After Zomato episode, row over naming chicken after TN Brahmins

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Days after a food vis-a-vis religion wrangle involving food aggregator Zomato,a restaurant in Kumbakonam town of Tamil Nadu has kicked up a row by naming a chicken delicacy after Iyers, a Brahmin caste,while another hotel in Tamil Nadu won support by announcing it will not serve those who link food to religion.

Though the restaurant here has apologised for naming a dish as “Kumbakonam Iyer Chicken,” it has raised questions on the reasons behind it and a Hindu outfit alleged that “cheap publicity” was a key driving factor. The hotel tendered an apology and removed the promotional content on social media after Brahmin associations and Hindu outfits strongly protested against it.

Kumbakonam is a town in Thanjavur district, the hub of the Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu, with a sizable population of Tamil Brahmins. The town is popular for its distinct coffee flavour and the generic term “Kumbakonam Coffee” is used by many hotels to mean the authentic taste of the region, a favourite beverage among Brahmins of the district.

Hindu Tamizhar Katchi leader Rama Ravikumar alleged the labelling was nothing but a cheap publicity stunt. “You are hurting them and you are playing with their sentiments and this may incite trouble, which is completely avoidable. This is a cheap publicity stunt,” he told PTI.

Choosing the towns name, which is not very popular for any specific non-vegetarian delicacy, unlike many other towns of Tamil Nadu and further linking it to a community that was tied to vegetarian food has exposed their intentions, he said. On a Pudukottai hotel saying it wont serve anyone who linked food to religion, he asked “what about the demand for halal tagged food..?, please tell me if this is not an attempt to link religion to food?”

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Also, he wondered why that hotel came up with this slogan now and not before the Zomato episode. The hotel at Pudukottai, about 110 kilometers from here, has put up a board saying “No food to those who look at religion (in food)., food has no religion.” Also the hotel condemned what it called “bigots,” who chose to link food to religion on the background of the Zomato controversy.

Several local people lauded the hotel for its initiative and said it was a step in the right direction. When contacted on the twin issues, Vice President of the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, Abdul Rahman, said linking the Brahmin community to a non-vegetarian delicacy was a wrong step.

“Knowing fully well that Iyers do not eat non-vegetarian, if you name a non-vegetarian dish after them, what does it mean ?” he asked, adding nothing should be done to hurt the sentiments of any caste, community or religion. On the claim that the demand for halal tagged food was linked to religion, he said, “We say the name of God, it is a prayer and then the meat is cut properly to drain out the blood and make it clean and fit for consumption…this is a scientific method and this is halal.”

Preferring only halal meat is “my right, faith and choice and this cannot be linking religion to food,” he said. “There is a right to religion in food, only thrusting religion on matters related to food is not correct. No one can dictate what the other person should eat and must not eat.” Asked about the Pudukottai hotels new slogan he said, “I dont know its intention, but this appears to be aimed at promoting and supporting harmony.”

Zomato had on July 24 refused to resolve the complaint of a customer about being assigned a Muslim delivery executive for his food order. “Food doesnt have a religion. It is a religion,” the company had tweeted in response to the customers request for change of the rider as he was a non-Hindu.