A Conversation for The Healing Power of Curry

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Post 1

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

Hullo h2g2 Editorial staff,

There are a couple of factual errors in this article, which you may want to address:

1) fennel - to my knowledge, fennel is *not* used in the manufacture of curry powders. In India, fennel seeds are eaten after any meal, as a digestive aid. It is the flavouring for liquorice smiley - yuk and so on, but I am not personally aware of any family who use fennel in their actual recipe for curry powder. I suspect this was a misreading of my post on Nathan's Peer Review thread. Please verify.

And,

2) Curry dishes are not of Indian or Asian origin
This is simply not true. The word 'curry' is from the South Indian language Tamil, 'kari', meaning 'relish, saucing, or spicing'. Where do you suppose the English got curry? Clever restauranteurs in London did not invent something that goes back to the pre-Indo-European invasion of the Subcontinent, ~8000 years ago. smiley - cross

As the rest of the article correctly says, these spices are necessary to good health in hot, humid climates. The British Isles gave the world boiled cabbage and haggis. India gave the world tea and curry! 'Chicken Tikka Masala'* has certainly been heard of, since it was created in, India (specifically South India, should I give you a rundown on North-Indian and South-Indian cuisine?).
Please fix this.

Ethnically, and emphatically,

Arpeggio (who learnt as a small child that the Hindi for 'eat curry' means roughly 'sod off') for LeKZ
*a 'Masala' dish does not necessarily include curry.smiley - tongueout


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Post 2

Nathan ---Owner and Operator of the Swank and often Smoking Jacket

Thank you kindly for the input. I am willing to edit my submission but am unable to do so. If someone from the staff of h2g2 will let me have the article back, I will promptly change a few things.

Being an Herbalist, I was speaking mostly of the medicinal action of the spices involved. Medicinal herbs are my background. Your information is greatly appreciated. I was inspired to write the article after visiting an Indian resturant and looking at the ingredients listed in curry. I noticed that all of them were medicinal.

Thanks agian for the information.


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Post 3

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

Nathan,

Once an article is 'pending', I don't know whether the sub-ed can still get into it either. Then it takes a few days to get on the famous Front Page. At that point, it is part of the Edited Guide. One of the in-house Editorial Staff usually cruises by the next day, to read the comments that have been made by author, etc, and fix anything that got missed in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rounds of editing.

Leastways, that's what happened to my article that went up last week. So... if there are places where you found problems, inaccuracies, etc, this is the place to make notes on them.

Hope that helped!

Arpeggio, for LeKZ


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Post 4

Emily 'Twa Bui' Ultramarine

I'm sorry, but I don't know about factual errors - I'm just the Sub! I read the related threads and added comments as I saw fit, but in some areas discussion was such that there was complete disagreement and so I went with what the author had written when I did the editing.

Arpeggio - I think the implication was that it's not just India or the sub-continent that has curry. In Malaysia we have some impressive curries, as well as in Thailand.


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Post 5

Emily 'Twa Bui' Ultramarine

No - I just got it - I think it's that what most people know as 'curry' is Anglicised/Americanised or otherwise adapted to their tastes, rather than being the authentic, real thing...

I hope...


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Post 6

Mycroft

The origins of curry and CTM aren't quite as clear cut as you would have it.

The Tamil 'kari' is by no means the sole contender for the root of the English word 'curry'. The English first arrived in the North of India, where the word 'khadi' was used, and 'karahi' is another candidate. Additionally, the word 'cury' had already been around in England long before the English went to India.

As for CTM, it is absolutely positively not Indian. It is to India what Heinz Spaghetti is to Italy. It is a dish of chicken tikka served with a sauce, the 'traditional' main ingredient of which is Campbell's Condensed Cream of Tomato Soup, although this has subsequently been slightly refined. The main contender for inventor of this culinary Frankenstein is a Bangladeshi restaurant-owner who needed to quickly come up with something to satisfy a customer disgruntled at the absence of gravy with his chicken tikka. CTM does not exist in India outside of hotel restaurants.


