Eating, Reading, and Race
No two curries are the same. This Curry asks why the dish is supposed to represent everything brown people eat, read, and do.
Curry is a dish that doesn't quite exist, but, as this hilarious and sharp essay points out, a dish that doesn't properly exist can have infinite, equally authentic variations.By grappling with novels, recipes, travelogues, pop culture, and his own background, Naben Ruthnum depicts how the distinctive taste of curry has often become maladroit shorthand for brown identity. With the sardonic wit of Gita Mehta's Karma Cola and the refined, obsessive palette of Bill Buford's Heat, Ruthnum sinks his teeth into the story of how the beloved flavour calcified into an aesthetic genre that limits the imaginations of writers, readers, and eaters. Following in the footsteps of Salman Rushdie's Imaginary Homelands, Curry cracks open anew the staid narrative of an authentically Indian diasporic experience.
"Ruthnum picks apart Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry, Daniyal Mueenudin, Shoba Narayan, Madhur Jaffrey, and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle with a thoughtful ambivalence that exhibits an admirable intellectual honesty …It’s fun to watch him think. " —The Toronto Star
"Curry, which reads more like a conversation than a hardcore critique, introduces Ruthnum's philosophical and humorous side. " —Metro News
"Curry is a challenging, but refreshing take on the politics involved in our reading and choices, and one that reminds us of the messy ambiguity of racial identity, particularly in diasporic communities. Ruthnum's mixing of personal history and vast reading experience make it valuable contribution to discussions of race in writing and popular culture. " —Hamilton Review of Books
"Always engaging and sometimes funny, [Ruthnum is] most fierce when talking about currybooks …" —NOW Magazine
"Spot on, scathing, and often humorous, Ruthbum’s prose has a strong sense of voice that is unlike anything produced lately. " —Quill & Quire
"Curry proves itself to be a smart text, one that shows us the link between who we are and what we eat is never as straightforward as it may first appear. " —The Walrus
"Ruthnum's provocative intellectual journey in Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race explores this colonial endpoint, tracing the complex roots of curry as well as its diasporic colonization of the West in a series of interconnected essays that are as deliciously pleasant in narrative style as they are provocatively piquant in theoretical debate. " —Pop Matters
"Curry is an engaging and insightful long-form essay that connects the dots between the popular dish and how it functions as shorthand for brown identity in representing the food, culture and social perception of the South Asian diaspora. " —CBC Books