October 22, 2021

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Food never sleeps

Calls to boycott the word ‘curry’ over claims it’s rooted in British colonialism

3 min read

Californian food blogger Chaheti Bansal, 27, has spoken out about the term in an Instagram video, claiming the word has been long misused by foreigners to describe any dish made on the Asian subcontinent.

Bansal says curry “shouldn’t be all you think about” when you think about South Asian food

South Asian food bloggers are calling for the word “curry” to be cancelled over claims it’s rooted in British colonialism.

In a recipe posted on Instagram, Californian food blogger Chaheti Bansal, 27, explains the term has been long misused by foreigners to describe any dish made on the Asian subcontinent.

“Curry shouldn’t be all that you think about when you think about South Asian food,” Bansal said in the video.

“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.

“But we can still unlearn.”

She told NBC Asian America it’s not about fully canceling the word, but rather educating people on what it means and preventing its use in situations where it is not applicable.








Californian food blogger Chaheti Bansal
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Image:

chahetibansal/Twitter)



Ilyse Morgenstein Fures, an expert in South Asia and an associate religious studies professor at the University of Vermont, said to her knowledge, the word curry did “not exist” in any South Asian language.

Professor Fuerst said the term curry could likely be attributed to the “British bad ear” during colonial rule in India.

There were several different schools of thought around the origins of the word “curry”, the most popular suggesting that the Brits misheard the Tamil word “kari”.

“Kari” itself means different things from region to region, ranging from “blackened” or “side dish”.

The word was likely still adopted and disseminated throughout the region for a loose description for near any Asian food they encountered, Fuerst said.








The most popular school of thought around the origins of ‘curry’ was that Brits had misheard and adopted the Tamil word ‘kari’
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Image:

Getty Images/iStockphoto)



The professor thought it was a way for the British to avoid learning the names of extremely regional dishes, instead grouping them all into one category.

“South Asians can turn around and say, ‘OK, if these British officers want curry, and I stand to profit, whether that’s socially, politically, financially, then I set up a curry house,'” she told NBC News.

Due to its origins, the word should not be used as an umbrella term, Fuerst said, as it is largely incorrect and rooted in “white, Christian supremacy”.

Another Instagram food influence Nisha Vedi Pawar, 36, has seconded Bansal’s calls.

Pawar is vocal on the topic in another food video posted to Instagram: “What the hell is curry?”

However, Ms Bansal says the word does not need to be ‘cancelled’ completely, as particularly in South India it does act to describe a variety of dishes from meat ones in gravy to vegetable side plates.

“My partner is Sri Lankan, I have friends that are Malayali, friends that are Tamil, and yes they use the word curry,” she says.

“But you shouldn’t just lump all of our foods together under this term.”





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