Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Mama said there'll be days like this. But, ... curry college?

A student asked me the other day if I had any quick curry recipe that I could share with him--he likes to cook not only for himself but for his wife and four kids as well.  I went all professorial on him in order to explain that there is no single curry.   "The curry powder in the grocery store is merely one combination of spices" I clarified.  "You can create many different mixes of spices, which is what Indian cooking is all about" I encouraged him.

The idea of "curry" goes back to the British in India.  Not only did they take it back to Britain, they spread it far and wide.  Even to Japan:
katsu curry dates to the Meiji era of the late 19th century, soon after the opening of Japan’s borders. Japanese trade with the West led to a national fascination with foreign flavors and textures — a kind of reverse-twist culinary version of the Japonisme that gripped Europe around the same time. (There was until recently a curry museum located in Yokohama, one of Japan’s most prominent ports.)
The world, as I blogged quite a while ago, is one big curry pot, it seems!

Over the decades, curry has become huge in Britain.  How significant is the Indian (curry) restaurant business?  Get this; it "produces twice as much revenue as Britain’s steel industry." The curry taste has spread so much in Britain that they are tremendously short of chefs who can work the magic in restaurants:
Staff shortages are common among all types of restaurants, but they are particularly worrying for those specializing in curry.
Indian restaurants employ about 100,000 people and generated 4.2 billion British pounds, or about $6.3 billion, in sales last year, accounting for about a fifth of the entire restaurant business, according to data compiled by Karan Bilimoria, a member of the Parliament’s curry committee and the creator of Cobra beer.   
There is now a "curry committee" in the British Parliament!  I suppose you can even mess with Texas, but you can't mess around with curry in Britain ;)

Even more fascinating is this:
Mr. Bilimoria is also leading efforts to build “curry colleges” across the country with the aim of expanding the Indian restaurant business
"Curry College."  And you thought you had seen and heard it all!

Even the Brexit discussions include talking about how it will affect the curry business:
At a debate held at the House of Commons two weeks ago, Mr. Scully said the curry industry would benefit from Britain leaving the European Union. It would give Britain “more flexibility to control our borders and tackle some of the unintended consequences of immigration from outside the E.U.,” he said. “Things such as bringing curry chefs over might benefit.”
I tell ya, everyday there is plenty out there that makes it such a fascinating life.  Too bad it will all end soon! ;)

Naturally, the curry chef crisis leads to discussions on immigration--whether or not to let people in, especially when the Indian restaurants want to serve "authentic" dishes from India that the British are apparently demanding, now that they know that the "curry" is a cheap imitation of the awesome food in the Subcontinent:
“But it wasn’t really Indian food,” Ms. Collingham said. “These Indians had learned what the British in India would eat and served it back in Britain.”
Now, new Indian restaurants are trying to move beyond curry, she said, but tighter rules are choking the culinary exchanges that come with immigration.
Mr. Bilimoria agreed. “Should we expect our curry to be cooked in Delhi and flown over to us?” he asked. “No,” he said. “We need chefs right here.”
I am now drooling for the different "curries" that my mother makes.

No,, it's not what you think ;)
I clicked this earlier in the summer, when driving through Brookings and Gold Beach.
Those towns are in Curry County, here in Oregon.

4 comments:

Ramesh said...

Oh yes, Curry is a huge rage in the UK and the national dish there is now the Chicken Tikka Masala. Its yet another matter that most of the "Indian" restaurants there are run by Bangladeshis.

What has intrigued me is that Indian food has found fancy in the UK, but in no other country. Everywhere else its just a novelty or exclusively patronised by people of Indian origin, often simply looking for vegetarian food. In Continental Europe, you have to search and search to find curry. Same in the US. I wonder why the British palate took to curry. Yes, of course, there was the Raj connection, but still ....

Sriram Khé said...

Of course it is the Raj connection. There is no other explanation.

BTW, this is yet another example of how historically the Subcontinent's culture has always ended up transforming the invaders. The Central Asian Islamic invaders quickly shed their barbaric nature and became a part of the Subcontinent. They didn't even bother to leave. In the case of the British, while they took a great deal of wealth from India, they also took with them a whole bunch of cultural ideas from food to religion.

Time and again, it turns out that even those who might have interacted with the Subcontinent out of condescension and hate end up heavily influenced by it--for the better. I have always attributed this to the rich history of the Subcontinent being open to foreigners--unlike China, for instance.

Anne in Salem said...

Curry college sounds like an excellent idea! Given the general reputation of English cooking, of course the Brits took to curry and in all its iterations. It has flavor!

Ahem, Ramesh. Indian food is not completely a novelty in the US. Even Salem, a city of 150,000, has four Indian restaurants.

Sriram Khé said...

I don't think Ramesh meant that Indian restaurants are impossible to find in the US ... I suspect he means that here in the US and in continental Europe, curry is not a regular part of life as it has become in the UK. It is no longer "different" and "exotic" in the UK and, instead, is as routine as eating fish and chips or a burger.

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