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Post 7

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

St. Emily,

The person to ask would be Nathan. He's the one who said 'curries' were creations of Western restauranteurs, which is downright silly, but he may well not have known. He's an herbalist and naturopath, not necessarily a cultural anthropologist. Of course there are variations on curry all over Asia. The origin of the word is Tamil, but that is one of the ancient, pre-Indo-Aryan languages. Speakers of Proto Tamil took ship and their descendants are Australian Aborigines, and Nepali, and any number of other peoples. Curry, as good food and good medicine, spread throughout Asia, and was naturally adapted to whatever grew in different places.

Nathan said he happened to be eating in an Indian restaurant (in the UK) and realised that the list of ingredients in the 'curry' (used to mean any dish with spices, including the infamous Chicken Tikka Masala, which is *not* curry unless it says so... Brit slang) had medicinal properties. There are tons of medicinal properties, and he would know about that. He would not know about Jains, or that 'curry' is something everyone makes a little differently, or its relevance at Sub-Equatorial climates (though he could work that bit out on his own, as he's a scientist), or anything about North American Indigenes, etc.

For whatever reason, he chose not to incorporate any of that material (I think I just had two posts there) from the thread into his article. I got the impression he was a bit unclear on the Peer Review, and the Editorial Procedure, which makes sense as this is his first Edited Guide entry. I can speak for the definitiveness of my facts, and his as well. He knows his subject. I'm a generalist, but I grew up with this.

I don't think they were contradictory, so much as that he was using the British 'curries' (dishes w/ spices) in a more generic sense than the people who invented the stuff do. But that does not change the fact that curry, as blend of spices, originated in the south of India, and not in Leeds. Why would they need something so tummy-irritating in a cold climate? It makes no sense, and I'm sure as a naturopath and herbalist, he can see that.

Perhaps you should drop him a note? He was, I think, not very happy, and very confused by how much different the article looked from what he wrote. I had a similar experience last week, so I did my best to explain, and reassure...smiley - erm He was, I think, not terribly happy with me, actually.

If you want suggestions or clarifications on anything I said, I can provide them. I do not have Nathan's specialised scientific knowledge, but the whole concept of medicinal foods is just part of what food is, in India.

Let me know, all right?

Arpeggio, for LeKZ


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Post 8

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

smiley - yikes CTM! That is revolting.

Well, strike me down.

No, 'khari' 'khadhi', etc are definitely later, North-Indian pronunciations of 'kari'. The Indo-Aryans had no ear for the Dravidian languages.

I am unfamiliar with the word 'cury'. What did it mean? I'm going to have a go in my OED, but I'm curious.

Eek, what a monstrous creation. However, 'masala' means simply 'spiced' in Hindi. Foods with curry in tend to be called 'Palak Paneer Khadhi', at least, in India they do.

Off to see OED on this one.

Arpeggio, for LeKZ


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Post 9

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

Yep. I'm the one who said you can't really speak of 'curry' as a thing, because Thai curry and Indian curry are totally different forms of a similar thing.

You're in Malaysia?


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Post 10

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

St Emily,

You said: The Tamil 'kari' is by no means the sole contender for the root of the English word 'curry'. The English first arrived in the North of India, where the word 'khadi' was used, and 'karahi' is another candidate.
##Right, and these words are derived from Tamil, because the Tamil-speaking people of India were there first, and evidently had already invented the stuff by the time the Indo-Aryans arrived. It is common knowledge among North-Indians that the spicier varieties of foods are originally South-Indian, which stands to reason, given proximity to the equator and absence of mountainous terrain.
OED simply says the word is a transliteration.

Additionally, the word 'cury' had already been around in England long before the English went to India.
##Quite, per OED from the Old French, as regards matters concerning the kitchen, American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European roots traces that to the Latin, from which we have everything from 'care' to 'protctor'. The original Latin word meant 'to care'.

While it is possible that 'cury' is the root word, it seems unlikely to me, given how many transliterated words from Indian languages moved into English, along with the concepts behind them. Why would they change a word pronounced 'kewery' - alt. spelling - to 'curry', when there was already something there, pronounce 'curry'? As a philoanthropological proposition, it makes no sense. The Raj were constantly importing things, and their names.

So, I stand, as do my references, by my original statement about 'kari'.

