Friday, November 25, 2011

Currying F(l)avor

Once upon a time it was 1959. Life had been so good in the United States after World War Two that everyone in the world wanted to get on the gravy train. Except Fidel Castro, who started off the year by marching on Havana. He’s still there. America had the entertainment of Walt Disney and the Marx Brothers, and its little girls could play with the newly minted Barbie while its boys could fantasize about being astronauts. It’s men could drink and smoke all day long from sun-up to sunset and its women could finally cram their legs into pantyhose after 200 years of wearing stockings.

Russia liked America so much it sold Alaska to it for $7.2 million. The trouble was that Americans didn’t want to go on holiday in the far north. They wanted to sit on tropical beaches and wear bikinis. It was because men wanted to see women in bikinis — a garment named for a beautiful pacific atoll they blew up with atomic bombs a few years before — that they set their sights on the lovely Hawaiian islands as a vacation destination. Hawaiians became Americans and were required to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and Americans got an endless supply of pineapples.

Cookbooks went pineapple crazy. Now, instead of eating Turkey a la King and Turkey Casserole with the leftover carcass bits, you could have Hawaiian Turkey Curry, a culturally confused mongrel dish consisting of ingredients that could not possibly have all been produced in the same place — the forerunner of pacific rim cuisine. It’s the opposite of the current trend of eating local and reducing your carbon footprint. Hey; it was 1959 — and the world was America’s oyster. I mean melting pot. I mean hot pot. I mean curry.

The world was henceforth America’s Curry.

Rawleigh’s Picture Treasury of Good Cooking, W. T. Rawleigh Company, 1959

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