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Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors
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Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  511 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Curry serves up a delectable history of Indian cuisine, ranging from the imperial kitchen of the Mughal invader Babur to the smoky cookhouse of the British Raj.
In this fascinating volume, the first authoritative history of Indian food, Lizzie Collingham reveals that almost every well-known Indian dish is the product of a long history of invasion and the fusion of differen
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Paperback, 315 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 4th 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,583)
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Rebecca
Some history books do not so much alter your worldview as fill your head with a plethora of interesting trivia, some of which you will spout at your friends for a few days, and most of which will disappear in a month or two. Regrettably, I think most of the interesting factoids I've learned from this book are doomed to such a fate.

The book is a little disjointed--I often felt as if the author was on the verge of a grand unifying theory but could not quite wrap her arms around it. Instead, it stu
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Alicia
This is an easy read filled with fun facts as it traces the development of Indian food. I can't think of a more fascinating cuisine than Indian, shaped by regional tastes, religious concepts of purity, and new ingredients introduced by foreigners.

Three snippet facts which interested me most in this book:

1. The idea that foods grown in the native soil imbue the strength and energy of that soil to the eater.
2. The Indian origins of Worcestershire sauce and how it was 'invented'.
3. How at the begi
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monig
Sep 05, 2007 monig rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Indophiles, Anglophiles, Postcolonialists
I thought this was a good book and worth the read if you're an Indophile, but I do have some criticism.

Collingham gives us a quick and dirty history of curry, which ends up of being the history of India, the spice trade, imperialism and colonialism (particularly the British colonization of the region), as well as the immigration of Indians to Britain and the Americas. Obviously, that's much to cover in one 250+ page book ... too much to cover.

I felt like I was being whisked through a historical
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Ken
Aug 14, 2007 Ken rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chowistas / imperialists

This was a fascinating exploration of the foods that I've come to think of as Indian, and how those foods have been influenced by worldwide trade and imperialism. The book itself is organized by chapters: Chicken Tikka Masala, Biryani, Chai, etc., and each chapter delves into a rough history of each dish and its influences. Much to my surprise, many historical recipes and contemporary recipes are included as well, in case one wished to execute a variation of a dish in one's own kitchen.

