“Who killed the curry house?”

Curry houses by The Guardian
Curry houses by The Guardian

The Guardian has a great long-read about British curry houses, where Indian dishes and flavours were transformed into a British staple. In a form of odd appropriation, the curry as a dish became part of the British nationality even though its chefs might not have been regarded as such.

The story of curry in modern Britain raises a question about food and identity. Does a cuisine belong to the people who eat it or the ones who cook it? The accusation of inauthenticity went hand in hand with a broader issue of ownership: once people realised that what they were eating was not proper Indian food, it was a short step to feeling that perhaps they, and not the south Asian chefs who cooked and served it, were the ones who owned it. Curry houses were always places where some customers behaved with a shocking sense of entitlement, occasionally expressed as outright racism. (One industry insider also told me that a surprising number of diners feel that no tip is required at a curry house.)

Source: Who killed the curry house? | Bee Wilson | Life and style | The Guardian

I can see a similar movement here in the Netherlands, where kebab shops are pretty much regarded as an essential part of night life, yet are only accepted for its food and not its people. Mimicking the British situation here are the Indonesian people that moved to the Netherlands and brought their cuisine along. It became popular to such an extent that Chinese chefs pitched in and we now have an odd mixture of Chinese-Indonesian cuisine, which for many people is now a dated and nostalgic part of the Dutch lifestyle.

Not that I want to talk this blending down. On the contrary, I think it enriches both sides, but wouldn’t it be a lot better if we actually started appreciating the people who brought us these gifts?