Globalisation and sacred cows


by El Cid
25th March, 2006 at 5:24 am    

I always suspected that my outlook on life would alter radically from that of a benefit-dependant child in a single-parent urban immigrant family to something more bourgeois once I had a mortgage. That is, once I had a material stake in society.

I may have been an apologist for the Soviets for a while and spellbound by Rousseau and Marx, but Trotsky’s permanent revolution never did it for me, while Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot merely confirmed my misgivings.

I was always on the right of the Labour Party — New Labour if you will, with strong views on law & order, equality of opportunity rather than equality of income, universal health care and national advancement. But this is different. Some is happening to me, politically. I’m getting nostalgic.

Just the other day I was chatting to a Bengali colleague. He was telling me about New Delhi and how it was changing fast: “You can still see cows on the streets. I kind of like that though.” I knew exactly what he meant.

Globalisation brings modernity, economic development, lifts standards of living, brings us into greater contact with each other. But it also makes the world a less diverse, and by extension, less interesting place.

If it was a straight choice between filling people’s bellies or celebrating the diversity of human life, then the socialist and humanist in me would always choose the former. But it never is that black and white.

If I go to a market in northern France I might see a few Normandy cheeses and cider but I also expect to see a lot of tat. Question is, does it have to be exactly the same faux exotic or twee tat I see in London markets?

Similarly, they could do a lot to improve TV in Spain but I would be disappointed if I didn’t get a chance to grimace at the odd televised bullfight. I also despise the thousands of coastal restaurants that do a roaring trade in Spain selling egg and chips or bratwurst and sauerkraut to foreign tourists.

Which brings me to Blighty and to something I never imagined would matter to me: what exactly is wrong with the pint, stone and mile?

Don’t get me wrong: I liked the move to decimals — much easier. I’m also a celsius and centimetre man. But enough is enough. So there is some global corporate logic to making everything the same. And? So what? I would wager that foreigners deep down probably like the fact that we serve our beer in pints, drive on the wrong side of the road and travel distances in miles.

I know, I know — tradition is a central pillar of Conservatism, the type expounded by Edmund Burke as opposed to Lady Thatcher. And preserving the status quo is usually about looking after priviliged interests.

For example, subsidising traditional family-owned French farms in order to preserve the link between the land and food we eat also shuts out theoretically poorer Third World farmers. But then respecting other people’s traditions in the name of multiculturalism can also trample on hard-fought home-grown rights considered universal.

So is tradition always the enemy of progressive politics?

—————————–
Article from El Cid’s blog at zones2and3


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Culture,The World






62 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. Jay Singh — on 25th March, 2006 at 12:10 pm  

    I don’t think that globalisation always brings homogeneity. I think that it stimulates local cultures to replicate things with local flavour and style. The whole phenomenon of globalisation and its effect on individual cultures is too diverse and varied to say it is absolutely a big bad monster wiping out difference, or that it is all good.

  2. Stephen — on 25th March, 2006 at 1:08 pm  

    Yeah I work in C London and keep thinking it has reached stuaration for crap coffee/sandwich chains–only to be proved wrong.

    Globalisation is as much about seeing small family run Chinese, Turkish, Indian, Brazilian etc..etc.. restaurants and shops all over the world as it is about Starbucks.

    My favourite restaurant in Glasgow is Stravaigan because they use great scottish ingredients in season– cheeses, seafoods and game but spice it up with european and world flavours.

    Actually I think its only with the introduction of new tastes from abroad that we learned to appreciate some of our own beers, cheeses and produce — and actually take them seriously and make them better.

  3. Robert — on 25th March, 2006 at 2:45 pm  

    Well said Stephen – It all depends on who is doing the globalising, and who is practicing the traditions!

    If globalisation allows people to live, think, and mix in a variety of new ways, then it is a champion of diversity. Where it ensures that everyone drinks the same coffee, the same pint, or reads the same book about a wizard, then we see homogenisation creeping in to make the world a blander place.

    If there were cows all over the road in every city in every country, then El Cid’s Bengali friend would probably not have the same attitude to cows in New Delhi.

  4. Sunny — on 25th March, 2006 at 2:48 pm  

    Cows are ok when driving in India. It’s the buffaloes which I get too worried about pissing off. :|

  5. Petals — on 25th March, 2006 at 4:06 pm  

    Perhaps globalisation has gone a bit tooo far, with chicken tikka pizzas being an eg.
    As a city worker I am starting to detest starbucks, pret and Nerros which densly populate almost every street u turn. Its Annoying! (rant over! Sorry)

    Yeah the cows are quite chilled in India but the Punjabi Buffaloes are just something else, if not a lil lively and somewhat angry.

