Kenny the Dip taught us how to make curries when we were all in our twenties, unemployed, and bored. Kenny was a Pakistani and had worked at the Plaza Café, famous for its suicide curries. The most important ingredient, according to Kenny, was garlic, incredible amounts of garlic, followed by incredible amounts of chilli peppers and chilli powder. The curry powders and spices, although vital, came third and you had to be careful, according to Kenny, not to “bruise the spices”. Once Kenny talked about bruising the spices we knew we were dealing with a maestro.
We were in our twenties, living off social security and spending all our money on alcohol and other urgent necessities. We frittered as little as possible on food and so we often went hungry. On one occasion we had only carrots and tinned salmon, but we always had curry powder and spices and garlic, and of course we had our master chef, Kenny the Dip. Kenny had gotten his nick-name because he was a persistent shop-lifter, a vice which cost him dearly over the years, but his one outstanding virtue, for which he was renowned, was his skill at making curries, out of anything.
Our favourite was lamb-chops curry so whenever we were flush or whenever Kenny was able to lift a packet of lamb-chops from Safeways Supermarket we ate the most exquisite red hot curries imaginable. Hotter even than the infamous Plaza Café suicide curries. Being proud of his ability to cook, Kenny instructed us all in the Art of Curry Making, and his teaching has lived with me all my life. It would be fair to say that I am a curry addict and I am sure there are millions more; addicted to the extent that you have to have a curry at least once a week, preferably twice or thrice a week.
In the 50’s and 60’s, Chinese restaurants began sprouting up all over England and in the 70’s Indian restaurants were everywhere. There were at least 3 Indian restaurants in our neighbourhood and, after the pubs closed, everybody poured into them. The waiters were wonderfully patient and were experts at calming down obnoxious drunks. If you asked for it “very hot” they always obliged and it was interesting to see some of these obnoxious drunks forcing themselves to eat these plates of fire. The curry would sober you up enough for you to make it to the Lamplight Club or the Cabin Club.
In my life there is not much I haven’t curried; fish, meat, prawns, carrots, even baked beans and this just might explain why I have had a long and healthy life, despite having spent all my money on alcohol and other urgent necessities in my youth. The more I read about spices, garlic, turmeric, and chilli peppers, the more I realise that I made at least one right choice in my addictions.
Author: Philip Gee