Curry by liza collingham

Growing up in a medium sized indian city, the only place i ran into the word curry was on the menus of restaurants serving chinese, continental , punjabi and south indian food all at once. Thankfully such outings were rare. Curry was a word very much on the periphery of food, indian or otherwise. So a book on Curry, with all its 'indian' associations - very tempting.

The pattern of cultures and countries mingling and evolving new hybrids of food in india should be familiar to any one with an aquaintance with indian history and religion. Our (the Indian) capacity for assimilation and reworking of unfamiliar ideas into something at once strange and familiar is truly unparalled. In culinary terms, this has worked for indians in india and the indian diaspora - which brings to mind liza cunninghams accounts of indian food in indonesia, africa, mexican punjabi , indian chinese( which is becoming quite big in the US i gather) and the like.

Liza cunninghams book also unearthed memories of food at temples ive visited over the years. From the sundal and pongal of our annual trips to tirupati, to the exquisite sweets made at Nathdwara's Krishna temple... Temples as centres of cuisine were unearthed and made explicit.

She ends with the beginnings of marketed food in India, Tea and Dalda ( Hydrogenated oil). Now that is another interesting story waiting to be told.

Lizzie Collingham "Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors" Find the comprehensive New York Times Review (NYT) here.
Short table of contents:
Pre Mughal : Primarily vegetarian, few records from the Royal Courts. Temple cuisine.
Mughal: Babur and the Central asian influence.
Portugese: and how the vindaloo was born
Colonial: Cutlets and the curry boom
Post Colonial : A British impression of indian food and vice versa.
Present: India twice removed, indian food in indonesia, japan, usa and of course britain.