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Kedgeree | History today


& # 39; The Haddock & # 39; from a treatise on fish and fish ponds, published in 1832. "class =" caption "data-delta =" 1 "data-fid =" 45031 "data-media-element =" 1 "src =" https: //www.historytoday .com / sites / default / files / haddock.jpg "style =" margin above: 15px; Page margin: 15px; "title =" "The Haddock", by <em>A treatise on fish and fish ponds</em>, published in 1832.” typeof=”foaf:Image”/>When a dish is passed down through generations, exchanged between cultures or shipped abroad, its recipe is re-registered by everyone who eats it. At first glance, the differences may seem small, but everything can change over time. Old ingredients are replaced by new ones, new preparation methods are used and new names are given every now and then. While the increase in such changes may hide the original, each new "stratum" tells something about a different group of consumers: their taste, their economy, their language and, above all, their relationship to those from whom they accepted the dish is questionable.</p>
<p>This applies in particular to the Anglo-Indian cuisine. While the most obvious examples are of course curry and mulligata soup, perhaps the best is kedgeree: a rich and filling dish made from flaked fish, hard-boiled eggs, rice, butter, spices and sultanas. Though little resembling the Indian dish from which it comes, the subtle – and not so subtle – changes it went through before it took on its current form reveal not only a lot about the habits of the British Raj, but also about British Raj's habits of Western attitudes towards India in general.</p>
<h3><strong>From curiosity to contempt</strong></h3>
<p>Kedgeree is said to have started <em>khichdi</em> (or <em>khichri</em>), a traditional Indian dish made from rice and lentils, or more rarely with millet (<em>Bajra</em>) and mung beans. Where and when it first appeared is not known with certainty, but its extreme antiquity is beyond doubt. Takes its name from the Sanskrit word <em>khiccā</em>It is known that in one form or another it already existed in the fourth century BC. Most likely, the ingredients were regionally different depending on the season, the availability of plants and the religion of the consumer. At this early stage, however, it caught the attention of foreign visitors who recognized it as a staple in local cuisine. For example, shortly after the death of Alexander the Great, the ambassador of his former commander Seleukos I. Nikator to the Maurya Empire noted that a dish of rice and legumes was popular with people on the Indian subcontinent.</p>
<p>But only after the Mongol invasions and the reopening of the Silk Road <em>khichdi </em>started to attract attention from abroad. European and North African travelers who were primarily concerned with trade desperately wanted to know what they could know about Indian customs and food, including <em>khichdi</em>, However, your curiosity was only functional. They were content to familiarize themselves with the basic ingredients and find common ground with their own kitchen, but nothing more. This is how the Berber researcher Ibn Battuta (1304-1368 / 9) described the mung bean variant that he experienced on his trip from Multan (today's Pakistan) to Delhi around 1332-3. After a few brief comments on growing mung beans, he found that they were:</p>
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<p><em>cooked with rice and accompanied with </em>ghee<em> when eaten. This is called </em>kishrī<em>, and (the locals of the region) have breakfast every morning. It is something for the Indians </em>Barira<em> is to the Moroccans.</em></p>
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<p>During the Age of Discovery, the West's attitudes towards the Indian subcontinent became more contemptible and exploitative. As a result, travelers came to see <em>khichdi</em> as a more "foreign" dish. They were less curious – even if it was a functional variant – and ignored similarities to their own kitchen. Instead, they focused on the unfamiliarity of their ingredients, which they tended to look at through the prism of ethnic and religious prejudice. A good example is the Russian merchant and explorer Afanasy Nikitin (died 1472). In his travelogue <em>Khozheniye za tri morya </em> (A trip across the three seas, 1466-72), he described <em>khichdi</em> Quite contemptuous, on the one hand to illustrate the peculiarity of the Hindu dietary rules, and on the other hand to equate them with horse feed.</p>
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Rarely did the travelers of the early modern age attempt to examine the diversity or the widespread distribution of nature too closely khichdi, Nikitin, for example, was unaware of the fact that in the late 15th century it was by no means just a Hindu dish. Just a few decades after his death, Abu al-Fazal ibn Mubarak (1551-1602), the Mughal emperor's grand vizier, made some efforts to emphasize his popularity among Muslims in Turkey Ain-i-Akbari (Constitutions of Akbar); and there is evidence that it was also eaten by Buddhists. Nikitin and his colleagues didn't know that either khichdi could no longer be seen as a single dish. The subtle variations of the past, compounded by political changes and religious differences, had led to a number of different regional recipes. For example, in Mughal Bengal it was often eaten with an oil-based pickle, while in Gurarat it was cooked with cumin, turmeric and curry leaves. Least of all did Nikitins show much interest in it khichdi home with them. Indeed, he would have opposed the idea. Obviously he had no desire to ever eat it again.

