Depending on which part of the world you are from, you might associate curry as solely belonging to the Indian Subcontinent. While curry is a celebrated staple that comes a close second to rice in many south asian households, curry is more of an asian phenomenon. Burmese curry, Japanese curry, Peranakan curry and some orange paste stuffed in fancy glass bottles named ‘Tikki masala’ or ‘authentic thai curry’ are different variations on the many Curries one can find. Even if curries were just an Indian phenomenon it can still be confusing. Within each indian state, different communities cook their curries differently. Depending on your bloodline, which part of the river your family is from or if you had a culinary genius down your ancestry path you would make curries differently.
When I had gone on exchange to Utrecht I had missed curry so much. It wasn’t just curry, but I missed the spices mixed in a warm flood of ecstasy entering your mouth and sliding down your throat. But many Dutch lunches were as cold as their winters with meat and cheese stuffed in between slices of bread. For the first time in my life it became necessary for me to cook, seriously. Which meant cooking beyond omelettes and fried rice dishes. The spice search began in dutch supermarkets as I google translated spices from dutch to english to its indian form. I judged bottles of pre-made mixes for their shade of orange (very patriotic of the dutch) only to decide that I will stick true to the challenge and make my curries from scratch. On different accounts based on the amount of enthusiasm, yogurt and tomato puree I had within my vicinity, each time they tasted slightly different. As an unspoken rule I never made curry just when cooking for myself, it had to be shared with someone else. It almost seemed as if it would be an over indulgence to cook curry just for myself. Just like eating in a michelin three star restaurant by yourself or pouring yourself glasses of champagne while watching the most boring documentary mid day on Netflix in bed.
On one of the last few nights in the Netherlands I was appointed as the designated onion chopper to make curry. The curry contained chickpeas, potatoes and an entire can of coconut milk in it.The warmth of the curry was like a hug on a winter day and I absolutely enjoyed it. I knew for a fact that the hippie chef had found this recipe while surfing the net for vegetarian or vegan curry. If I had learnt anything back home, it was that no matter what curry you made if it wasn’t for an entire village there was no reason to pour an entire can of coconut milk in any pot. On top of that, curry is usually traditionally eaten with a side of rice or roti.
But this curry was self sustaining. It was a testament to western individualism and self love that had been promoted by philosophers, modern day self-help gurus and therapists. Although curry has been fused into many cultures, it still is primarily an eastern tradition. While self-love and self sufficiency is possible and admired by ‘eastern’ people, we rather enjoy having company while learning to love ourselves.While it is beautiful to be alone, waking to your own alarm and having an uninterrupted view of your balcony just for yourself; having some carbs on the side to soften the rawness and heat that comes with just being yourself is to be appreciated as well. Maybe if we had just the right company we wouldn’t have to tame or numb ourselves with a can of overflowing sweetness and coconuty happiness. We then will learn to make curry as spicy, pungent and overwhelming as being ourselves is suppose to be. I finished off one of the last few curries I would have in 2016 with some chocolate celebrating the bittersweet end of my new found unfettered independence and freedom while discovering Chance rapping in his excitingly untamed verses,
“ Don’t be so judgmental, even though I’m reminiscing
If I don’t know what I miss is
I’ma end up figuring out that it’s home
And my mother and my grandmother cocoa butter kisses”.