For people who care about their food

The Ubiquitous Chick and an anecdote

I’m still reading The Raj at Table by David Burton and the following really struck a chord and gave me a laugh:

The ‘everlasting murghi’ – roasted, grilled, boiled, stewed, hashed, minced, cutleted or curried – appeared on the table week after week with such monotony that for years after leaving India some British retained an aversion to chicken in any form. A standing Anglo-Indian joke told of the Englishman who returned home after a ten-year sojourn in the East, and at every relation he visited was regaled with roast chicken!

Oh, so true! Having spent several years “in the East” I can vouch for it still being the case to this very day. I guess it’s partly true these days because when you are having to cater for a diverse group of people – where Hindus won’t eat beef and Muslims won’t eat pork – chicken is perceived as a safe bet. But, oh, it’s so tedious.

Some years ago, I was interviewing a person for the position of maid/housekeeper, and she was very proud to tell me that she could also cook. “Oh,” I said, pleasantly surprised and anticipating the possibility of learning from her how to make some delicious curries, “what can you cook?”

“Sicken tikka, sicken shashlik, sicken curry, butter sicken, sicken kebabs, sicken biryani, sicken jalfrezi, sicken sagwala…”

“But I don’t like chicken,” I replied.

She looked at me dumbfounded.

“Can you cook anything that’s not chicken?”

“No, Madam.”

I looked at her dumbfounded.

Well, she got the job for a while but her cooking skills weren’t required. Later, we had a little guy (literally – I don’t think he could’ve been much over four feet) who was passed on to us by a Chinese woman (who was married to a Scotsman) and he was great! He could do just about everything, even cooking if required, she had trained him so well. He was the best housekeeper we’ve ever had.

2 Responses to “The Ubiquitous Chick and an anecdote”

  1. Mr Not Delia

    He was great all right. Possibly not the smallest guy we’ve ever had working for us, though.

    We had a dhobiwala (laundry man) in Delhi a few years later. He was certainly no bigger than our housekeeper, and may have been smaller – but he was much older. When we took him on to do our ironing for a couple of hours a week, he proudly showed us the testimonial letter he’d received back in 1940 from a British Army major. Presumably he must have been at least in his teens by then, which means he must have been pushing 80 by the time he started working for us. ­čś»

  2. Not Delia

    I loved living in India, but one of the worst things was their insistence on the demarcation of jobs – so you had to hire someone for every darned job. The housekeeper wouldn’t do the ironing etc, etc. Aarrggh!

    At one time we had a housekeeper, an assistant housekeeper/maid, a driver, a dhobiwala, a mali (gardener), not to mention all the other people buzzing about the place doing various jobs. All these people for the two of us!

    It might sound like fun having everything done for you, but it can just about turn into a full time job trying to manage all the staff. It’s funny to look back on, but when we left India I vowed “Never again!” It’s not that we wanted (or needed) all these people, it was more like job creation and we were obliged to do it.

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