The Origins of Curry Powder

Where did curry powder come from? There is no real equivalent in authentic subcontinental cuisines for a ready-made powder. The closest thing to a curry powder is a masala, and that is almost always more of a paste than a powder because of the addition of wet and dry ingredients to the mix. On the subcontinent, seeds and roots, etc. are roasted, ground and mixed … Read more

Curry Through Foreign Eyes 4 – Dr. Kitchiner

Today’s exploration of Indian Curry through Foreign Eyes takes us back to early 19th Century England to The Cook’s Oracle by Dr. Kitchiner, which was first published in London by Samuel Bagster in 1817. The original title of the book is Apicius Redivivus, or Apicius Reborn, so it is clear that the publisher thought that this book was a masterpiece of gourmet dining. Either that, … Read more

The Origins of Curry

The origins of curry – both the word and the food – are clouded in assumption, misinformation and cherry-picking of language to suit one’s purposes. From my recent research on curry for the Curry Through Foreign Eyes series, I have found that a great deal of the misinformation written in English can be traced to The Hobson-Jobson Anglo-Indian Dictionary, first published in 1886. In this … Read more

Indian Curry Through Foreign Eyes #2: Mary Randolph

Next up on our exploration of curries is Mary Randolph’s Curry from her book, The Virginia Housewife, first published in the United Sates in 1824. Although she was well born, Mary and her husband’s fortunes fell in middle age and The Virginia Housewife was written to help lift her family out of poverty. The Virginia Housewife underwent multiple revisions and no less than 19 editions … Read more

Thackeray’s Ode to Curry

Poem to Curry – William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 -1863) Three pounds of veal my darling girl prepares, And chops it nicely into little squares; Five onions next procures the little minx (The biggest are the best, her Samiwel thinks), And Epping butter nearly half a pound, And stews them in a pan until they’re brown’d. What’s next my dexterous little girl will do? She pops … Read more

Indian Curry Through Foreign Eyes #1: Hannah Glasse

I have long been fascinated by concepts of “I and other”, or the many ways we separate what is familiar (self) from what is not familiar (non-self). Of course, by defining what is not self, we are in fact defining self. One can hear small children do this when misclassified by gender; most adamantly declare that they are not members of the opposite sex. I … Read more

No Cuisine is an Island

The booksigning at the Smithsonian went well. Actually it went very well – we old and signed all but two of the books purchased for the event. I also really enjoyed meeting people and discussing the book with them. I was pleased to see that people were most interested in the book’s message that cuisines are interconnected, and how dishes we think of as cornerstones … Read more

Happy Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Yesterday was the first day of – Diwali – The Festival of Lights for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world. This means that for the past few weeks, women have been working overtime in kitchens throughout the subcontinent and diaspora communities to prepare traditional foods for the five-day long celebration. Many things are celebrated on Diwali, but the overarching reason for the holiday for … Read more

Global Table Adventure – Pakistan

I am honored once again to have Sasha Martin adapt recipes from The Silk Road Gourmet for her explorations of global cuisines at Global Table Adventure. This past week she has cooked three recipes from Pakistan from Volume One of my book: Rice with Pine Nuts and Garlic, Mixed Bean Salad and Sweet Coffee with Cinnamon and Cardamom. The dishes have never looked more beautiful … Read more

Ramadan Kareem

The time of Ramadan is almost upon us once again. Since so many of the land and maritime routes of the Silk Road ran through predominantly Muslim countries, and since Muslim traders played such an important role in moving the goods and ideas around that led to a globalization of the ancient world, I wanted to take a moment to explain the holiday to non-Muslims … Read more

Silk and the Early Silk Road

A recent article in the journal Archaeometry tells of a new discovery of ancient silk in Pakistan’s Indus Valley. The ornaments that contain the fibers have been dated to 2450 – 2000 BC. The really fantastic thing about the find is that analysis of the fibers by electron microscope suggest that the fibers were produced by Antheraea moths indigenous to South Asia. In other words, … Read more

Bangladesh, My Bangladesh!

Those of you who have been reading The Silk Road Gourmet for a while know that Bangladesh has a special place in my heart. I have been there many times and am in love with the country and the people and their endless ingenuity in making the best of their home on a semi-hospitable flood plain. In slightly less than 40 years since independence, the … Read more

Christmas in India

Trees adorned with lights, candles and lamps in the window, strings of paper lanterns cut into intricate patterns – all around the world, Christmas is one of the many human holidays that celebrates the return of light to the world. For Christians this light is believed to be God’s light as witnessed in the birth of Jesus. In pre-Islamic Egypt, Osiris died and was reborn … Read more

An Ode to Arab Cuisine

For those of you who think I’ve made an error in omitting the Levant States from The Silk Road Gourmet – you may be right. Originally, I intended to do a follow on to the Silk Road Gourmet that treated the cuisines of the Maghreb and Levant, but the more cooking I do from these countries (especially Arab cooking), the more I understand their influence … Read more

The Goddess of Food

Not Julia Child. Not Martha Stewart or Nigella Lawson, and certainly not Rachael Ray. I’m talking Annapurna, Demeter, Ceres, Ukemochi-no-kami and Chicomecoatl . . . the goddesses of food and hospitality. Almost every culture has one. Some cultures have more than one: She who keeps the pots and the bellies full of nourishing food. She is the goddess who both personifies hunger and either acts … Read more