Guest post by Big Apple Curry member Gina who lives in Massachusetts, works in international development, and successfully got her Italian father to like chicken curry!
My father immigrated to the United States in 1964 from a small town in Italy about an hour away from Venice. Living in Massachusetts for almost 50 years, he has adapted to most facets of small-town life in America — except when it comes to food. For Italians, food is religion. Each step of its preparation is ritualistic – from picking out the fresh produce (from the market or one’s own garden) to serving it at the table — this includes ensuring everyone is seated on time, because it’s paramount to eat together while the food is still fresh (heaven help me and my sisters if we were ever late to the dinner table!). Italians are very particular about the way they prepare each meal, and rarely deviate much from the ingredients they use, always savoring dishes that are familiar to them. And whether you call it national pride (or because it happens to be true, I’m slightly biased), any Italian will tell you that they love Italian food the best because it is the most delicious of all cuisines! My father is exactly this way. It isn’t that he is afraid to try different cuisines, but whether it’s anything from sushi to Pad Thai, I can guarantee he will almost always have the same reaction: “It was good…but I like my food better.”
For the last 6 months, I’ve been enthusiastically exploring various recipes on Big Apple Curry, excited to stretch my cooking skills and understanding of herbs and spices that were previously foreign to me — literally and metaphorically! One recipe I’ve made several times is Daddy’s Chicken Curry — a dish that is so simple to prepare, yet rich and delicious — my 15-month old Talia and 4 1/2 year old Leo happily gobble up the curry with rice. I now always have staple ingredients like onions, ginger and tomato paste in my kitchen, so I know if want to prepare it, I only have to run out and buy chicken and fresh cilantro. The recipe is Ina‘s father’s specialty, but it was with some trepidation that I told my Italian father that I would be serving him up a homemade curry…
…my dad, mom, and sisters came to my house for an Indian feast (I always prepare chicken curry with Indian oven-roasted vegetables, and serve raita as well) and I was thrilled to watch everyone — including my father — clean their plates down to the last grain of rice and crumb of naan. When I asked my dad what he thought, he said “it was very good” but the biggest compliment was what he didn’t say: “I would’ve preferred the chicken cooked a la cacciatore instead.” Progress! I know it’s a set of unfamiliar flavors, but chicken curry has a few features that bode well for picky Italians eaters. With the following tips in mind, you too can introduce Indian food to the picky Italian eaters in your life. I’m hopeful I can continue to coax my family to branch out a bit, and I look forward to serving up more delicious dishes from Big Apple Curry!
For a picky Italian palate, I think chicken curry works for several reasons:
- AS HOT AS YOU WANT — It’s easy to adjust the “heat” of the dish by using a small amount of red chili flakes (or omitting them entirely) for children, or people that can’t take too much spice (my kids happily gobble up the curry even with a bit of kick!)
- THE ITALIAN LOVE OF TOMATOES — Tomato paste brings a familiar richness and consistency to the curry that is similar to many Italian sauces and dishes.
- THE COMBINATION OF BREAD AND SAUCE — While Italians rarely eat rice if it isn’t risotto, offering naan allows them to soak up the sauce as they would with Italian bread and a nice salsa a la bolognesa.
- A LITTLE VINO NEVER HURTS — A tomato-based curry is always good with a glass of homemade red wine!