December 08, 2014

Curry: The Story of the Nation's Favorite Dish by Shrabani Basu

When you read this cover, Curry: The Story of the Nation's Favorite Dish, you expect it to be more about the actual dish curry and its origins.  Not quite, this is actually a book about how the dish impacted Britain, and to a larger extent Europe's food, grocery and restaurant businesses. 

Basu goes and explores how curry came to be a popular dish in Britain and the different people who brought it to its success.  She tells the history of the people who came up with the packaged dinners, the cold case dinners, the different restaurants, and the different regions of food that are cooked.  The book is more about the people than the food and it shows how they got to Britain and built their respective empires.

Since this book is about the people it tells from when they came to Britain (or their parents who started the business), where they came from, and how they built their business from humble beginnings into something larger.  It never really explores the people that eat the curries though, just the people that sell it.   And I'm still not sure I understand why it is such a popular cuisine in Britain even after reading this book.  I think a little more of the story on the other side of the plate would have been very helpful.

I also found this book a bit pretentious.  It only showed the empire builders, not the average family owned restaurant (unless it was Michelin starred in most cases).  It also had a disdain for formulaic curries and really "curried" favor with those that did something innovative.  I wanted to learn about the cuisine as a whole and it was hard to do that from this book because it just focused on the upper class eateries and the new dishes that were appearing with premium ingredients.  I wanted to know just what a formulaic curry was as it's not a description in my vocabulary and to see instances of it.

If you're looking for a restaurant guide to the finest Indian restaurant's in Britain this will be good but I think that there's a limited scope on the audience for this book.  Not enough about the food in my opinion.  When I read a book about food I want to almost taste it from the descriptions.  I couldn't do that here.

Curry:  The Story of the Nation's Favorite Dish
Copyright 2003
257 pages

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