You are what you eat. At least, you are for bigots.

We've all heard everyday racists - perhaps too shy to vent bile about skin colour or religion - complain about the smell of curry from Asian neighbours.

And most Scots know that the grossly stupid "tattie-muncher" is far from just football ground banter.

Food, especially national dishes, can be core to identity. And core too to xenophobic abuse.

Thus the Germans are "krauts", the English "les rostbif", the French "frogs" and French-speaking Quebecers are "pea-soupers".

Most of us, therefore, know to stay clear of culinary cliches about other nationalities. But not, alas, all of us.

HeraldScotland: Michael McFeat (52104950)

Last week an expat Scottish mine worker in Kyrgyzstan was, the story goes, threatened with five years in jail for posting on Facebook that the country's national dish, a sausage called chuchuk, was a "horse's willy".

Cue tabloid titters about equine genitalia and widespread Scottish derision at what were seen as over-sensitive Central Asians.

Me? I was uncomfortable with such a response. Why? Because it completely failed to understand the story in its context: that chuchuk is a crucial symbol for ethnic Kyrgyz, as evocative as a flag or a faith.

And because comparing the sausage to a penis really is exactly the kind of thing that would been seen as racist in Central Asia.

HeraldScotland: Scots worker apologises as he faces deportation after comparing Kyrgyzstan delicacy to horse penisSome background. A quarter of a century after independence from the Soviet Union, Kyrgyz speakers can still feel second-class citizens in their own country, where Russian remains the prestige language.

The nation, in fact, is struggling with some tricky post-colonial issues. These include a cultural cringe that will be familiar to many Scots. But they also include concerns over just how freely non-Kyrgyz express contempt for local cuisine, dress, music and speech.

It should come as no surprise then that a story of a Scot joking about horse willy sausages - dubbed the "Delicatessen Question" in the local press - would have quite so much resonance.

Columnist Bektur Iskender - a Russian speaker with ethnic Kyrgyz roots - summed up the context. "Many Russian-speaking residents of Kyrgyzstan and many foreigners," he said, "just don't understand how offensive Kyrgyz speakers find jokes about their culture and traditions."

So what of the Scottish worker? Thirty-nine-year-old Michael McFeat, now safely home, described his "terror" at a mob of angry locals he feared were armed.

His account, it should be noted, has been met with some scepticism in Kyrgyzstan. "It sounds like a thriller," said several commentators when his latest remarks appeared in local media.

The Scot has sympathisers too. It was a storm in a teacup, they said, a flea turned in to an elephant, to use a Russian saying.

Nevertheless, videos show real anger among workers at his Facebook joke, which has now been removed. And Mr McFeat has apologised.

His social media page, however, still contains a post demanding the deportation of Muslims from the UK, a video from the far right group Britain First and the repost of a picture of bearded south Asian women with facial deformities above the caption "Maybe we shouldn't ban the burqa after all".

He also uses his account to rail against foreign aid, Syrian refugees and praises the anti-Muslim policies of Donald Trump.

Kyrgyz are Muslims.

His excuse for his horse penis post? Ignorance, he says, not prejudice.

Below: another Facebook post of Mr McFeat's, referring to Muslims. An expletive has been removed.



Here is Mr McFeat sharing a friend's post on Burqas.


Mr McFeat was interviewed by authorities in Kyrgyzstan after his post sparked angry scenes at the gold mine where he worked. He was not, however, charged. In the video below he apologises for the misunderstanding.

He said: "In my short time here I have made lots of Kyrgyz friends. I would never have in any way insulted them if I had known my comments would have that effect. I never meant any harm."