British lecturer Edward Anderson poses with an idli, in a photo he posted on his Twitter account | @edanderson101 | Twitter
British lecturer Edward Anderson poses with an idli, in a photo he posted on his Twitter account | @edanderson101 | Twitter

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New Delhi: British lecturer Edward Anderson could not have predicted the storm he was setting off when he posted a tweet describing idlis, the South Indian culinary staple that is popular with taste buds across the nation, as “the most boring things in the world”.

Anderson’s tweet was a reply to a survey by food app Zomato India, started 4 October, that asked users to name “that one dish you could never understand why people like so much”. There were many controversial answers to the tweet — biryani and rajma being prime examples — but none probably elicited the kind of response that Anderson’s did.

The tweet has since led Anderson, who is married to a Malayali woman, to be inundated with suggestions on the right ways to eat idli, a breakfast invitation from Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, and even a caricature in a Malayalam newspaper.

“Food for Indian communities overseas is very important: It’s a bond both within communities — and with the homeland — for so many people. I suppose that’s why this topic might have resonated with Indians around the world,” Anderson told ThePrint in an email interview.

Anderson is a lecturer in history at Northumbria University in England, and has focused his research on contemporary history of India and the Indian diaspora at large. 

Since his tweet, Anderson has been offered “delicious idlis” by many people, with Tharoor even handing out advice on the proper ways to cook the steamed cakes.

“If I took up everyone’s offers to provide me with delicious idlis — from all corners of India & beyond — I wouldn’t have to cook or buy food for a year! It’s confirmation that Indian people’s passion for food is matched by their generosity,” Anderson said.

Also Read: Indian food fourth most popular in the world, a study of cuisine trade finds

‘Tharoor clearly loves idlis’

On Twitter, Anderson has expressed surprise at the traction his  “dumb idli tweet” tweet gained, with a BBC report also linking it to the US elections (because Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris has Chennai roots).

Once bitten, twice shy, Anderson was reluctant to offer an opinion when asked about the extremely sensitive subject of vegetarian biryani (“isn’t it just pulav?” incensed critics often ask). 

“I may have an opinion on this, but I think I’ve courted quite enough culinary controversy for now,” he said.

Asked about Tharoor’s invitation, he said the MP was being “humorous and hyperbolic”. “He clearly loves idlis and feels like he has to stand up for the culture of his region, and rightfully so!” he added. 

Also Read: ‘Indian food is terrible’: Why are we threatened by a foreigner’s opinion of our food?


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