Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors

Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors



257 pages


This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge

and for

The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge


My sister is such an avid reader, so much more than I am, and she’s an excellent cook. Alas, she passed away since I originally published this post!
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 from a very tasty angle.


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]


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.


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



19 thoughts on “Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors

  1. I love this type of foodie book — I have shelves of them. But this book of India and curry is new to me. Sounds like a must-read! It’s always fascinating to me how imported foods can be so embraced by a country you forget that it’s not native. I’m thinking tomatoes for many Italian dishes and potatoes and Ireland/England.


  2. This sounds like a fascinating book, and one that would fit into my 11 in 11 challenge, to read two books in 11 different categories, one of which is food-related non-fiction…thanks for the suggestion!


    • I’m now following you thru Google Reader. I was trying to look at the Challenge you mention, but could not find a link to it on your blog. I’m doing one a bit similar, shooting for 1 book in 7-9 categories. it’s called 2011 Non Fiction Challenge, you can see here the titles I have read so far for that one, in case you need more suggestions ;-):
      Thanks for visiting and commenting


    • Thanks for your comment. this is much more history than recipes, but the few there are very good. am following you now thru google reader. I noticed we read about the same number of books so far in 2011 and have 1 in common! the world clock is kind of scarry…


    • yes this one is first history and culture, and then a bit of a cookbook with a few select recipes – I tried one, it was very good. am following you now thru google reader, and can’t wait for the end of Lent to try your banana coconut muffins! thanks for stopping by with a comment


  3. Sounds like an interesting book. I love curry and most Indian foods and would love to know more about the history of it. So, yes. I’d love to read this book.


  4. Pingback: GOOD BOOKS FOR YOUR WEEK-END 04/16-17 « Words And Peace

  5. Pingback: My Dewey Decimal Challenge 2011 « Words And Peace

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