Diary ( Curries )
It is often said that where the
British Empire spread, so did Freemasonry.
There was a time when the sun never set on the Empire and of course
there is a passage in our ritual that has similar connotations for
Freemasonry. Much has been written on the
role of Freemasonry as a binding force within the British Empire. Again there is a British taste for curry
which has spread going back to the fifteenth century in Tudor times when it
imported Indian spices, seasoning food if they could afford to do so with
cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, mace and so on. I have observed that our members love their
There is a thread in my life
that can be traced by my curry experiences.
As a child pre-WW2, I recall so called curries being made at home
starting with a lamb or beef stew and Keens Traditional Curry Powder sprinkled
on the top and stirred in when it was cooked.
Not much of a curry but I can recommend Keens for curried egg
In my service on the Thai-Malay
border in the 1960s we undertook long patrols in the jungle and carried all our
food which often comprised of British canned hard rations – it was
terrible. After throwing out half of it
to reduce the weight to be carried, the art was then how to disguise the rest
and make it reasonably edible. Curry was
the solution and the ability to find some edible supplements such as bamboo
shoots and chillies in the jungle. You
could always tell where the Gurkhas had camped by the chilly bushes and you can
guess how the seeds got there! Meanwhile
at home the cook amah would prepare the most beautiful curries for the
family. It would start with a trip to
the market to return with a live chook with its wings tied behind its
back. Every amah had their secret curry
ingredients. Poultry and fish were the
main ingredients in kampong, or village food as there was no refrigeration and
a bird would make a family meal. The
range of meats on Asian menus in Australia today would be unaffordable and
virtually never served in the country of origin to ordinary people.
My wife and I were invited to
the Sultan of Perak’s Palace for the wedding of his grand-daughter and the
feast afterwards, lavish with spiced food in abundance. Officers’ Messes in Malaya often had curry
lunches on a Sunday, a British tradition, for the base officers and normally
the curries were accompanied with a large range condiments and side dishes
which you did not see elsewhere. It
seemed that elsewhere the cook was trusted.
In kampongs, curries were usually eaten off a piece of banana leaf with
Curry should not be so hot that
it becomes as some say, “a test of manhood”.
Nevertheless it should open the taste buds and be flavoursome. Sliced chilly should be offered, in fish
sauce as done in Thailand if you wish, as a complement. Curries from each region are distinctive and
a curry cook will go to some trouble to provide this variety and keep the
dishes separate and discrete and look different, so if you want to discourage
him or annoy him, just fill your plate with everything you can find on the
buffet table and mix the flavours. I
think it is just bad manners, displays culinary ignorance and often a touch of
gluttony. You see it with Western dishes
too. Putting tomato sauce on everything
puts me off too!
Today curries are easy to
prepare using the best fresh ingredients and prepared curry pastes from the
great range available especially in the Asian food markets. No need to spend all those hours finding and
preparing the large range of ingredients.
Indian and Thai curries are great.
My first Indian banquet curry meal was in the home of the District
Medical Officer, a Malay/Indian, in 1961 at Grik, northern Malaya. I have enjoyed Thai curries from the Betong
Salient to the Korat Plateau and from Bangkok to Chiang Rai in the far north. The Crown Prince of Thailand was a student of
mine and on his commissioning I was his military tutor but I was never invited
to share a Thai curry with him. For a
Malay curry, Ayam brand curry powder is good but I especially like Nonya curry
from Malacca, Malaysia which has a Malay-Chinese origin with extra spices
introduced by the Portuguese who came to this Straits Settlement from Goa,
India many years ago.
Experiment a little. Have a curry night in the South.