New Delhi: The National Museum has barred “meat dishes” from being served at the ongoing ‘Historical Gastronomica – The Indus Dinning Experience‘, which kickstarted on Wednesday here.
With the objective of showcasing dishes and the history behind them, as well as other culinary related archaeological finds from the the 5,000-year-old Indus Valley Civilisation, the event included both vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes till Tuesday when the museum said that no meat would be served.
The event is being jointly organised by the National Museum, the Ministry of Culture and private firm One Station Million Stories (OSMS). The last minute-decision, citing “unspecified rules” was intimated to OSMS by the museum on Wednesday.
Unidentified officials in the Ministry of Culture said that “a couple of MPs” reacted to the menu shared by the ministry online, the Indian Express reported.
The newspaper reported that additional director general Subrata Nath has also denied knowledge of any “external interference” in the matter. Nath reportedly said, “Actually, there is no rule as such. But we have to respect the museum’s tradition. So we emailed the private organisers yesterday.”
Nath told PTI that OSMS did not discuss in detail the non-vegetarian part of the menu with the museum officials. “They (OSMS) got our approval but the non-vegetarian part of the menu was not discussed with us. We assumed that they would know that we do not serve non-vegetarian food here given the policy of the institution. Just ten days back, we had a Guru Nanak festival and we never had this controversy,” Nath said.
He added that the “policy” of not serving non-vegetarian dishes was not a written one, but a “sentimental one”.
The event, which is being held on the museum lawn from February 19 to 25, includes tasting menus through the day, and dinners that have to be pre-booked.
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.
When asked if this was straying from the culinary history of ancient India where non-vegetarian dishes were common, Nath said that visitors will just not be served the food, but will be briefed on them.
“We are not serving the non-vegetarian food, but we will brief visitors on the historical dietary practises of ancient India, so it is wrong to say that we are not giving a true picture of the food in ancient times,” he said.
In 2002, the National Museum had hit headlines over food politics when Hindu fundamentalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad burnt an effigy of the museum director’s in protest when the canteen decided to start serving meat dishes.
According to The Print, in 1990, it was alcohol that landed then museum director L.P. Sihare in a tough spot when he was fired after serving drinks at an event to a visiting Western delegation.
(With inputs from PTI)