Sunday, 25 July 2010

Curry Memories

Formative experiences are usually defined by questions such as, what was the first album you bought or what was the first movie you went to see at the pictures?

My own curry memories are hazy but I do remember once being on holiday at my Aunt and Uncle in South Shields and my aunt had made a curry. I can't quite put an accurate time on it but it would have been the late 1960s or early 1970s at the latest and I would have been around 8 to 10 years old. After that curries were not really on the menu certainly not at home anyway where more traditional Scottish fare dominated. My next memory of a curry is probably a Chinese prawn curry. The family next door were like my surrogate brothers and they took me to a takeaway in Forfar where, not quite knowing what to get, I ordered a prawn curry and quite enjoyed it.

My first experience of Indian food most certainly was in Middlesbrough in 1976 (aged 14) and I know this because we had gone down there to play in a volleyball tournament that year. The team from Middlesbrough put us up and I was staying with a young Indian guy whose family made us a huge meal one evening. Unfortunately I was not able to take advantage of what must have been a wonderful meal and my only memories of that meal are chapattis and nearly choking on some meat!

However in the autumn of that year I again recall eating a Chinese curry, this time in Amsterdam, where again we had been afforded the hospitality of a Dutch volleyball team based in Hilversum, about 15 or so miles from Amsterdam. There were two of us staying with a Dutch family and the chap from the team I was rooming with was Chinese. So we had this unusual situation of me, Scottish, my team mate, Scottish Chinese, in a Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam trying read a menu in Dutch and then having to order in Cantonese because the waiter didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Dutch (not that I was saying anything!). However, we got there and again I had a curry, Chinese style.

Due to a knee injury shortly after that I had to "retire" from volleyball at the ripe old age of 15 and I can't remember much about curries until I started going out with a girl who worked in the same supermarket where I had an after school job. One of the places we used to go was a Chinese restaurant in the Perth Road called the Universal Garden (now The Fine Palate) which catered for younger people on Friday evenings by putting on a disco with your meal. Over the next couple of years I got quite used to eating Chinese takeaway, usually curry but sometimes chicken fried rice with a curry sauce.

As we got a bit older, e.g. 19 or so, one of my mates had an older brother in law, who along with his pal took us to our very first Indian meal. The place was in Commercial Street in Dundee and I think it was called the Ashra. The brother in law's pal would have been a good few years older than us and I remember that he was in his comfort zone and passing on his knowledge and experience to us younger guys. I recall being so impressed that he ordered Tandoori Chicken. Now although inexperienced, I was never squeamish when it came to spicy food and so I ordered a Chicken Madras, the first of many fine Indian meals, both mild and hot that I have enjoyed. Delicious!


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