Chefs push to cancel ‘curry’ because of colonial origins

A California vlogger cooked up an Indian food controversy with a call to cancel the word “curry” – blaming its widespread usage on British colonialism.

A viral April Instagram post from Chaheti Bansal on her Rooted in Spice page sparked a debate over the word’s usage to describe dishes of different tastes from various regions of South Asia and has been widely recirculated in recent media reports.

“I’m not even gonna bother with the recipe in this voiceover cause I have more important things to discuss like canceling the word ‘curry,’ ” she says in the post, accompanying a video of her cooking.

“OK, not in all cultures – but specifically in Indian cuisine cause I don’t understand what that word means,” she adds.

“Like there’s a saying that the food in India changes every 100 kilometers and yet we’re still using this umbrella term popularized by white people who couldn’t be bothered to learn the actual names of our dishes – but we can still unlearn.”

The word “curry” likely originated from British colonists who were mispronouncing something else – although it’s not clear what exactly they were mispronouncing.

A California vlogger cooked up an Indian food controversy with a call to cancel the word “curry” – blaming its widespread usage on British colonialism.
Chaheti Bansal cooked up an Indian food controversy.
Twitter

“The word curry does not exist in any South Asian language to my knowledge,” University of Vermont Professor Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst told NBC News. “Curry is one of these words that most historians attribute to the British bad ear.”

White people wanted South Asian food but not overly spiced or “smelly,” the professor said.

“And that lack of temperance, in our food, or in our emotionality, is a problem,” she told NBC News. “That’s one of the things that is rooted in white, Christian supremacy.”

Bansal told NBC she doesn’t want to completely strike “curry” from the record and it is often correct for certain South Asian dishes – she is just aiming for some nuance.

“Curry shouldn’t be all that you think about when you think about South Asian food,” she said in an interview.

But that hasn’t stopped some people from pushing back on the movement. “I lost the will to live as soon as we started talking about it,” British TV host Simon McCoy said in a widely circulated clip covering the controversy.

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