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Click here for the dawn of culinary history of earliest India, at MenuMagazine.co.uk
By 3000 B.C. turmeric, cardamom, pepper and mustard were harvested in India. The Harappans who occupied Harappa and Mohenjodero in the Indus Valley, were of mixed stock, somewhat larger in stature than either the Sumerians or Egyptians denying theories that they were an extension of those communities. They had club wheat, barley, sheep and goats from the Iranian Plateau and cotton from Southern Arabia or North East Africa but were held back by their reliance on flood waters due to general lack of knowledge of irrigation.
Sumer had trade links with the Indus Valley via Hindu Kush by 3000 B.C. and by sea from 2500 B.C., thus linking the Harappans with both Sumerians and Egyptians, where cumin, anise and cinnamon were used for embalming by 2500 B.C.
By 1750 B.C., the Harappan civilization had disappeared, probably due to floods and tectonic shifts, to be replaced by the Aryans who invaded via Hindu Kush by 1500 B.C. The Aryans had considerable contact with Babylon from whence the original flood legend arose to be adopted by both the Aryans and the Hebrews and several other civilizations.
For a well-written history of the word "curry", we cannot do any better than MenuMagazine's
"The Origins of Curry", at www.menumagazine.co.uk/curryhistory.html.
In Britain the term curry has come to mean almost any Indian dish, whilst most people from the [Indian] sub-continent would say it is not a word they use, but if they did it would mean a meat, vegetable or fish dish with spicy sauce and rice or bread.
The earliest known recipe for meat in spicy sauce with bread appeared on tablets found near Babylon in Mesopotamia, written in cuniform text as discovered by the Sumerians, and dated around 1700 B.C., probably as an offering to the god Marduk.
...In Richard IIs reign (1377-1399) the first real English cookery book was written. Richard employed 200 cooks and they, plus others including philosophers, produced a work with 196 recipes in 1390 called The Forme of Cury. Cury was the Old English word for cooking derived from the French cuire - to cook, boil, grill - hence cuisine.
Many supporters of the Tamil word kari as the basis for curry, use the definition from the excellent Hobson-Jobson Anglo English Dictionary, first published in 1886. The book quotes a passage from the Mahavanso (c A.D. 477) which says he partook of rice dressed in butter with its full accompaniment of curries. The important thing, however, is the note that this is Turnours translation of the original Pali which used the word supa not the word curry. Indeed Hobson -Jobson even accepts that there is a possibility that the kind of curry used by Europeans and Mohommedans is not of purely Indian origin, but has come down from the spiced cookery of medieval Europe and Western Asia.
Finally, they give us a wonderful chart showing where many of our standard foods originated in the world, at www.menumagazine.co.uk/book/foodorigins.html
(Did you know broccoli originated in Italy? And peaches in China?)
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Curry: as used in India, this simply means "sauce"; Indian foods made with sauces are thus all "curries"
Curry Powder: a readily-available blend of spices which is a Western approximation of Indian spice blends, and typically contains turmeric, coriander, chillies, cumin, mustard, ginger, fenugreek, garlic, cloves, salt, and any number of other spices
Masala: In India and her neighbors, a blend of powdered spices, of a specific type for a specific type of dish; said to be about 100 kinds of masalas in Indian cooking
Garam masala: A readily-available masala composed of delicate, heat-sensitive spices; thus, it is added at the end of cooking, after the flame has been turned off (see left)
Curcumin: Confusion exists in present usage of this word; Curcumin is the name for turmeric in many countries; however, expensive products called "Curcumin" are now being sold with the vitamins at health food outlets, and research on curcumin abounds in current medical literature. Some say that curcumin is the yellow oils that give turmeric its yellow color, and which are also used as both food coloring and textile dyeing. Others call these yellow oils "curcuminoids" or "curcumin extract." Curcumin has nothing to do with "Cumin" spice (see below). See the
Curcuminoids: Chemicals in turmeric that are being studied for their physiological effects; one group of curcuminoids comprises a potent yellow-orange volatile oil (see Curcumin Extract below); this oil contains three compounds called turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberone, among other substances
Curcumin Extract: The term used by Indian pharmacists to denote the potent and expensive yellow-orange oil which is the dye substance extracted from turmeric, used both for food coloring and for textile dye; has been used for centuries in India
Curry Leaves: A plant with small, dark green leaves (about 1 inch long) that give a mild flavor to Indian food; usually used fresh, not dried; they are sometimes included in Curry Powder, but do not give Curry Powder its name
Cumin: A small, warm-climate annual plant of which the seeds are used; often mistranslated as "caraway" in curry recipes due to similarity of the Indian words for both cumin and caraway, jeera, as well as nearly-identical appearance of the seeds; assume that "caraway" means "cumin" in curry recipes; "Cumin" has nothing to do with "Curcumin" (see above)
Chilli: Red chillies, also called Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper in America
Chilli Powder: In Asia/Europe, the powder of pure red chillies -- this would be called Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper in America; American "Chilli Powder" is a very different blend of spices, including cumin and with very little red chilli in it, used in Chili con carne, barbecue and "Texas" style cooking
Haldi or Haldie: The Indian name for Turmeric
Turmeric: A plant of which the root resembles ginger, and is used extensively in India, which produces almost the whole world's supply, as well as consumes 80% of that supply; botanical name is curcuma longa; is native to Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to the humid hilly regions of Southern India; Indian name Haldi