After rea
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Pablo Roman
This is such a lovely, well written book. The author can really tell a story that is really engaging. Her historical facts about the development of much loved Indian cuisine is peppered with really interesting asides and anecdotes. At times it feels like you're going down a rabbit's warren - but that's the beauty of it! History isn't all dates and emotionless facts particularly not history about food!
This book is truly delicious!
Amanda
Great book about the history of Indian cooking. I nevered realized that I was really eating mostly British concoctions that Indians have adopted over the years. I think I read the book in a couple of days, I enjoyed it so much.
Katie
Lizzie Collingham needs to focus.
Shikha
A solid three. Lizzie Collingham describes what has already been proven in other areas, such as language, religion, and traditions -- that South Asian cuisine is ever-evolving, influenced by so many who have come through and conquered the subcontinent over hundreds and hundreds of years. So many fascinating details - the relatively recent arrival of what are now ubiquitous Indian ingredients, such as tomatoes, onions, and chillies. One of the more interesting factoids - that the British successf ...more
Othello
Scholarly work on Indian cuisine from a historical perspective. Excerpts from 15th and 16th century accounts of European travelers are a treat to read. One may observe how written English changed across centuries, in the excerpts that the author posted verbatim.
I must say the author has done an enormous amount of research for this book. Almost every important statement is backed by a reference to the book or essay in the (chapter-wise) bibliography at the end. It's almost as if the author has tr
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Sunil Maulik
An informative, witty and fast moving culinary history of the South Asian subcontinent, Lizzie Collingham's meticulously researched description of the cuisine of the region is a sumptuous and easily digested delight. Moving sprightly between Persia, Afghanistan, Portugal, the New World, East Africa and India, she teases out truth from fiction on the origin and evolution of many "Indian" dishes that were, in fact, formed under the influence of successive waves of invasions and settlements. I'm no ...more
Emma
My sister is such an avid reader, so much more than I am, and she’s an excellent cook. When she recommended me this book, I did not hesitate. And I was not disappointed at all.
This book is so delicious: a great mix of history, culture, and cuisine, including recipes.
It was fascinating to discover how the Indian cuisines, and be sure to notice the -s, evolved all along the centuries depending on the invaders in this or that region.
A very interesting point that the author makes is that if Indians
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Laura
Jun 27, 2007 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Food Geeks
I really enjoyed this book. I thought I was picking up only a history of Indian cuisine, I was happy to discover this book is an expansive study of the evolution Indian food. The author explores the effect India had on British cuisine, history and eating habits in equal detail as the influence of Britain on Indian foods and culture. I was surprised to learn that the British introduced the habit of tea drinking to India . Collingham details a myriad of other cultures that contributed to India's ...more
Cadillacrazy
This is a great micro-history of curry (I.e. Indian food) and the impact of the world on food in India, and then, Indian food on the world. There are interesting historic recipes peppered through the book, and while it is a bit British-centric (the author lingers on the disappointments of English 'curry' quite a bit, and only touches on Indian food in the U.S. as an extension of the British Indians going to the u.s. east coast, and writes off the west coast as a quick page of immigration limitat ...more
Malavika
This was a perfect end-of-summer book. True, it's an academic work, but it's fun, interesting and quite the page-turner. The book is divided into chapters that focus on a different "Indian" dish -- vindaloo, korma etc. -- and carefully pieces together how the dish was first created, when it became popular and the historical background surrounding the dish's introduction. It's a fascinating look at the history of India, the history of food, and how the food most people recognize as "Indian food" ...more
Noora
Such a good read. A mesmerizing exploration of the history of conquest in India through its food. A multi-dimensional investigation that not only looks at the history of what we know today as Indian food, but also at the influences of foreign forces on the politics, culture and people. I had to read this for a class at college and I have to say that this is one of the few books that I have truly enjoyed reading in Uni.
Crystal
I loved this culinary history - it was well written and interspersed with interesting recipes. By tracking curry across the globe, Collingham provides a unique perspective on empire. We tend to think we are the first global society but that is far from true. Books like this one show us that our ancestors were intrepid as well and that food can be a reflection of so much more than mere taste.
Neetu
A lovely read about the evolution of Indian cuisine as we know it today. This is a history book with a difference. The routes taken by the different ingredients as they travelled in the bags of the conquerors of India are evocatively traced. The potatoes and chillies from South America that came via the Dutch and Portuguese, the hing, the leavened breads, the marinated meats from Persia, the coffee with the Arab traders and the tea in the trunks of the British Raj, this book traces the transform ...more
Mallee Stanley
For anyone who loves curry, this is interesting. For example, I thought chillies were always used in Indian food. No, they were introduced to Indians (who previously used black pepper in their dishes) after Columbus found them in Central America. And there's lots more interesting little facts like where the word "curry" came from because Indians never used that word.
Delson Roche
One of my favourite books. It covers two of my favourite subjects- food and history. A never before insight on the history of Indian cuisine. Well written and filled with stories and anecdotes from the annals of Indian cooking. An easy read too. One of the few books that I have read twice.
Tooba
So far an amazing journey into the history of "India" via food...Who knew that the Spanish/Protuguese Inquisition reached India. It is engrossing.