Chiken Tikka Masala... ewww... was a new one on me. I was raised Hindu and don't know what they do with dead things as 'Indian' food, but you set me right on that one, so thank you. I retract that assertion, as it was based on... a good guess which happened to be wrong.

So thank you for the opportunity for me to re-re-recheck my refs., and for letting me know the disgusting things some restauranteurs will do for a sixpence. smiley - yuk

Arpeggio, chastened, but still Indian, for LeKZ


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Post 11

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

My mistake. St Emily, you said nothing of the sort. Mycroft did.

Ok, Mycroft, what I said to you under the alias 'St Emily'. I stand by both my assertion, on the grounds that *it* makes linguistic sense, and my retraction, on the grounds that I didn't know what the heck I was talking about. smiley - winkeye

And Lo, the Lord said, 'the arrogant shall swallow their feet, yea, though they might be righteous, so shall they also be fools unto the world.' (it's somewhere in the Apocrypha, of Psuedepigrapha...)

Arpeggio, foot in mouth, for LeKZ


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Post 12

Mycroft

'Cury' meant a dish (the contents as opposed to the vessel), from the French/Latin etc...

Here's a C15 English quote which is quite clearly (smiley - laugh) an allusion to making curry powder:

Cooks with peire newe conceytes,
choppynge, stampynge and gryndynge
Many new curies alle day pey ar contryvynge
and fyndynge
pat provotethe pe peple to perelles of passage prouz peyne soore pyndynge
and prouz nice excesse of such receytes of pe life to make a endynge.


Anyway, I'm not saying that the word curry doesn't come from 'kari', but it's at least possible that the word 'cury' had a role to play in its formation.

More contentiously, it's possible to make a case for curry powders having independently been created in Europe. All the raw ingredients were certainly available, and concoctions such as 'powder fort' and 'powder douce' were in use.


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Post 13

Mycroft

Ack! Sorry - I wandered off for half an hour before posting the last one, so it's largely irrelevant.


Some use fennel, some don't

Post 14

paulh. reality is a sandwich I did not order

Hi, Arpeggio:

It takes time to do research, and a rhread can really wander while
one is researching. I thought this thread was about the use of
fennel in curry powders originally, but now it has wandered
into linguistic details that I could never cope with.

I consulted 5 Indian cookbooks. Of the 5, 2 recommended against
using commercial curry poowders. Mix your own, they said.
So, if you are mixing your own spices, and you do not believe
fennel belongs in your recipe, then don't put it in.
Of the three that did allow for commercial curries, not one
mentioned fennel as a potential ingredient.

On the other hand, Encyclopedia Brtannica Online says
that fennel "may" be an ingredient in curry powder.
And when I look at the ingredients in my own box of
curry powder (which, for the record, is Sun Brand
Madras Curry Powder, prepared under license of
Merwanjee Poonjiajee & Sons of Bombay
by Edward Bennecke of New York), I find fennel
listed.

So, I cannot make a definitive statement on fennel.
I suggest that this disagreement be mentioned, with
both arguments explored.


Some use fennel, some don't

Post 15

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

Thank you Paul H,

You said: I thought this thread was about the use of
fennel in curry powders originally, but now it has wandered
into linguistic details that I could never cope with.

Actually, this thread was about two errors I found in the text, the second one - 'curries' being a European invention - being much more important, because totally incorrect, than the first (if you want to put sugar in your curry powder, go right ahead... someone probably does).

Who would you say, offhand, is likely to be definitive on how to make/mix curry powder, 5 Indian cookbooks and an Indian person, who don't think fennel belongs, or Encyclopaedia Britannica Online? I don't see much of a controversy since 6 sources say 'nay', and they are likely to know, and two sources say yea: one is Western Ref material, and the other is Made in New York.

Fennel is used to substitute for the more expensive cumin. The taste is entirely different.

smiley - starI honestly don't care if the first point is addressed at all. The second one needs to be corrected.

Did you somehow miss Item #2 in the initial post? I'm confused.

Arpeggio, for LeKZ


Some use fennel, some don't

Post 16

paulh. reality is a sandwich I did not order

Arpeggio:

"Did you somehow miss Item #2 in the initial post? I'm confused."

I assumed that it was less important because it was listed second.
Thank you for explaining.