  6. Sam Ambreen — on 25th March, 2006 at 4:06 pm  

    How’s this for globalisation?

    Type globaliSation in google and you get roughly 32,100,000 results.

    Type globaliZation and you have 110,000,000.

    They’re americaniZing us!

  7. Vikrant — on 25th March, 2006 at 11:39 pm  

    I think that it stimulates local cultures to replicate things with local flavour and style.
    righto Jay, methinks desi Chinese food tastes much better than the original muck.

  8. raz — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:43 am  

    Actually the Asian water buffalo is a very docile animal. When I was in Multan for a bit in the 80′s, had a mother and baby buffalo living behind our house (they belonged to the milkman – he used to take the mother round to everyone’s house if you wanted fresh milk). I used to go and play with them – the mother was huge but tame, and the baby was cute :) They did produce MASSIVE piles of dung though, and coupled with the Multan heat and all the files – not the most salubrious of environments I’ll say!

  9. Rohin — on 26th March, 2006 at 1:12 am  

    I personally wouldn’t describe the food of an entire country as ‘muck’, especially when it’s one of the most popular in the world. I far prefer authentic Chinese food to desified nonsense. I don’t like fusion cooking fullstop, I’m rarely convinced the dishes are on a par with unadulterated top quality single-nation cooking.

  10. Stephen — on 26th March, 2006 at 11:30 am  

    I personally wouldn’t describe the food of an entire country as ‘muck’, especially when it’s one of the most popular in the world. I far prefer authentic Chinese food to desified nonsense. I don’t like fusion cooking fullstop, I’m rarely convinced the dishes are on a par with unadulterated top quality single-nation cooking.

    Believe me– Scottish cuisine is much better with outside influences than not.

  11. Stephen — on 26th March, 2006 at 11:34 am  

    ps
    I don’t think the problem with coffee shops has much to do with globalisation. It has more to do with poor planning restrictions and the high profit margins of processed fooods whether international commodities like coffee or crap cheese toasties made in Reading.

    Years ago in the 80s it was bloody shoe shops that were everywhere. Since profit margins have gone so have the shoe shops.

  12. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:31 pm  

    It seems that Vikrants new prejudice is towards the Chinese. Not only is their food ‘muck’, but the widely known fact that Chinese do the best in school results in the UK is ascribed to being propaganda from them Xinhuang (??) news agency.

    I put this one down to puberty and his zit popping Indian nationalism – commies = scum therefore Chinese food is muck and all things Chinese, even Chinese kids in Britain at school is some kind of propaganda programme from, errrm, China. When one has nothing to do with another.

    Have you written articles about it on Wikipedia yet Vikrant? ;-)

  13. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:44 pm  

    Oooh… Jay now reverts back to his Vikrantophobia…. Food preferences are a personal choice. As for the Chinese doing well in school it is well know that Chinese tend to take excessive pride in achievements of their community and tend to exagerate it (yea even Indians do i know but not me). Say Jay do you by chance s’port SWP?

    BTW feel free to contribute to this wiki.

  14. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:48 pm  

    BTW Sunny change over to summer time.

  15. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:49 pm  

    Are you going to set up a Vikrantphobia Watch like Islamophobia Watch?

  16. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:53 pm  

    Frankly SWP Watch will do.

    Saffron Vikrant

  17. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:54 pm  

    Paranoid Vikrant ;-)

  18. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:55 pm  

    Paranoid me? Bit rich coming from a guy who see Hindutvadis everywhere.

  19. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:57 pm  

    I only see them where they are Vikrant.

  20. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 12:58 pm  

    Where you think they are.

  21. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 1:00 pm  

    Vikrant – why are you so touchy? My original post was made in a spirit of teasing jest, especially the bit about the zit-popping ultra Indian nationalist, which is what you come across as sometimes, with your paranoia and conspiracies and siege mentality against everyone.

  22. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 1:05 pm  

    Okie… i may have acted a bit touchy. Neeways sorry, Sunny you may as well delete the lot. I mean time i gotta go grab the lunch, rest assured it wont be Horse dicks and balls marinated in sauce

  23. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 1:13 pm  

    Don’t lie Vikrant, that stuff makes your mouth water just thinking of it ;-)

  24. Sunny — on 26th March, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

    OMG, you’ve started that Wikipedia entry on me already! grrrr….