Finished it, lots of time on the commuter train...it stimulated my mind, and my appetite. Interesting side notes on the history of Britian and India. It is mostly a Britian centric book with an aside to the SE Asian diaspora in other countries. It could have been a lengthier text and still kept my interest.
I appreciated even more what I grew up with
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Margaret Sankey
This is food history, done really well. Collingham pieces together the iconic dish through the religious taboos and agricultural resources of ancient India, adds Middle Eastern cooking techniques from the Mughals, shows what happens when chilies arrive from Latin America via the Portuguese, Anglicizes it to the tastes of the East India Company nabobs through their house servants, imports curry powder back to Britain for said nabobs who retire, sees the dish trickle down to as cheap, filling food ...more
Bruce
A thoroughly enjoyable book about Indian food. This 'tale' of cooks and conquerors is a history of what one could call fusion cuisine. Cultures that 'sort of' conquered others did not impose their food preparations and habits onto those conquered. The environment affected the food stuffs used and how they were prepared. Yet conquerors also introduced new food stuffs. Chilies, tomatoes, and potatoes are not indigenous to the Asian sub-continent but have become a well established part of some regi ...more
Divya
A historical account of the proliferation of Indian food, or what is known as "curry" over time. It takes a primarily British examination of the assimilation of Indian food and assesses the causes of its acceptance, and evolution over time. As an avid foodie, it is illuminating but can also be a little too scholarly at times. The recipes help round out the picture and give real examples of the trends that the author is trying to illustrate. However, a few more stories and more defined breaks / s ...more
Rahim
'tracing Indian cuisine from the Mughal Courts of Delhi to the Balti houses of Birmingham'. a run through of how Indian food evolved (influence of the Persians, Portuguese, British, etc). parts of this just rambled and rambled and was hard to read - but overall it was kinda cool and gave some interesting facts - did you know Tomatoes didn't exist in India until the Portuguese brought them from Peru in the 16th century?? Same for hot chillies. or that potatoes came with the British?? What was Ind ...more
Mads P.
An informative read that throws out any previously held notions of what is "authentic" Indian food. I wonder about some of the accuracy though: She talked about Hyderabadi biryanis having coconut in them, which is definitely not correct. She also, early on, called green mango "amla", which, as far as I know is gooseberry. You can buy packages frozen that say "amla" and they are yellow berries--not "am", which in Hindi means mango. I wish that the chapter on how Indian food is perceived now the w ...more
shruti
I started this book with reservations, despite reading at least one review that recommended this book. Perhaps unfairly, I doubted that a non-Indian author could tackle this subject without a lot of otherness. Indeed, Collingham said she did not enjoy Indian food at first, which was part of the reason she undertook this subject. Can you really appreciate the subject matter if you cannot taste it?

Either way, this is a wonderful and interesting chronicle of Indian food. What we think to be native
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Saju  Pillai
My recent weight gain is completely this book's fault.

Lizzie Collingham cooks up a most potent book using equal measures of History and Food. The stories of Indian marquee foods and marquee conquerors of India is very well told. Biryani, Vindaloo, Korma, Curry, Tikka Masala & Chai are examined in detail at the dinner tables of the Mughals, Nawabs, Portugese, Company Bahadurs, & the British. Several assumptions of the casual Indian foodie are questioned and authentic recipes from histori
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Meera Nair
A history of Indian cuisine, where it came from, how it developed and where it traveled. Lively writing and fascinating historical tidbits.
Anie
Jun 02, 2015 Anie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in Indian food and culture
I liked this book a great deal. It's a nice overview of foreign influence on Indian food, from the Mughals to the British. Of course, one cannot simply list "and they borrowed this from them" and have anything compelling. The book is a combination of the more "important" history (your landings, invasions, and politics) and the attendant cultural change - seen so strongly in the foods one adopts or fails to adopt from a foreign land. Collingham is a good writer and the book flows well. Very, very ...more
Gunsonm
Very interesting book, with many surprising bits of historical information. She cleared up some questions I had about the authenticity of curry, and confirmed information I had gleaned previously. I found some good ideas, and encouragement to try experimenting with some of the spices in my cupboard. The information on what order to add ingredients was very helpful. I have already created some simple dishes that were a hit with my wife and son. As an aside, some of my favourite curries have been ...more
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Dr. Elizabeth M. Collingham has lectured at Warwick University and been a reasearch fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge.
More about Lizzie Collingham...
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