Act to govern

The advent of British colonialism heralded a different approach. After Clive's victory over the Mughal Empire at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the East India Company only managed outposts, mostly in coastal areas, and ruled much of the subcontinent itself. This required a fundamental change in the setting. Although society's relationship with India became more exploitative, it soon became apparent that it could not afford to reject Indian culture if it wanted to govern effectively. After all, how could she expect to collect taxes, administer the judiciary, or perform any of the other tasks she was now faced with unless her officials knew the customs and customs of the people? The company "Nabobs" started learning Indian languages, learning Indian habits and even developing a taste for Indian cuisine – including khichdi,

Recipes from the historian's cookbook: Stephen Malcolms Kedgeree

The khichdi Served in their homes, however, was not the same as eaten on the street. Rather, it was a cross between the relationship between Indian chefs and the wives of company officials. Believing that food remains an integral part of British identity, it generally insisted that the recipe be adapted to its own culinary taste. While rice remained the basis of the dish, hard-boiled eggs were added and legumes were made with flakes or smoked fish (e.g. Hobson-Jobson, the Anglo-Indian glossary later explained, had previously only been eaten on the side khichdimainly in Bengal).

In the recipe books

The new dish found its way back to the UK, complete with a new name: Kedgeree, One of the earliest recipes can be found in a cookbook that Stephana Malcolm wrote around 1790. Although she spent most of her life in Dumfriesshire, her family traveled a lot – including India – and thanks to them, kedgeree found her recipe book in the kitchen. However, it was another dish. Many of the ingredients used by the Nabobs were simply not found in Scotland. Malcolm was able to replace some of them with local products such as haddock. Although unknown in India, it was cheap to buy on the quays of the Solway Firth and had the merit of being scaly by nature. But it replaced others with more exotic alternatives, which testified to the growing reach of British trade interests. In the absence of curry leaves, Malcolm used, for example, cayenne pepper, which, although it had been known on the British Isles since at least the 16th century, was still predominantly grown in South America.

After the dissolution of the East India Company and the direct domination of the British crown on the subcontinent from 1858, Kedgeree appeared more and more in recipe books. By the end of the 19th century, it had become an integral part of British cuisine. It was largely seen as a frugal dish that could either be prepared with cheap, locally caught fish or more often with leftovers.

But when the British Raj was no longer dominated by middle-class adventurers, but also by British elites, the Kedgeree increasingly developed into a high-class dish. As a result, it was often made with richer, more specific "British" ingredients like salmon and veal. At the beginning of the 20th century, this led to it being associated not only with aristocratic tastes, but also with extravagance, even decadence. In Evelyn Waughs Reunion with Brideshead (1945), for example, ordered Charles Ryder Salmon-Kedgeree after starting an adultery affair aboard an ocean liner. In his memoirs, Anthony Powell shares the astonishment of a Sheffield fishmonger when Edith Sitwell tried to buy salmon at the height of World War II to prepare kedgeree ("Did the Bourbon Days Return?").

Since the fall of the British Empire, kedgeree is no longer reserved for an imperial elite. The ingredients were democratized and "Indian" elements were typically added (cumin, turmeric, curry powder, etc.). But like a palimpsest, you can still see the faint traces of previous versions beneath the surface of modern recipes: some of curiosity, others of prejudice, but all eloquent evidence of the long and often difficult relationship between the West and India.

Alexander Lee is a fellow at the Center for Renaissance Studies at the University of Warwick. His latest book, Humanism and Empire: The Imperial Ideal in 14th Century Italy, is published by Oxford University Press.

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