Curry: A Biography by Lizzie Collingham - review by Julia Keay

Julia Keay

The National Dish

Curry: A Biography


Chatto & Windus 255pp £16.99

Described as ‘a history of the Indian subcontinent and its various rulers through a history of its food’, Curry: A Biography might more accurately be called Curry: A Travelogue. Sweeping through 2,000 years of history and swirling round the globe from Kerala and Kashmir to Java, Tonga, Birmingham and back again, it is the story of countless journeys made by countless largely anonymous travellers who carried, both to and from India, in their pockets, pouches, portmanteaux, gunny sacks and sea-chests, the essential elements of India’s cuisines. 

Although derived from the Tamil kari, meaning ‘sauce’ or ‘relish’, the word ‘curry’ is rarely if ever used in India. In Britain it is applied indiscriminately to a multitude of quite different dishes, and all over the world it is instantly identified as ‘Indian food’. Yet many of its ingredients,

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