I've never thought of fennel as a substitute for cumin, but I have
used it instead of anise in dishes like paella. (There are little
mice that sometimes get into my anise supply, so substitutions
are unavoidable.)

Have a nice day smiley - smiley


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Post 17

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

Hullo again, Mycroft,

You said: More contentiously, it's possible to make a case for curry powders having independently been created in Europe. All the raw ingredients were certainly available, and concoctions such as 'powder fort' and 'powder douce' were in use.

Not likely, IMO, because the ingredients in 'curry' are specifically medical necessities in *hot*, humid climates, where they cause intense perspiration. If not sweated out, they can be corrosive to the gastro-intestinal linings (as many North-Western people who are not peasants working the fields in 42 degrees C have noticed smiley - ill).

There was no need for Europeans to have anything like so strong as 'curry'. Foods get hotter and spicier as one moves toward the Equator for solid practical reasons, as outlined in the article (this is true moving Northward from the South Pole, too).

I'd be interested to know what was in 'poudre fort' and 'poudre douce', as it is possible those words had to do with the 'humours' that the powders supposedly affected, or the effect on the eater's temper, or something like that, rather than being about flavour. I don't know. I'm guessing again. smiley - winkeye

Ginger, which is an invariable ingredient in curry and many Eastern foods, is not indigenous to Europe. They had pepper, garlic, onions, and some other ingredients, but sans ginger, 'curry' it wasn't.

Contentious, yes. smiley - winkeye Plausible, nah, not really...smiley - tongueout

Arpeggio, 'think climate' for LeKZ


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Post 18

Mycroft

Bah! Humbug! smiley - winkeye

Ginger may not be indigenous to Europe, but it's been here for over 2500 years. I've seen Roman recipes that feature it, Dioscorides seemed to think it could cure just about anything, and you'll have trouble finding any English Medieval sauce recipe that doesn't have ginger in it. Henry VIII was a big fan of the stuff, apparently smiley - smiley.


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Post 19

Arpeggio - Keeper, Muse, Against Sequiturs, à propos of nothing in particular

That just goes to show that the Romans did a modest job of civilising the natives of the Britsh Isles, while my ancestors were advancing the sciences of medicine, mathematics, horticulture, animal-husbandry, weaving, dye-stuffs, etc. To say nothing of hybridizing black and orange teas to perfection...smiley - nahnah


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Post 20

Emily 'Twa Bui' Ultramarine

I don't know about 'sweating out' the ingredients of a curry - it's just plain digestion, pure and simple. It all depends on whether you're used to it and have the correct enzymes.

No, I'm not in Malaysia, but I'm half-Chinese with a mother born and brought up in Malaysia (all very complex) and I live in England. So saying, I did some research last night and, yes, fennel can be used in curry.

Incidentally, the word for curry is 'kari' in Malay. Just thought I'd drop that in. smiley - silly

As for the whole chicken tikka masala thing, I think the whole problem is that Nathan was saying that what a lot of people in Western countries know as curry is a pale imitation of the real thing. It's particular pertinent at the moment in the aftermath of the UK general election, when the (then) Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that 'Chiken tikka masala is Briain's national dish' by way of suggesting the importance of ethnic minorities in the UK. I live in the Midland in England, where because of the sizeable ethnic minority poplations we have great food, and some more authentic curries than elsewhere in the country.

As for the Anglicisation/Americanisation etc., it happens elsewhere too. Take chop suey - there's no such Chinese dish, in any province. That was made up by an restaurant owner for a gold digger in California. Vichysoisse - not French, but American. We have to consider as well the great diversity of populations. My family in Malaysia have 'Nonya' background - that is, they migrated from China (Fukkien, out of interest) several centuries ago, and consequently have assimilated local cooking techniques (as well as those of the Portuguese) into their own. There's a lot of snobbery between different Chinese groups, too - what most people think of as 'Chinese' food is actually specifically Cantonese, as it is this group that seem to have become prominent amongst restauranteurs. It, like the Western curry, tends tp be pretty inauthentic. Now real Hokkien hawker food... now there's something...

Emily, sadly sat here with her copy of 'The Great Malaysian Breakfast', missing real food... smiley - cry


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