Kim and Curry

Sometimes books bring very unexpected things into your life.  As the summer unfolds and the garden produces our daily vegetables, I am fondly reminded of how Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim brought Indian cooking into mine.

Kim and Vegetable Curry

Although I was already a huge fan of Kipling’s The Jungle Books, I was an adult before I ever tried Kim.  What made me take the gamble was my fondness for recorded books.  As I was browsing the library shelves one day I decided to try Kim, which I had avoided for some time out of a child’s loyalty to my first love.  The reader was excellent – so talented that Jim later suggested we buy a copy for our private library – and the story was complicated, full of twists, and just plain marvelous.

Jim had heard Kim in fragments but never from end to end, so he asked if we could take the tapes along on one of our forthcoming road trips.  Early in the book, when Kim begged vegetable curry and rice for himself and his new friend the Tibetan lama, Jim said:

“I don’t know why, but that sounds wonderful.  I’d like to try some sometime.”

We have a couple of Indian restaurants we enjoy, but for some reason the idea of simply going and ordering a dish of vegetable curry never crossed our minds.  Instead, we hunted through shelves of Indian cookbooks until we found one that we liked the look of.  By now it was summer, so we adapted the recipe in the book (which called for cauliflower, which neither of us care for cooked, though I’ll eat it raw) to use the surplus from our garden.

To a base of browned onions and oil saturated in powdered turmeric, coriander, chili, and cumin, we added zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and string beans.   Since we were using “wet” vegetables rather than the drier potatoes and cauliflower called for in the recipe, we cut the broth, adding just a few tablespoons of liquid so that the vegetables would not singe before they started producing their own broth.  The end result was both savory and spicy.

These days, we make some variation of this recipe every summer.  When we have more produce than we can use immediately, we cook up surplus and freeze it for the winter.  As good as the curry tastes in summer, it’s even better in winter when the spices warm the body from the inside out and the reminder of summer warms the soul.

We’ve also made other recipes from that book.  They’ve all been good, but nothing has pleased us quite as much as that vegetable curry, maybe because when we eat it, we join in spirit with Kim and the lama as they dine together in the shadow of Zam-Zammah outside the Wonder House in the city of Lahore.

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8 Responses to “Kim and Curry”

  1. Alan Robson Says:

    Mmmmm… Curry! The national dish of England — did you know that the Balti style of cooking curry was invented in Birmingham, an industrial town in the English midlands?

    The princess of curry cooking is Mahdur Jaffrey. She’s written more curry cookbooks than you can count, and all her recipes are utterly yummy. She has several recipes for cauliflower that might possibly change your mind about that much maligned vegetable. The last time I was up in Auckland visiting my godson, his mother cooked one of those receipes. It was to die for!

    But “Kim”? No — I love Kipling; he’s a brilliant writer, one of my very favourites. However I could never get into Kim. I just bounce off it and I’ve never managed more than two or three chapters. I don’t know why; it makes no sense to me. But it’s the only Kipling story that I simply cannot read (and I’ve read more Kipling than anybody else I know, except possibly yourself). Riddle me that. I can’t!

    But I do love curry…


    -Alan

    • janelindskold Says:

      All I can say is that when I couldn’t get into Emma Bull’s excellent _War for the Oaks_, my good buddy David Weber said: “So skip the opening and read it anyhow. You’ll love this book.”

      I’m tempted to say the same to you about _Kim_ but tastes in books, even if you love the author, do vary.

      All I’ll say is that I have come to love the characters — and that Kipling resisted an ending 99% of authors would have written. For that, I honor him.

      Good hunting!

  2. heteromeles Says:

    Funny, I just read Kim for the first time this year, and got my partner to read it also. I should note that’s it’s available as a free ebook at Project Gutenberg for those who want to read it on a screen.

    I was reading about the Great Game for a project I’m researching, and of course, you can’t read about the Great Game without a number of references to Kim, because of course that’s where the term came from. Like Alan, I bounced the first time I opened it, but once I got into it, I read it all the way through and loved it overall.

    The interesting connection for me wasn’t the curry (although I disagree about cauliflower in curry. I think it works, but whichever). Rather, it was Kim’s game. As I read that game, I realized my mom and had us play a variation of it as kids. She would put out a tray of ten objects (pens, paperclips, and similar small stuff), ask us to memorize all of them, then go hide all of them “in plain site” in our messy living room. At least some part of each object had to be visible. Sometimes she would even hide the tray. Then we would have to go and find all the objects she’d hidden. Then we’d have to hide things for her to find, or for each other. It’s great memory training, and since we lived in rattlesnake country, I suspect my mom was also teaching us indirectly to spot snakes and other hidden things.

  3. Dominique Says:

    Oh! Now I going to have to go read Kim!

  4. Sally Says:

    Kim is one of my favorite books (overall, not just of Kipling’s). I don’t remember when I first read it, but certainly it was in my teens or earlier. Among many other things it makes me wish American English had a more interesting tradition of cursing: “Thy mother was a pastry cook. Thy father stole the ghi”!

    I like curry too.

  5. Ann M Nalley Says:

    Great post! Ideas for reading, food for the body,and food for the soul!

  6. Paul Says:

    A recorded book is what got me reading Stuart Woods’ “Stone Barrington” potboilers. Now that I’ve read others in the series, I think it may have been the reader, Tony Roberts, who sold me. Some audiobook readers are really good, and not always the ones you think would be, like certain actors.

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