  25. Rohin — on 26th March, 2006 at 2:59 pm  

    Haha, who wrote that wiki entry for Sunster then? HUGELY POPULAR BLOG, that’s where you are right now. HUGELY popular.

    Did anyone see A Night on Brick Lane last night? I taped it and watched it this morning, I thought it was superb, with one objection – it didn’t bring it up to date enough. The most recent thing they covered was the opening of Bangladeshi restuarants in the last few decades. What about the explosion in nightlife in the last 10 years or so? That’s one thing that makes Brick Lane so vibrant now. Anyway it was more about the history and very well done – from the Huguenots to the Jews to the Bangladeshis and thoroughly entertaining. I liked how the Sylheti-White Eastender love story was intercut with scenes from Sangam. Don’t know why whenever Jews were onscreen the Amélie soundtrack was playing though.

  26. BevanKieran — on 26th March, 2006 at 3:07 pm  

    I don’t like fusion cooking fullstop, I’m rarely convinced the dishes are on a par with unadulterated top quality single-nation cooking.

    True, I’d rather have a meal at Ikkyu* (Dungeon on Tottenham Court Road), than Wagamama, which is APPALLING.

    *Vikrant…you should try the Yakitori there; skewed tongues, hearts, and livers covered in teriyaki (I think) sauce.

  27. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 4:15 pm  

    Hello folks,
    Been a long time but I have a new job and I feel a little bit overwhelmed at the mo. Thanks for putting up the piece Sun. It was meant as a candid if light-hearted introspection.
    I think from the subsequent comments that there are a few issues that overlap and which cloud the central issue.
    I don’t have a problem with external influences. That would be xenophobia and not very London. I welcome fusion, when it’s well done and something new comes of it. Anyone who likes music, especially, has got to be into fusion in one way or another (ok, so maybe fiddly-diddly-dee Irish folk and Grime wouldn’t mix well, but you know what I mean).
    And what’s the big deal if Europeans like a curry and bit of karaoke while Asians are fanatical about European football?
    I also don’t think that globalisation, strictly speaking, is simply about Starbucks and American cultural imperialism.
    I just don’t want it all to be the same. Beware the inextricable link between globalisation and standardisation. Whether it’s Starbucks now or Mr Wong’s Tea Pagoda tomorrow is not the point. Compelling global business logic also means bland. Take it from me; I work in Canary Wharf (or what I like to call Singapore by Bow, London-am-Thames, New Toronto, or The Immaculate Shithole).

  28. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 4:25 pm  

    Haha, who wrote that wiki entry for Sunster then?

    I did!

  29. Rohin — on 26th March, 2006 at 4:36 pm  

    I never knew you could be so nice Vikrant.

    Just to clarify, I am 100% in favour of cultural fusion. I AM cultural fusion. I love mixing and matching fashion from here, movies from there and so forth.

    It’s just food. I love eating weird stuff, you name it I’ve probably eaten it. However, while I can happily eat a Japanese starter and Brazilian main and I will always try anything new, the fact remains I don’t particularly want Brazilian tempura, for example. It’s snobbery I suppose, after all the staple Indian food in the UK is a result of fusion, the chicken tikka masala.

    Lastly El Cid, about decimals and whatnot – I watched something late last night about how the Hindu numerals of 1-9 made their way to Europe via the Arabs. Now it’s pretty different to the difference between Roman numerals and Hindu numerals, but I’m reminded of the resistance to the new numbers and the almost gutteral hatred of the ‘foreign’ systems. I’m all for making things easier – but OUTLAWING older systems is asinine.

  30. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 4:50 pm  

    Thank yee Rohin. Actually Chikken Tikka Masala or other Indian things you get from Sainburys, m&s etc.. are basically watered down versions of authentic Indian food, hence not sure whether it would qualify for fusion.

    When the book comes out i can do a wiki on you. That way by the time i’m 30 they’ll have entries on everything & everyone remotely connected to me! Actually i had planned to start an article on PP tis afternoon, but spent it helping my boss clean our mailbox.. some idiot had shoved down horse shit through it! Racism Ascot style!

