Curry Powder

Is it just me or does it annoy you to see the generic Curry Powders for sale everywhere? Such a ridiculous over-simplification of Indian cooking never fails to annoy me. Yes, I know there is some generic Italian seasoning in my pantry. Yes, I know I have a box of Everest Fried Rice Masala in my pantry too. But it’s not the same as using Curry Powder because I know the difference. See?

Curry powder even appears as a magic soup ingredient in Julia Child’s cookbook. Gasp! One Teaspoon of “Curry Powder”, the lady writes, will lend a wonderful flavor to onion or bean soup. This didn’t just feel wrong. It was wrong. A little part of me just drooped as I read that. I was learning all sorts of wonderful things from the book. Learning how to cook brussel sprouts (a complete mystery to me), how to keep beans crisp and green, the basic motions of making an omelette and the secrets of hearty soups. Until it all came crashing down. Curry Powder. Sigh!

The term “Curry Powder” just seems to assume that all Indians eat “curry”. And that any kind of Indian cooking can be simplified/made authentic simply by the use of this magical mix of spices. Who eats curry in India, anyway? What is curry anyway? I’m not sure if the term “Thai Green Curry” evokes the same emotions in the Thai as Curry Powder does in me. But I’m willing to bet that it does cause some puritans to bristle.

It’s not just the Indian curry powder that really annoys me. I’m annoyed by any kind of all purpose seasoning that guarantees an “authentic” taste. The Italian herb mixes, the Thai curry pastes, the Chinese sauces. They all annoy me. It’s like we can’t even be bothered to attempt to learn to cook like natives do but we feel entitled to “authentic” (there’s that word again) results.

I hear French cuisine has earned itself World heritage Status. Perhaps it’s a hint for us to start treating our own 5000 year old tradition with a little more respect. Maybe we should have Shashi Tharoor look into it…

Explaining Arranged Marriages

I’ve had to explain the concept of an arranged marriage to many, many American friends. Depending on the tone of the question, I vary my response…

If the person is curious about the arranged marriage thing but does not seem judgmental, I try and explain it as simply as possible. Well, arranged marriages are a part of our our culture and it doesn’t seem weird to us, I say. I can see how you might be creeped out by the idea of your parents interfering in your life at such a personal level but it doesn’t feel as weird to us. Besides, while it’s true that in rural India the woman doesn’t really get a choice, the urban landscape is slowly changing. Most educated parents would be ok if their kids met someone they wanted to marry. We do get a chance to meet someone a couple of times before we decide to get married and we do get a choice. But it’s still insanely fast and I can see how it wouldn’t make sense to you.

Sometimes, I meet people who want to know how you can be married to a stranger and make it work. I explain that in my opinion, it takes the same things to make a marriage work no matter how you meet your spouse. It still takes a little romance, a lot of patience, a little less ego and accepting the other person’s little eccentricities. With an arranged marriage, we escape the “You have changed” fights because we don’t have a dating history to refer to, we just accept a few things and get on with it.

If the person is looking for me to validate their own notions that all Indians have the same kind of arranged marriage, I’m happy to oblige. Well, yes, our parents do decide who we marry, I tell them. And as incompatibility is not a socially accepted reason for divorce, you would be forced to get along with the person For The REST OF YOUR LIFE.

If the person seems to think it’s one of those things where India still  needs to learn from the West, my response gets even wilder. Did you know that in many Indian families the parents decide who their daughter should marry the moment she is born? (well, it does happen in Bollywood movies)

Just as I don’t really understand American culture even though I get the rules, I don’t expect an American to ever agree with the concept of an arranged marriage. It just goes against everything American – freedom of choice, space, privacy… But we usually agree that there are some differences that must be accepted and not really understood. There’s no point, really.

I filled a whole blog with ramblings on arranged marriages and I while I am happily married, I am still fundamentally opposed to the idea of arranged marriages based on the “Engineer/Doctor/MBA, same caste, matching horoscopes, are the boy’s parents richer?” criteria. How could I ever expect someone from a completely different culture to think it makes sense?