Recently I’ve started to wonder if the Brits left behind more than railways when they quit India in 1947. It started with a meal we had in the Kullu Valley last summer which began with the Himalayan cousin of Arbroath Smokies and ended with a dessert called ‘Say Hello to the Queen’.
Since then I’ve discovered jam-making in Kashmir, something suspiciously like Scots ‘tablet’ in Kalimpong and a hotel in Darjeeling where, according to writer Jan Morris, the porridge is ‘unsurpassed in Scotland’.
This week I’ve been in contact with a delightful Anglo-Indian lady called Bridget Kumar in Bangalore and my conversations with her have led me to believe there is a corner of former Empire that will be forever ‘uppar wali chai’ (High Tea) – in fact yesterday she sent me her recipe for Mince and Tatties, Treacle Sponge and Shortbread! I’m now eagerly awaiting a delivery of the five books Bridget has written on the subject.
I also confess to my own shameful, Memsahib-like attempts to foist Scottish food traditions on unsuspecting locals. On holiday in the hills last year, we urged the cook at a local restaurant to expand his pakora repertoire. Now if you visit the Hotel Ragini in the village of Naggar, you might find something suspiciously like a deep fried mars bar.
We tend to think the influence is one-way, that Brits can’t get enough Chicken Tikka Masala but that no self-respecting Indian would be caught dead eating our peely-wally fare. Initial findings indicate there may be a huge Scottish/British culinary legacy. As my new best friend in Bangalore says, there is a whole community here which believes in a ‘more judicial use of seasoning.’