  31. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 4:50 pm  

    Actually, I had a mare at a conference in France last week. Frigging Spanish plug adapter wouldn’t work so I was uanble to recharge laptop and phone.
    So, yes, standardisation is good, even overdue in some cases.
    But forgive me if I insist on having my lager served in a pint glass, or my weight measured in stone and pounds, and my distances measured in miles (unless, of course, I’m somewhere else, where it is not the norm, in which case I will willingly bow to local custom).
    Maybe I should change my moniker to Ol’ Cid.

  32. Rohin — on 26th March, 2006 at 4:59 pm  

    I thought Chicken Tikka Masala was created when some Bangladeshi chef responded to some criticism by trying Campbell’s Tomato Soup.

    That horse shit, er, shit is disgusting. Sorry to hear that happened.

    Here, I just found this on http://www.sonzyskitchen.com/chickentikka.htm:

    Chicken tikka masala has a truly postcolonial history, produced when one of the world’s greatest cuisines found itself confronted by a British palette unused to anything spicier than table salt. Legend has it one obstinate diner demanded gravy on tandoori chicken. A bemused chef responded by adding tin of Campbell’s tomato soup and pinch of spices, unwittingly partaking in early example of fusion cookery.

  33. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 5:17 pm  

    Sorry to hear that Vikrant.
    I didn’t realise such wanton racial vandalism was so prevalent.
    But am I right in thinking that “authentic Indian” also has Persian, Arab, Portuguese & Mediterranean, Latin American, Greek/Roman, Indonesian, Chinese — and yes English influences.
    Not only are there a helluva lot of ingredients in Indian cuisine that originally came from elsewhere, arguably even saffron (yikes!), but there are also strong cultural influences.
    Think about it Vik: Rogan Josh, Bombay Aloo, Mulligatawny Soup, Samosa, Goan Xacutti, Kulfi, Assam tea, etc. Check this out for more.
    There’s also another angle; that authentic Indian food for the majority of Indians is boiled rice.

  34. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 5:33 pm  

    Well what you get as “Indian” in UK and much of the world is basically Punjabi food. I my opinion some of the most fabulous regional dishes remain largely unknown even in India. For example you hardly get Malvani seafood (mistakenly called Goan food) outside Maharashtra-Goa areas of India. AFAIK Goan Xacutti is an Indo-Portuguese dish and hadrly know in India outside Goan Christian community. Yes all Indian food afterall has is a result of fusion of different cultures, North Indian food for example is nearly similar to Afghan or Iranian food. Only South Indian cusine i think has remained largely unchanged over the years.

  35. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 5:35 pm  

    Also 4got Bengali food.

    Any Indian dish + fish tail + fish head == Bengali food.

  36. Sid D H Arthur — on 26th March, 2006 at 5:42 pm  

    The popularity of Indian food in the UK is almost entirely because of the explosion of popularity of Bangladeshi “Indian” restaurants.

    You’ll be hard pushed to find authentic Bengali food in any Indian restaurant however, which is a shame coz its yum.

  37. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 5:50 pm  

    Ahh… that is a proud boast by Bongs. The ownership doesnt matter the food the serve is North India-Punjabi food which i believe is distinct from Bengali food.

  38. Sid D H Arthur — on 26th March, 2006 at 5:55 pm  

    Vikrant, North Indian Punjabi food tastes nothing like the Indian restaurant fare. You’ll sickened to the quick to learn that the best Indian food is ‘Mughlai’ or in other words, the marriage of Indian and Persian.

    And as for vernacular Bengali food, its fantastic.

  39. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 5:59 pm  

    It’s strange that most of the dishes known in Britain as generic Indian cuisine have an approximate Punjabi origin given that most restaurants are owned by Bengalis!

    Vikrant, north Indian food has western Asian influences but I don’t know how far you can say that typical Punjabi food is ‘nearly similar’ to Afghan food. All the saag, paneer, dhals, rich gravy vegetables, the rich meat and lamb and keema dishes are all specific to Punjab and north India. Kebabs and things, yeah, but as a whole, I don’t think so.

  40. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:00 pm  

    North Indian Punjabi food tastes nothing like the Indian restaurant fare.

    I know

    the best Indian food is ‘Mughlai’ or in other words, the marriage of Indian and Persian.

    See above

    And as for vernacular Bengali food, its fantastic.

    Never had anything other than “Roosaagulla”

  41. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:09 pm  

    I think British Indian food is getting more sophisticated; there’s a lot more variation and more effort to cook things from scratch with fresh ingredients rather than simply dollop processed sauces on meat and overdo the ghee.
    But then the Indian food trade is having to respond to a growing UK taste for Thai/Malay food, which is lighter and generally fresher tasting.
    I digress.

