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Not English enough: Indian-origin woman denied permission to sell chicken tikka masala in UK

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

While English food is commonly associated with fish and chips and the Sunday roast, the Chicken tikka masala has long enjoyed equivalent popularity, if not more.

It should come as a surprise then, that when an enterprising food trader applied to serve the curry at a St George’s Day celebration, she was refused on the grounds that it was “not English enough”.

Vehemently turning down Tania Rahman’s request, the Salisbury City Council, sent her an email explaining that visitors to the event should eat “English themed food only”.

Miss Rahman, who runs an Indian street food company called Chit Chaat Chai, was “shocked and upset” with the pronouncement.

“We were dismayed to find out that our application has not been successful on the grounds that it was deemed ‘not English enough’.

“In the multicultural hotbed that is modern Britain, it is inconceivable to not celebrate the impact of Indian culture to British life and what better way to do so than by exploring the culinary delights of the former British Empire… A little history will reveal that St George himself was in fact of Palestinian heritage.

St George’s Day is a celebration of all things English, yet much of English culture (tea drinking, for instance) was adopted from India”, she said in a message on the company’s Facebook page.

She received a dismissive reply from the city council stating, “It has been decided that St Georges day [sic] will be English themed food only. I hope this helps.”

With an aim to justify the response, a spokesman of the city council said the email to Miss Rahman had been “poorly worded” and insisted: “The council never intended to be racist.

“The theme of the St George’s Day event in 2015 was olde worlde traditional English with Morris Dancers and dragon fighting. Ms Rahman has raised some very interesting points about modern England and the Council will wish to reflect upon these issues when setting the theme for the St George’s Day in 2016 and onwards.”

Chicken tikka masala was only recently supplanted as Britain’s most popular dish, after holding the title for years.

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Gourmet Grubs Squirm Onto American Plate

Culinary director, Jeremy Kittelson, says Linger is committed to changing the American palate. “As much as we love beef,” he says, “there’s no scientist who will tell you cattle farming is a sustainable practice. We should eat more insects."

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Andrew takes a tentative taste of baked, salted mealworm at Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch. VOA

A huge shipping container in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, is the home of some of the nation’s smallest livestock. Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch is Colorado’s first and only edible insect farm, and one of fewer than three dozen companies in the U.S. growing insects as human food or animal feed.

Wendy Lu McGill started her company in 2015, and today grows nearly 275 kilos of crickets and mealworms every month. “I want to be part of trying to figure out how to feed ourselves better as we have less land and water and a hotter planet and more people to feed,” she explains.

Wendy Lu McGill raises mealworms and crickets to sell to restaurants and food manufacturers.
Wendy Lu McGill raises mealworms and crickets to sell to restaurants and food manufacturers.

Feeding the world’s appetite for protein through beef and even chicken is unsustainable, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Protein from bugs is more doable.

On the global menu

Edible insects are a great source of high quality protein and essential minerals such as calcium and iron. Edible grubs — insect larvae — offer all that, plus high quality fat, which is good for brain development.

Insects are part of the diet in many parts of the world. Analysts say the global edible insects market is poised to surpass $710 million by 2024, with some estimates as high as $1.2 billion. And while American consumers comprise a small percentage of that market today, there is growing demand for a variety of insect-infused products.

Thinking small

Amy Franklin is the founder of a non-profit called Farms for Orphans, which is working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “What we do is farm bugs for food because in other countries where we work, they’re a really, really popular food,” she notes.

In Kinshasa’s markets, vendors sell platters of live wild-caught crickets plus big bowls of pulsating African Palm weevil larvae. These wild insects are only plentiful in certain seasons.

Farms for Orphans works with Congo Relief Mission, FAO in Kinshasa and the University of Kinshasa to set up small-scale palm weevil larvae farms to bring sustainable nutrition and economic empowerment to orphanages. (Courtesy: Farms for Orphans)
Farms for Orphans works with Congo Relief Mission, FAO in Kinshasa and the University of Kinshasa to set up small-scale palm weevil larvae farms to bring sustainable nutrition and economic empowerment to orphanages. (Courtesy: Farms for Orphans). VOA

Franklin’s group helps orphanages grow African Palm weevil larvae year round, in shipping containers. “Most of the orphanages don’t own any land. There really is no opportunity for them to grow a garden or to raise chickens. Insects are a protein source that they can grow in a very small space.”

Changing the American palate

It’s estimated that more than 2 billion people worldwide eat insects every day. And even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that consumption of crickets and mealworms is safe and that they are a natural protein source, many Americans, like Denver grandfather Terry Koelling, remain skeptical. As he and his grandchildren take a tour of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, he admits, “I don’t think they are very appealing, as something to put in your mouth. You see them around dead things, and it just does not appeal to me to eat something that wild.”

Koelling gets adventurous at Linger, a Denver restaurant that has had an insect entree on its menu for three years.

Culinary director, Jeremy Kittelson, says Linger is committed to changing the American palate. “As much as we love beef,” he says, “there’s no scientist who will tell you cattle farming is a sustainable practice. We should eat more insects.”

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And so Koelling takes a forkful of the Cricket Soba Noodle dish, with black ants, sesame seeds and crickets mixed in with green tea soba noodles, and garnished with Chapuline Crickets.

“The seasoning’s great!” he says with surprise, adding, “Seems to me there weren’t enough crickets in it!” (VOA)