Posts Tagged ‘curry’

The spice of life

Posted: February 14, 2013 in The Big C

Tomorrow I will be celebrating both the end of my treatment and the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I’ve been thinking about how I want to celebrate and I have a few things on my bucket list: a month in Fuertaventura, a blow out in Manchester and some good old fashioned primal-screaming. The first two will have to wait, and I’ve yet to find a suitable location for the screaming, so I’ve decided to go for a curry instead.

Food is an emotive subject, and for me, curry is infused with both drama and passion. It’s more than just fuel.

Curry is the food that sustained me in the week following my cancer diagnosis. The curry-thon I had with friends on the Jubilee weekend of my diagnosis, is one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. We cooked on a biblical scale and the food was divine. The sanctuary of curry and comfort of friends held me together in those first few days.

From the curry god

My kinship with curry stems back to my childhood. I spent my formative years growing up on a council estate in Perth, where my parents’ Manchester accents and cosmopolitan tastes made our family unique. This was the 1970s, a time when spaghetti-bolognese was considered exotic and chill-con-carne was as hot as it got. Supermarkets hadn’t reached small-town Scotland and coriander was a condiment of the future.

Curry is one of the first meals I can remember my mother making, although it wasn’t until I started school that I appreciated how unique and experimental my mother’s cooking skills were.  In Scotland home-cooking was still very traditional – for most it was meat & two veg – and beef curry was a novel experience for my school friends back in 1970s Perth.

Oddly, curry is also the food I associate with my father’s death when I was 4 years old. The scattered, sun-bleached memories I have from that time, are steeped in sadness and rather bizarrely, beef curry.

The majority of palettes, even Scottish ones, have become more sophisticated since the 1970s, but back then I just wanted to be like everyone else. All I wanted was mince and tatties, in fact I just wanted Smash. To me this was the ultimate in sophistication: mashed-potato made by martians. I’d quite happily have survived on a diet of Smash, Creamola Foam and Space Dust. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but mum was baking her own bread and doing things with lentils, so I never got the Smash.

We’ve always eaten curry as a family and Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes were a family favourite, however my spicy escapades really took off when I first went to live in Manchester. My then-boyfriend used to come and visit, and a mutual affection for the spice god, led to us spending much of our time in the curry mile. Infatuated with the the glitz and sparkle of the mile, his addiction was worse than mine and I began to wonder whether our relationship was becoming curry-dependant.

Best curry in Manchester:

Best curry in Manchester:

A student placement in Sri Lanka sealed our chilli romance. In Sri Lanka, the roti ruled and curry was a way of life. We ate, dreamed and breathed curry. Sweaty curry-pits were de rigueur. ‘Feel the burn’ took on a whole new meaning in Sri Lanka and here I learned a valuable lesson: food shouldn’t hurt.

Our joint affection for all things spicy was cemented upon our return to the UK when he got a job delivering, yes you’ve guessed it, curries.

Since my cancer diagnosis, my love affair with curry has taken on a new and interesting twist. I’ve learned that many of the components of curry have cancer fighting properties. Turmeric, garlic and ginger all have immune-boosting, tumour-busting properties. I wonder whether my years of eating curry helped keep the cancer at bay and stopped it from spreading.

The Curry Mile - I don't recommend it

The Curry Mile – I don’t recommend it

My spice trail has taken me around the world. From dal-bhat in Kathmandu, to Balti in Bradford, my travels have ensured my chilli barometer is set to high. Nowadays, I prefer my curries just on the cusp of blow-your-head-off. For me, anything without a bite is pointless. You might as well have sausage and chips.

Now as I reach the end of the cancer-caravan, it’s my faithful companion curry that I turn to again. Our relationship has been a tempestuous one, but I couldn’t live without my fiery-fuel. If spice is my god, then curry is my salvation. It warms the heart and nourishes the soul, and I know that as long as there’s curry in the world, I will be ok.

PS. This is probably going to be my last post for some time or at least my last cancer related post so I’d just like to say a BIG THANK-YOU again to everyone who has taken the time to follow my blog. Also a HUMONGOUS THANK-YOU to everyone who has supported me over the past 9 months – I couldn’t have done it without you!! Much love Katherine x