Curries you buy in Huddersfield’s restaurants and takeaways taste very different than in people’s homes ... and here are the reasons why.
It’s all revealed in a new book by a Huddersfield University researcher called Recipes and Songs which examines the role food and song played in creating a communal identity for immigrant families.
Dr Razia Parveen reveals that when women migrated 4,000 miles from Pakistan and India to the north of England – often to join husbands already working in the UK – their ancient songs and recipes came with them, providing a link with their homelands that has lasted to this day.
In addition to being an academic text, Dr Parveen’s book also serves as a unique cookbook because it has an appendix of 21 recipes that enable ambitious cooks to prepare deeply authentic South Asian dishes. They include a deceptively simple recipe for curry but Dr Parveen warns that it bears little resemblance to the version that has virtually become the UK’s national dish.
“I think that was invented by chefs in Birmingham!” she says.
Dr Parveen carried out research among Asian women in Lockwood where she was born and raised.
She recorded Punjabi and Kashmiri folk tales from first, second and third generation immigrant women, but gradually her focus shifted to the traditional songs sung on the eve of weddings – texts and translations of these are also provided in the book – and on the recipes passed down from mothers to daughters.
Dr Parveen said: “The women who came to Lockwood after marriage had little in the way of possessions and brought only their memories and their culinary knowledge with them.”
She describes the circles of friendship formed by the women.
“They found solace and comfort in the language and cultural habits they had in common,” she said. “This formed a communal bond between the women that extended throughout the rest of the community.”
The book includes the immigrant experience in Lockwood and the wider UK and describes some of the challenges to traditional cultures. These include the influence of Bollywood songs, resisted by some older members of the Asian community but attractive to younger people because of their glamour, glitz and escapism – a contrast to the older songs which reflected the reality of life.
After she was educated at Moor End Academy, Dr Parveen – whose book includes descriptions of her immigrant mother’s experiences in the UK – studied for a first degree in English language and literature. A PhD scholarship then brought her to the University of Huddersfield where she is currently an affiliate, working on a new book of short stories inspired by her research into traditional cultures.
Recipes and Songs: An Analysis of Cultural Practices from South Asia, by Dr Razia Parveen, is published by Palgrave Macmillan as part of its Studies in Literary Anthropology series.