Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 8, 1845 --- Curry Soup

Amidst the alarming reports of the failure of the potato crop and the resultant widespread privation across Ireland, the Duke of Norfolk offers a "helpful" suggestion as to how to feed the starving. Curry Soup.

The 12th Duke, one of Britain's leading Catholic peers, rises to speak among the well-fed attendees at the dinner marking the conclusion of the local fat stock show in Steyning in Sussex, near Arundel, the seat of the Norfolks. His Grace proposes bringing into Ireland large quantities of curry powder; curry, he reminds all, is to the Indian masses what the potato is to the Irish. He suggests that a pinch of curry powder in hot water will make a delightfully warming soup.

His Grace confided that in support of his theory he actually went out and bought some curry and boiled up a batch of his proffered potage: "If a man came home wet and cold and had nothing better than warm water, a little of this spice put into it would make him go warmer and more comfortably to bed than he would without it ... I mean to try it among my laborers."  The Duke's proposal rather baffles his audience; his speech is interrupted as much by laughter as by applause. Defensively, he concludes, "I may be ridiculed hereafter for what I say; but as I said before, I don't care what is said, so long as I make the poor comfortable."

Ridicule is a fair summary of the response to the curry idea. The Times predicts that the noble cuisinnier will "go down to posterity with a pinch of curry powder in his hand." The Examiner recommends sarcastically that pepper be substituted, "because there is an idea of luxury in the name of curry, which might startle many frugal minds."

Punch, unusually for its taste, found it most unamusing; "The Duke's idea will offer small relief to those suffering "those distressing symptoms of vacuity which result from living on seven shillings a week." Finally, The Spectator made a very salient dietary point --- the weekly questioned the comparison of a diet reliant on the potato and one based on curry, attacking Norfolk for "entirely overlooking the rice." Fearing the effect of the hot spice on an Irishman's empty stomach, the editor urged, "In the name of charity, my Lord Duke, give the poor devils brandy!"

1 comment:

  1. Typical English reaction to the totally avoidable tragedy that occured back in the 1840's in Ireland. Approx. 1 Million people starved to death!!!