Remember that? Stuff that had flavor without benefit of tablespoons full of salt or sugar or both. Americans lost track of that basic fact long, long ago, submerged beneath a tsunami of fast food, prepared food, and “convenience” food.
Today, virtually all prepared food and a fair amount of whole foodoids taste mostly like…yes: salt or sugar. Or both.
Lemme back up a bit and say that where I grew up — on the shore of the Persian Gulf — American households were spectacularly privileged to hire Indian, Pakistani, and Goanese workers to do housework and, bless their hearts, cooking.
Nobody on this planet can cook like a Goanese chef.
Well…at least, not like one who came up in the 1950s.
Pedro, a compact, brown, middle-aged man from the Indian continent, worked for our friends the Dakers. Occasionally he would put on a spread for his employers’ admiring friends. And holy mackerel, what a spread it was!
Pedro specialized, as it were, in preparing a kind of bastardized curry dish aimed at the tastes of Brits and Americans. It wasn’t “real” Indian food. It was what the locals discovered the English-speaking gringos loved to think of as Indian food. And my god, it was delicious!
I miss Pedro and his compatriots a lot. Good men, decent men: each and every one. And I miss the amazing curry puffs Pedro would make (he would let me lurk at his side in his kitchen as he cooked this stuff up, a pesky little girl underfoot). And surely I do miss the savory stew of richly curried beef, chicken or lamb (if we could get it) stewed all afternoon on the Dakers’ stove and served up with fluffy white rice.
So the other day I’m at AJ’s, my favorite overpriced gourmet grocery store, scavenging up foods and foodoids to eat. The past few weeks have comprised one of those annoying “whatever can go wrong WILL go wrong” periods, healthwise. I don’t feel especially well and do not expect to feel especially well for the foreseeable future. So I think…maybe I should try to find SOME sort of packaged chow that I can heat in the microwave to stave off starvation.
By and large, I don’t eat packaged foods — mostly cook only whole foods — because packaged foods taste SO awful: over-salted, over-sweetened, over-laced with chemicals. Yech. Generally their only flavor is sugar or salt.
But in a frozen food case, I spot a package of alleged curry. Thai curry. Well, I’ve had Thai curry in restaurants: not too poisonous. Why not?
Why not, indeed? Yea verily….
So it’s been sitting there since before Christmas.
Today I’m thrashing around, wrestling with laundry and worrying about an infected molar and dorking with doctors’ and dentists’ appointments and wishing my head didn’t hurt quite so much and hanging up laundry to dry and taking the dog outside around rainshowers and generally hating life, the universe, and all that, when I realize it’s well past time to eat and I’ve had nothing since dawn (and that may be why the head hurts), sooo…hey! I’ve got this package of wondrous gourmet curry!!
On the fly, slit open the plastic wrap, toss the package in the microwave, set the thing to run 4 minutes on “high,” and continue running around the house.
Four minutes later (washer unloaded; next load stuffed in; detergent spilled over it; washer dial turned to “ON”), the micro goes b-e-e-e-e-e-p and in due time stumble into the kitchen, dump the foodoid on a dish, pour a beer, and sit down to savor something that I imagine will taste like what I remember to be curry.
No. Not to say
Why the fu*k do Americans eat this sh!t????????? What IS the matter with our people?
I do remember that my mother could cook. She could turn out a delicious meal…three times a day. I remember my great-grandmother could produce wonderful dinners, day after day after day. So…when did we lose the taste for real food and the skill to prepare it??????
The stuff is at once over-salted AND over-sugared.
I can’t believe people pay good money to buy sh!t like this. And worse: apparently they actually eat it! What is the matter with us?
Hey, folks: it’s not that hard to cook real food. Some meals are ludicrously simple, especially if you have a gas barbecue, which will allow you to heat just about anything as well as grilling awesome steaks, chicken, fish, hot dogs, and whatnot.
Wanna know how to make real curry? It’s easy…
First, gather the ingredients:
- bottle of powdered curry
- one yellow or white onion, chopped (a half onion will do, if that suits your taste)
- one or two cloves of garlic, chopped (you can make do with the chopped garlic that comes in bottles these days)
- beef stew beef (or lamb, or chicken, cut in chunks)
- large can of tomatoes (probably optional, but wtf)
- olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter, whatever happens to be at hand
- can of beef broth or beef consommê
- possibly some bottled dried herbs, such as thyme or marjoram (optional, IMHO)
Take out a nice stew pan. Cover the bottom with a thin layer of oil or melted butter. Turn the heat to medium-high. Toss in the chopped onions. Toss in the chopped garlic and the herbs (if desired). Stir. Let this mix cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re sorta translucent and just barely starting to brown.
Take a big cooking spoon and lift the sautéed onions (and garlic) out of the pan. Place on a plate and set aside. Toss the stew meat into the hot oil. Cook, stirring, until nicely browned. Then dump the onions and garlic back into the pan and stir well to mix. Add a boatload of curry powder….depending on how much meat is in the pan, probably upwards of a tablespoon. Or two. Stir well.
Pour the beef broth or consommé into the pan. Fill the can with water and pour that into the pan, too. Stir well. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to keep the contents slowly simmering. Cover the pan with a lid and go away.
If you feel so inclined, add a splash of red wine. (Alcohol was illegal in lovely Arabia, so I never saw Pedro do this…but I happen to think red wine added to a beef or lamb stew improves it a great deal.) If desired, toss in a can of tomatoes (it’s not spaghetti, f’rgodsake, but you know: Americans will eat anything).
Let this cook for several hours — two or three, I’d say.
Shortly before you’re ready to serve it up, prepare a pan of white rice. I use Uncle Ben’s, because it only takes about 20 minutes to cook and it’s damn near fool-proof.
Serve the curried stew and rice with a variety of condiments and side dishes: chutney, fruits, veggies, salad, naan or other bread, and so on. Whatever makes you happy.
And what you will have is what curry is supposed to taste like.
After this, I’ll make the real stuff, dole it out in meal-size plastic containers or zip-lock bags, and stash it in the freezer!