Currying favor

A nice parable of a creation far outpacing its creator.

Curry’s conquest of the world began with the conquest of India by the East India Company. Madras curry in its various forms (the word deriving from the Tamil kari and the Telugu kara, as also from similar sounding terms in Kannada and Malayalam), became the most hybrid and ubiquitous of all India’s spicy (masala) sauces and stews. Normally this was served with rice in the south and with soft wheat breads such as chapattis, parathas, puris, or simple nan in the north. The author is not quite correct when she says that the British invented curry: there is not a respectable household anywhere in the countryside that does not produce its own unique curries, with secrets handed down from mother to daughter. But it is true that, starting in Madras, a hybrid Anglo-Indian cuisine spread and became ubiquitous, not only throughout all of the subcontinent (including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), but gradually throughout the rest of Asia and Africa, and finally to Europe and the Americas.

from “Cosmic Cuisine“, a review of Lizzie Collingham’s Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers, by Robert Eric Frykenberg, Books & Culture, May/June 2008

Originally published at

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