Why An Indian American Instagrammer Wants ‘curry’ Canceled?

The food world is savouring its first big ‘cancel culture’ moment when Chaheti Bansal, a California-based Instagrammer, made a plea to “cancel the word curry” through a video on Instagram. The video that Chaheti posted on August 9 got over 3.6 million views and counting. It has also been covered by media houses in London as well as Perth. 

Such a move by Chaheti came when she had had enough of “white people using ‘curry’- an umbrella term- to describe all Indian dishes and not being bothered to learn the actual names of our dishes while the food in India changes every 100km”, Chaheti said to the NBC News. 

Chaheti was trying to express the pride that her generation of Indian Americans is experiencing while rediscovering Indian cuisines and their original diversity away from their roots. 

The controversy around the appropriateness of the use of the word ‘curry’ has been questioned, which is justified in a way. It is because ‘curry’ has been used differently from Madhur Jaffrey (‘Ultimate Curry Bible’) to Camelia Panjabi (’50 Great Curries of India’), varying its taste from the Kashmiri ‘roghan josh’ to Kerala’s ‘meen moilee’. 

According to the guardians of the Raj theory, the Tamil word ‘Kari’ was popularised and used to describe a spice sauce or gravy, as the umbrella expression it has become. As per its literal meaning, the Anglo-Indian lexicon, ‘Hobson Jobson’ is ‘to eat by biting’. 

Along with the word, the Madras Curry Powder made an entry but its origin is lost in history. It was invented by the British curry houses in the 1960s, as suggested by some historians. 

In Britain, it was not until 1747 that the classical cookbook writer Hannah Glasses presented a recipe to “Make a Curry the India Way”, which was a stew of chicken or rabbits with a spoonful of rice and a variety of spices. 

As Alan Davidson was quoted in the BBC food, “What had been an Indian sauce to go with rice, became an English stew with a little rice in it.” Although Britain introduced ‘curry’, both to the word that has defined Indian food across the globe and its bastardised forms cooked in restaurants that were patronised by the old ‘nabobs’, it’s the Portuguese who popularised the word among the Western world. 

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