Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors

by

Lizzie COLLINGHAM

257 P.

This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge

and for

The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

There’s nothing like trying to represent the food of India on a two-page menu to raise tricky questions about authenticity and mass taste. Isn’t curry really a British invention? Does chicken tikka masala have anything to do with Indian food? Fortunately, Cambridge-trained historian Collingham supplies a welcome corrective: the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent has always been in glorious flux, and the popularity of chicken vindaloo on London’s Brick Lane or New York’s Curry Row (and beyond) is no simple betrayal of the cuisine. (As far as charges of cultural imperialism go, if it weren’t for the Portuguese, the chilli pepper never would have had its massive impact on the region’s delicacies.) Easy stratifications wilt in the face of fact: Hindu and Muslim culinary traditions have been intertwined at least as far back as the 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar, and even caste- and religion-derived gustatory restrictions are often overridden by traditions tied to subregion. Collingham’s mixed approach is a delight: it’s not every cookbook that incorporates an exhaustive (indeed, footnoted) culinary history, and few works of regional history lovingly explain how to make a delicious Lamb Korma. Collingham’s account is generous, embracing complexity to create a richer exploration of the “exotic casserole” that conquered the world. [Publishers Weekly]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lizzie Collingham, a Cambridge-trained historian, is a free-lance scholar and writer. She is the author of Imperial Bodies: The Physical Experience of the Raj.


REVIEWS BY OTHERS

“A superb combination of culinary, cultural, and political history.”–Books & Culture

“Part world map, part menu, this book is entirely delicious.”–Time Magazine

“A lively study of Indian cooking from the Mogul Empire of the 1600s to Utsav in 21st-century Manhattan, one of the ‘new breed’ of Indian restaurants. It’s a long but tasty journey, made easily digestible by Collingham.”–Alison McCullough, New York Times Book Review

“Fascinating…. Collingham skillfully weaves her way through the complex cultural transactions that yielded a specialized Anglo-Indian cuisine based, in large part, on mutual misunderstanding…. One of her goals, in tracing the evolution of curry and the global spread of Indian cuisine, is to pull the rug out from under the idea that India, or any other nation, ever had a cuisine that was not constantly in the process of assimilation and revision. The very dishes, flavors and food practices that we think of as timelessly, quintessentially Indian turn out to be, as often as not, foreign imports or newfangled inventions. That includes chili peppers and tea.”–William Grimes, The New York Times
“Her research and personal ruminations take the reader on an intriguing, colorful journey, dispelling any notion that curry as we know it is fixed, immutable or, for that matter, completely Indian…. She convincingly demonstrates that the foods of a country or region are inextricably linked to the historical, cultural and economic forces that shaped it and the people who ruled it.”–Judith Weinraub, Washington Post Book World

MY OWN THOUGHTS

My sister is such an avid reader, so much more than I am, and she’s an excellent cook. When she recommended me this book, I did not hesitate. And I was not disappointed at all.
This book is so delicious: a great mix of history, culture, and cuisine, including recipes.
It was fascinating to discover how the Indian cuisines, and be sure to notice the -s, evolved all along the centuries depending on the invaders in this or that region.
A very interesting point that the author makes is that if Indians incorporated ingredients brought home by invaders and colonists, and they sure did, they NEVER changed the way they cooked, and that makes the originality of Indian cuisine; for instance, potatoes were imported, but they would never be eaten just as boiled potatoes.
The book sounds very well researched, as for historical and cultural events, which made me discover this country form a very tasty angle.

This book is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme. Click to find other great books related to food.


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