This is a big question and not just because it’s currently National Curry Week here in the UK. In fact, it’s a question that I’d put it in the same category as ‘will our son like haggis?’. For some time, I have looked forward to being able to share my favourite sort of food with our son.
About a year ago, I tweeted ‘been enjoying watching our 6 month old son starting to eat solids – it’s mainly baby rice at the moment, hope we’ll soon be able to give him baby curry’. Within minutes, someone who saw my tweet decided to tweet back with a link to a recipe for vegetable and coconut curry that is suitable for babies as it’s not too spicy. As I haven’t yet made this curry for my son, the fact that it’s National Curry Week here in the UK from 13-19th October seems a good reason to put that right.
Whilst a lot of people are wary about feeding spicy food to babies and toddlers, it seems that this can vary from one culture to another. I remember my mum telling me about a Sri Lankan friend who had little hesitation in feeding spicy dishes to her baby son. So far, our son has had a few mild curries and seems to quite like them. We’ve tried baby led weaning with him, and it’s generally worked fairly well.
The first time I remember having a curry was when I went to an Indian restaurant in St. Andrews (Scotland) with my parents when I was about ten. I loved the flavours of the spices and have been a big fan of curry ever since then. In fact, I have often planned journeys around trips to curry restaurants. From 2002 to 2004, I taught English at a university in Lille (France) and would head back to Leeds five or six times a year as I was registered for a Masters degree at the university there. I would get the Eurostar from Paris to London and make sure that I’d have enough time to have a curry at a fantastic restaurant near Euston station before getting the train up to Leeds.
I’d go as far as saying that the number and quality of Indian restaurants and sweet shops on Drummond Street makes it one of my favourite streets in London. As a vegetarian, I love the fact that there are at least half a dozen Indian vegetarian restaurants on the same street. What is more, several of them do amazing lunch time buffets where it is possible to sample a fantastic range of starters, main courses and desserts. I have sometimes thought that their ‘eat as much as you like’ format could end up making them go bankrupt and me gain a serious amount of weight.
That said, going out for a curry has always been something that I’ve seen as a bit of a treat. We’re lucky to have a really good Indian takeaway called the Sittar in the village where we live. I heard a rumour that they’re going to set up a smaller branch in the village that offers childcare as well as tasty food. Apparently, they’re going to call it the Baby Sittar.
I’d love to visit India one day and sample the cuisine in the land where it originates. There are doubtless various questions one can raise about the ‘authenticity’ of Indian food that is served up in countries such as the UK. In addition to the fact that a lot of what are generally called ‘Indian’ restaurants are run by Bangladeshis or Pakistanis, it may well be the case that the foods served up in some establishments are created in part to appeal to a British palate, However, this issue doesn’t really bother me. I am, after all, a Scotsman who eats vegetarian haggis rather than the traditional meat haggis and who serves this form of the national dish in burger form, in cannelloni or with couscous.
I’ve noticed that curries can often taste slightly different depending on where you are in the world. I haven’t noticed much difference between Indian food that is served in the UK and the US, but it’s not the same story in France or Spain. In France, curries that would be described as mild in the UK are often listed as medium spicy on restaurant menus. When I was in an Indian restaurant in Barcelona, I remember the waiter asking if I wanted the curry I’d ordered to be ‘medium British’ or ‘medium Spanish’.
Foods with an Indian twist form an important part of what we eat on special occasions, and massala nut roast with spicy tomato gravy is definitely one of my favourite vegetarian Christmas meals. It’s particularly good when served with Brussel sprouts that are stir fried with chilli and paneer (and Indian form of cheese). As our son grows up, I hope he’ll come to share our love of Indian food.
Do you have any particular foods that you like to eat as a family? Are there any events where you live where people celebrate a particular sort of food? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.
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