri) March 29, 2019
@guardian @zoesqwilliams I suggest you look up Arthur V. Dias and his Jackfruit campaign in Sri Lanka (1918). I don’t really know what people in Kerala were doing, but I assure you that Jackfruit has been a staple part of Sri Lankan diet for well over a century.
— Nisansa de Silva (@NisansaDdS) March 29, 2019
Really? @guardian @zoesqwilliams Just because the West has discovered it doesn’t mean it wasn’t eaten (and relished) before. And no: a food item doesn’t win the lottery just because it’s now trendy in London #colonialhangover https://t.co/R8QpW9qDeZ pic.twitter.com/VPAJzUcRcu
— Priyanka (@priyankalind) March 28, 2019
— Dilini Algama (@dilinialgama) March 28, 2019
@jackfruit the ubiquitous ‘chakka’. I remember in Kerala , starting summer this vegetable /fruit found its way into every dish that you had to run mile to avoid getting it in your plate .Every part was food, unripe ripe, pericarp, seed ,pulp, chammini…
— sarath chandran (@pockyarsarat) March 28, 2019
75% thrown away? Who told you this and whats the source? In kerala, ripe jackfruit is prime product and there a dozen varieties of it.Some are eatem raw, some cooked. We dont even spare the seeds! Im from kerala..
— Rohit രോഹിത് (@rohit24r) March 29, 2019
And while we’re at it, can we stop pretending that we vegans discovered or have “levelled” up food items like jackfruit, tofu, or banana blossom which have been integral part of culinary cuisines for c e n t u r i e s
— John (@jjsvegankitchen) March 29, 2019
The @guardian seems to have enraged many Indians about jackfruit.
In West Bengal it’s well loved and known as ‘gacher patta’ (lamb of the tree).
But I’m not sure I’d personally go to war over it. Though am happy to watch from a bunker …
— Saptarshi Ray (@Saptarshi_Ray) March 29, 2019
The article suggested three ways to eat the fruit — stewed to make “pulled jackfruit”, as fried patty burger and as “base mulch” like toppings for tacos. Now, people who have been consuming it for ages want to teach the writer the right way to have it — the traditional way.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines