In the latest furor doing rounds on social media is a 27-years old Indian American food blogger, Chaheti Bansal’s controversial comment pointing at the ignorance of names of Indian foods. She has referred to the word “curry” as a racial term. The food enthusiast cum chef has expressed her disappointment towards the blanket identification of all Indian foods as “Curry”.
The underlying attack has been against the colonial rulers who have carelessly named every other Indian dish as “curry” without a proper understanding of what it actually means. “There’s a saying that the food in India changes every 100km and yet we’re still using this umbrella term popularised by white people who couldn’t be bothered to learn the actual names of our dishes,” the Californian food blogger Chaheti Bansal said. She believes that the term “curry” has been misrepresented while addressing Indian dishes, signifying the colonial baggage the world still covertly carries around.
Indian food has been popularised as “curry” to the world, greatly since globalisation stormed into our lives. With the diversity of food that exists in the Indian subcontinent, one wonders if it is humanly possible to memorise or rattle off the specific Indian names of the dishes unless one obviously shares a deep interest to research on the wide gamut of Indian cuisines.
The plurality of genetics, history, geography, religion, tastes, sentiments has been instrumental in naming and evolution of Indian recipes over centuries. Each person from a specific region identifies with a dish differently in their mother tongue. A cultural mosaic that India is, learning every name is a mind boggling affair even for an Indian living in the multicultural land.
Calling the word “curry” as “racist” is grossly inaccurate as this does not point to a derogatory colonial attack on Indian culture. Have we been able to shrug off the colonial baggage in other aspects of life? Should the Chinese take offence to the Indianisation of its cuisine in India, starkly different from what authentic Chinese food looks and tastes like, we might need to drag the judicial system into our kitchens as well. The social media has attacked her opinion, one commentator stating, “FFS we better not use the term ‘roast dinner’ then as a generic term in case anyone is offended that it’s not chicken, beef, lamb etc.,”.
In all fairness, a lot of us struggle placing an order at a restaurant or eatery, overwhelmed by endless options presented to us. Addressing Indian dishes under the umbrella term “curry” just makes it easy for an instant identification of its geographic origin, especially for people living in other parts of the world.
Infact, it has been pointed out by many that even in India, the word “curry” is commonly used by Indians, more so around the coast. Food is a personal choice and so is addressing it however it seems convenient to people. As the great English playwright William Shakespeare correctly pointed out “What’s in a name?” Does it really matter as long as food is available, accessible, enjoyable and brings the world closer?