  42. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:12 pm  

    Well El,
    Try North Indian food with lassi in those road side dhabas in Punjab and Harayana. For someone who has only eaten British Indian food, i swear it is a heavenly experience.

  43. Sid D H Arthur — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:13 pm  

    I agree. Thai food is my favourite although Malay food tastes just like authentic Bengali food. There was a fantastic Malaysian canteen on Praed street I used to frequent in my younger days which was great because the Malays got down to business by eating rice with their hands. Superb food.

    And as for Persian food, OMG – mind blowing. Its great if you like subtle flavours with plenty of grilled meats.

  44. Sid D H Arthur — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:14 pm  

    For someone who has only eaten British Indian food, i swear it is a heavenly experience.

    You need to get out more. Not to mention travel the world and the seven seas.

  45. BevanKieran — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:22 pm  

    The Gulabjaman has changed according to it surroundings. The ones in Bangaldeshi shops in England(and I hesitantly assume in Bangladesh) are spherical, and soaked in through in syrup. If you go to Fiji and try gulabjamans there , they change into a sausage shape and the syrup barely penetrates the crust.

  46. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:22 pm  

    Err Sid,
    lemme rephrase

    “For someone whose only introduction to Indian food has been British Indian food, i swear it is a heavenly experience.”

  47. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:23 pm  

    Come to think of it, religion is a stubborn barrier to global food fusion:
    What of Roast Beef with all the trimmings, Jamon Iberico, NY salt beef sandwich, Segovian suckling pig.. man, I’m beginning to salivate. Confession time guys.. have you ever had the pleasure of a bacon sarnie?

  48. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:25 pm  

    I do eat beef sometimes but dont like it that much.

  49. Sid D H Arthur — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:26 pm  

    have you ever had the pleasure of a bacon sarnie?

    My religion does not permit me to have sandwiches. But the Jamon I ate on a trip to Cordoba last year was fantastic.

  50. Sid D H Arthur — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:28 pm  

    BevanK

    I’ve had those long sausage-shaped gulab jams in Bangladesh, although they’re syrupy. The Fijian ones sound interesting.

  51. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:30 pm  

    lol! Nice one Sid
    My wife made a red pork curry the other day, and I must say the meat worked very well with the sauce.

  52. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:30 pm  

    they change into a sausage shape and the syrup barely penetrates the crust.
    Actually there are 2 types of jamuns. The brown ones and black ones. I believe brown ones are drier than black ones.

  53. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:33 pm  

    What about steak Vik?
    I swear, you will be lost to your ancestors forever if you ever step inside an Argy restaurant!!

  54. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:37 pm  

    Well i like beef jerky my gf’s mom makes. But then again i rarely eat beef.

  55. Vikrant — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:38 pm  

    Isnt jerky like steak?

  56. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:38 pm  

    gulab jamans have to be round. If they werent I would refuse to eat them.

    I had a delicious Punjabi recipe for pork the other week – seared and tossed in spinach leaves with plenty of chilli, delicious.

  57. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:49 pm  

    Stay clear of Argy restaurants — you have been warned!

  58. El Cid — on 26th March, 2006 at 6:50 pm  

    sounds divine Jay.
    If you have a link, I’ll try it out.

  59. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 7:01 pm  

    El Cid

    It was more improvised by my uncle over a bottle of rum. Best cooked in a wok. Just throw in your onions, garlic, ginger, masala powder, salt, plenty of fresh green chilli, the hotter the better, cook it on heat so all the flavours come out, then throw in the diced pork and add enough oil to get it sizzling and cook fast, almost stir fried, when it’s almost done add the leaves of spinach. This is a dry dish, eat with roti and salad, maybe a gravy rich vegetable dish will taste good with it.

  60. Jay Singh — on 26th March, 2006 at 7:02 pm  

    Its a good drinking dish actually – salty and hot to munch on whilst drinking beer or bacardi – good stuff.

  61. Sunny — on 26th March, 2006 at 9:44 pm  

    Confession time guys.. have you ever had the pleasure of a bacon sarnie?

    I’ve been off meat for 12 years now. Chicken/ Fish for 10 years.

  62. Rohin — on 27th March, 2006 at 2:42 am  

    Hooray, India comes in the top five for something:

    http://www.health.com/health/package/0,23653,1150042,00.html

    Healthiest ingredients. Mmm…health.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.