Should “Curry” be Canceled?

Found this to be an interesting read:

For me, growing up in a rural community, the only “curry” I knew was the stuff in a jar. In our household it was used for one dish: hot curried tuna. (Those who are sensitive sorts might wish to not read the following bit.)

What is hot curried tuna? A dish that my Midwest-born and raised mother came across somewhere. It consisted of a can or two of tuna, Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup, a soup can of milk, and curry powder. Heated through and served over brown rice or toast.

I’m fairly certain that I didn’t have anything else with curry until my early 20s, when I fell in love with a Canadian from the Toronto area who had a love for Indian food.


I grew up in the midwest, meat and potatoes was all I knew. I went to grad school at Ohio State and shared a townhouse with people of mixed ethnic backgrounds. A former housemate left a recipe from his mother (he was from D.C.) for curried rice. It sounded exotic to me at the time - I still make it but with much less butter than her handwritten recipe called for. Basically butter, long grain white rice, diced onion and Madras curry powder sautéed together until browned then chicken broth added with a handful of currants and a bay leaf.

I made it for the first time with our group, and a woman from Egypt (was living there with a guy from Honduras) freaked out and went “Eeeewww why is the rice yellow?” then left the table.

But I have since moved on to green curry and massamam curry - but I don’t know my way around Indian food.

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I grew thinking of it as Carribean, usually using the yellow-with-tumeric “Jamaican” or Trinidad blend.


Hmmph kabsa from Egypt :thinking:


That looks delicious!!

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Cancelling kale wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

Me approaching some kale.

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I am supposed to be reading and writing something entirely different, deadlines breathing fire, but here I am instead.

I am desi, from South India, and have lived (and eaten) all over India in my childhood wanderings because my father’s occupation made us move every year or two. Then my karma led me to the US and here I am.

I enjoyed a lot of the Bee Wilson article. I personally would not presume to say to people from Thailand, Japan, etc. that they cannot call their dishes ‘curry’. And languages evolve, so the word ‘curry’ has become co-opted into contemporary Indian vocabularies. In the spirit of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, there is Raghavan Iyer’s tome titled “660 Curries”. It’s actually a pretty good cookbook with a lot of solid recipes, but he calls every single thing curry to rub it in.
And Ms Sukhadwala - the Tamil word for ‘bite’ is kadi not kari.

However there are still two things that irritate me no end (on this topic anyways - things that irritate me on other topics are countless).
(1) Why so many cooks and authors in other cultures still can’t or won’t grasp that every desi (=South Asian - political boundaries cut across cultural groups and are historically quite recent) dish has a specific name and a specific spice blend. It’s not all ‘curry’. These cooks grow poetic about grinding spices fresh, but it’s fine to buy premade mixes as long as you know whether you are making sambar or biryani or chhole or whatever TF, buy the specific mix for that, and name the dish that you are making. They repeat the ‘wisdom’ that ‘every cook has their own recipe for garam masala’ - which may or may not be true (there are specific recipes and patterns for garam masala) but then use GM indiscriminately. And ‘Madras curry powder’ is not an actual thing in Madras, the city of my birth (now called Chennai).
(2) Using “curried” as a verb / adjective / noun / whatever. To cook with curry powder or spice mix is not a food technique unlike the terms sautéed, boiled, fried, roasted, braised, whatever - which are actual techniques that you can use to make specific desi dishes. Even well known food writers who will be very precise in cooking terminology for other cuisines just say ‘curried XYZ’ for any vaguely desi dish. The resulting dish can be wet, dry, any region, any ingredient, but that’s how it’s described, which is ridiculous! I recall long ago discussing Upma on CH maybe, and the others were describing it as “curried cream of wheat” Ayyo!!! Just Noooo!. Maybe ‘cream of wheat sautéed with South Indian spices’. Yes it’s a lot longer to say and type but it’s not misleading and meaningless. This is a word I wish would just vanish from the world’s vocabulary along with ‘chai tea’, ‘chai-spiced’, ‘naan bread’ , and many other howlers. I would cancel these words if I could.


In 1977, “Madras Curry Powder” was sold in a tin at my campus grocery store. I still buy that brand, I like the taste. I didn’t name it.

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Cancelling the word “curry” would be like cancelling the words “roast” or “stew” or “sandwich”.

It’s a collective term for anything vaguely resembling its set. It’s useful if not precise.

Can we please stop insisting that anything that someone, somewhere finds unsettling must be completely destroyed?



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There have long been hot debates about authenticity in any cooking or food forum, so I don’t want to re-tread those same debates here. It always circles back (for me) if you are honoring the food and its tradition, even if you eat it completely differently than what it looks like when it was first made. There is a way to honor and enjoy food that you know is “bastardized or so personalized” it may be unrecognizable. I think most people do this right, and there have been glaring examples of doing it really badly.

Side note: I hate this trend towards overusing the term cancel. Criticism isn’t cancelling, but at the same time lets stop hurling criticism and cries to shut down without context and and first trying to understand. /steps off soap box

Food and recipes is prime for influence and inspiration in others. Heck, even my mom’s own recipes and dishes I like a certain way, which she doesn’t. If we were to criticize or cancel any food that is not in it’s original form, I don’t know what food is left for us. I sympathize with the author’s perspective as I see a lot of this in other foods too, but you could substitute the word curry for almost any other popular immigrant or foreign food. If this is just taken as her personal story against the stigma of curry, then she is certainly not alone.

Read this article and replace curry with the following:
Chow Mein / Egg Foo Young / Scallion Pancake /Beef and Broccoli (ie., any Americanized Chinese dish)
Spaghetti and red sauce, and any other “Eye-talian” dish
Sushi like California rolls, or Rainbow maki
McDonalds/Burger King and common fast food burgers when you are not in the US
French baguettes and croissants not from France
Doner kebabs

And many more…you can probably change a few words and phrases here and there, and recreate an actual conversation between the native of some country who grew up eating a food that has become popularized in other locations.