Beef Diaries

My nostalgia about meat was never about beef. That bloody piece of red meat wrapped inside the large teak leaves by the butcher was a rare thing to be brought home. We couldn’t afford it, unless of course for some sundays or festival days when it was cooked with plantain. And there used to be more pieces of plantain than beef in that curry. I always preferred chicken over beef in the childhood. And chicken too was a rarity, though we had raised some chickens for domestic use, because it was served to guests/relatives who came home on the church festival days and was cooked with potato (again there would be more potato than chicken, so we had the potato while the guests had chicken pieces in the curry).

But there is one beef delicacy that we had aplenty, though not quite frequent, in the early days. It is called “bOTTi” (also called ‘pOTTi’ in some other dialect). bOTTi is the intestines of the cow. Earlier the butcher considered it waste and would give it away for free. Then they began to charge a little for over a kilo and then more and now it’s a popular delicacy at least in Thrissur. It is a very difficult job for the womenfolk to clean up bOTTi before they cooked it. It had to be boiled in the water thrice or more, and every time you got to clean it up. So it was a time-consuming and physically demanding job to cook bOTTi. But the rubbery bOTTi was one of a kind in taste and is usually cooked with tapioca.

bOTTi was the poor man’s beef. Until it became famous and a regular dish in the roadside eateries in central Kerala. Among the meat-eating ‘elites’ in Kerala, bOTTi was like how beef is to vegetarian elitists – barbaric, unhealthy, cheap food for ‘cheap’ people. I wonder why the beef ban hasn’t evoked any memories of it among the fellow Facebookians. If I am to protest the beef ban by eating meat, it will be with bOTTi.