PALATE PATTERNS are changing in the country that relished its dal-chawal and sold vegetarianism to the world. Now most Indians would rather dig into a bowl of butter chicken.
According to a nation-wide survey conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad, 64 per cent of Indians are non-vegetarians now as compared with 46 per cent in the early 1990s.
India Shining could be one of the reasons the majority of population is polishing off its non-vegetarian plate. With per capita income rising, most families in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata prefer eating out. And at the restaurants, they mostly order non-vegetarian dishes.
Says Dr Kalpagam Polasa, chief researcher of the survey, "Except north India where 40 per cent people eat meat, in other regions the majority are non-vegetarians." South India's biggest export must be sambar but it leads the regions in the number of carnivores -- about 90 per cent south Indians are non-vegetarians. "In some parts of Tamil Nadu, 98 per cent people eat meat," says Polasa. Not surprising in coastal areas where fish can be cheaper than tomatoes.
West India, which includes the largely vegetarian Gujarat, follows south in the number of meat eaters. The Northeast comes third.
The survey was conducted over two years in collaboration with AIIMS and Lady Irwin College in Delhi and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
Questionnaires were sent to women in 21,000 households in 28 states. Polasa says they asked women for they knew what their families were eating. Dr B. Sesikeran, director of NIN, says, "For the first time a database of eating habits of Indians has been recorded." Meanwhile, pass the leg of mutton around, please.