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June 04, 2008


The Old Foodie

Thanks for this very detailed post Adam, I love the topic, and you have thrown lots of bits of light onto it.

Adam Balic

Thanks Janet,

the topic is well out side my area of knowledge, but hopefully it may draw attention to an interesting group of recipes.


Great detective work, Adam. Most interesting!

The following book, written by the wife of a British colonial official posted to Egypt in the 1920's, contains a section of anglo-indian curries: "The Anglo-Egyptian Cookery Book" by Thora Stowell. 1923, Whitehead Morris Limited, Alexandria, Cairo & London.

Parts of the book are reproduced on The Congo Cookbook site. I'd dearly like to get a copy of the whole book!

The ways in which colonial officials spread Indian [and other local cuisines] from one country in which they were stationed to another dosen't seem to be systematically researched, so your piece of detective work is welcomed, indeed.

I would put into this category [colonial role of spreading the cuisines of one colonial country to another], the spread of Arabic and Ottoman cuisine to a variety of their [respective] colonial outposts throughout the last 500 years or so. Also, merchantile interests, such as the Swahili outposts into the [then] hinterland of central Africa from coastal East Africa. Including here in Burundi - where their influence of cuisines drived both from the Middle East and from India.

Adam Balic

Thanks Diana,

Yes I think that cuisines at the border/overlap of cultures are the most interesting. But hard to track down in a lot of cases. With all the modern forms of transport available, it is difficult to take in how complex and organised historical trading routes were.

Colonial influences of cuisines are even more difficult to pin down, especially in the case where one group of colonials lost out to another in a particular region. Also colonisers tend not to be very popular with ex-colonial countries. It is quite common to hear statements like "The British had no influence on Indian food or eating habits" for instance.

I like the sound of the Anglo-Egyptian book. I can't really imagine what this would be like. At this period in India the "native" dishes were not considered the thing to have, so I wonder if this would be the case here.

Doundou Tchil

Then there's the problem of depending on written sources in English, which distorts things, since these recipes were handed down by personal experience and didn't make it into print til fairly late in the day. I knew someone who made Macau balichao to a 300 year old family method. She used a stone urn and wooden stick like a giant mortar and pestle, to grind the ingredients before fermenting. One day the stick broke. A museum identified it as an old fashioned paddle for a sampan ! Even had a new one been made to order, it wouldn't have been the same as the old one contained 300 years of bacteria which gave the family batch a distinctive quality.


Going even further into the history of fish sauces and pastes, there is the Greek and Roman garum, made in the same way, and traded throughout the world thousands of years ago. An interesting subject.

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