Friday, February 01, 2013

Curry: maybe the oldest cuisine

"Curry is not only among the world’s most popular dishes; it also may be the oldest continuously prepared cuisine on the planet," according to Washington State University researchers Arunima Kashyap and Steve Weber. Working in the remains of an ancient city along the Indus river, they used modern molecular and archaeology techniques to identify residue from cooking pots as much as 4500 years old and discovered residue from ginger, turmeric, garlic, rice and other grains, and chicken. A Slate article dated last Tuesday,  The Mystery of Curry, explains their findings.

"Kashyap used what is known as starch grain analysis. Starch is the main way that plants store energy, and tiny amounts of it can remain long after the plant itself has deteriorated. If a plant was heated—cooked in one of the tandoori-style ovens often found at Indus sites, for example—then its tiny microscopic remains can be identified, since each plant species leaves its own specific molecular signature." In addition to cooking residue, the research team examined the teeth and bones of humans and animals from the archaeology dig, which also provide evidence of the same foodstuffs being consumed.


Jeanie said...

Curry is a favorite in our house -- Rick, actually, cooks it all the time. But this summer when I visited an herb farm in Battle Creek, I saw curry growing in the garden. It smelled so wonderful! I may try to add some to my herb garden this spring if I can find seeds.

Mae Travels said...

The plant called curry is somewhat distinct from the dish called curry. The spice blend called curry powder reflects the Indian tradition of cooks who make one or more spice combinations for their own cuisine, and it originated with English colonials who wanted to bring back a taste that they had acquired. When the English first began to explore and overpower Indian states, they still used lots of spice blends in their own cooking, held over from medieval traditions. In time, "native" English cooking became blander, and spice blends were associated with "foreign" cuisines. A ton of history -- subject of more than one book!

Jeanie said...

Interesting -- I don't know much about it, but I do know I love the flavors! I'll let you know if I can find any seeds or starters for the curry this spring!