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around the world in 40 soups - India

The Mulligatawny Mood

This week’s World Soup (until Monday, when we switch to Thai Pumpkin Laksa) is Mulligatawny, a super flavorful pureed lentil soup we are serving with a toasted spice and tomato chutney and a zing of yogurt.

Here is Saveur Magazine’s blurb on Mulligatawny:

…Mulligatawny is a rich Anglo-Indian variation on a traditional thin broth. Originally called milagutannir, or pepper-water, in Tamil, this rich, flavorful soup evolved in Britain’s Anglo-Indian community.

I realized I knew very little about the history of India, or if I once did I had forgotten most of it, including the 100 year period when it was part of the British Empire. I wanted to bone up on my knowledge of the geography and culture of India, the nature of British rule there, and the mixing of cultures that might have resulted in a soup imbued with the spices and flavors of India but meant to satisfy a pugnacious British demand for a soup course.

Wikipedia wouldn’t do; I was tired of the flat, passionless entries and that feeling of flitting around the edges of a thing it always leaves me with. So, I decided to watch Gandhi.

Plus, I had the Sunday Saddies (you know, that weird angsty vestige of back to school blues); it was a good day for vegging out and watching a long biopic about a tireless and devoted hero, all while trying not to think too hard about the fact that said hero would probably never sit around eating potato chips in their jammies, watching movies.

From my Sunday afternoon torpor, though, bits and pieces from my memory began to resurface. I remembered that Gandhi was influenced by reading Thoreau’s article Civil Disobedience (perhaps while vegging out on a Sunday!) who in turn inspired Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. So there was this righteous idea, of nonviolent non-cooperation, that skipped through time like a flat rock.

Maybe none of this relates to soup, except to say that soups reflect the culture and politics of a place-that our recipes follow our history, like scraps of cultural DNA-and also there was the simple fact that soup had got me thinking about history, and how ideas are like recipes passed down, adapted and spread. If history is shaped by ideas, some ideas are recipes for change, the perfect skipping rock.

Here is my list of media to get you in The Mulligatawny Mood:
Passage to India
(the movie or the excellent book it is based on by E.M. Forster)

[Staff suggestions that I had totally forgotten about]:
The Darjeeling Limited
Slumdog Millionaire
Anthony Bourdain’s