How to make a beef curry

Embed from Getty Images

At eleven o’clock on Saturday morning, Mr Briggs opened the doors of his new cookery school. Enthusiastic sweater-clad students of a certain age had been gathering in anticipation under the porch outside. Discussion centred around wine and weekend mini-breaks. A gentleman called Geoff had tried to initiate a discussion about a golf competition that he had been watching on his television set but rapidly changed tack, opening up a discussion about the best way to protect bay trees from the frost.

Mr Briggs wore glasses and had a neatly trimmed beard. “I play in a band,” he explained to his students for no obvious reason. The students filed in and, as instructed, stood two to each bench. The room still had a vinegary whiff of grout about it.

“Right-o,” said Mr Briggs, “Today we are going to investigate beef curry.”

“Oh yum!” Exclaimed Marion, a greying lady sporting a jaunty scarf.

Mr Briggs narrowed his eyes slightly but otherwise did not react. “I want you to talk to the person next to you. I want you to discuss why beef curry is problematic.”

A hush fell over the room for a few long second before the students, eyebrows raised, started to turn and talk to each other. This continued for five minutes, by which time most of the conversations had drifted off topic and into discussions of jobs, families and cooking.

Mr Briggs clapped his hands. “Charlotte, isn’t it?” He gestured to a lady at the front of the room who nodded, “Would you like to share your discussion?”

Charlotte smirked, “Well curries give some people terrible wind!”

Mr Briggs purses his lips, “What about you, Geoff? What did you discuss?”

“Some people just aren’t fans of spicy food.” He offered.

“It’s more the concept,” explained Mr Briggs, “What is problematic about the concept of beef curry?” He asked. “Anyone?”

There was a long pause. Finally, Marion asked, “Why don’t you tell us? You seem to have something in mind.”

Mr Briggs exhaled sharply, “Well think about its origins. Think about where it is meant to come from. Think about the fact it contains beef.”

There was another pause.

“Shouldn’t we be starting to make the curry now?” Asked Charlotte, “We haven’t got that long.”

Mr Briggs ignored this. “Perhaps it’s hard to see from a privileged perspective. But curry is a cultural appropriation. We think of it as Indian but most Indians would never eat beef. Beef curry is colonialism.”

Geoff grabbed a glass and poured himself some water from the tap on his bench. The other students stared at Mr Briggs.

“Right-o,” Mr Briggs clapped, “I want you to discuss with your partners how we might decolonise beef curry.”

“What if we don’t think it needs decolonising?” Asked Geoff, making air quotes with his fingers.

“I am trying to develop your critical thinking skills. I want you to critique the concept of beef curry because I want you to think critically,” Mr Briggs explained.

“But I am thinking critically,” Geoff opined, “I am thinking critically about the idea that a curry needs decolonising.” A few of the students sniggered.

“That’s not critical thinking.” Snapped Mr Briggs.

“It is,” Geoff insisted.

“No it’s not. I’ve got a book on it: Critical Theory by Hubert Un, a professor. That’s not what critical thinking means. It’s about challenging ideas that we accept on the basis of historically defined authority.” Mr Briggs suggested.

Geoff shook his head.

“Shouldn’t we start on the curry?” Asked Charlotte.

Mr Briggs collected himself and turned to Charlotte. “Yes. That’s right.” He said, “Charlotte, you are going to be our curry expert. How should we go about cooking a beef curry?”

“Well, I have some ideas but I came here to learn. I’m no expert.” Charlotte replied.

“It’s a pedagogical tool,” Mr Briggs explained, “I want you to imagine you are a curry expert. I want you to assume that role. This will develop your empathy and creativity skills.”

“We want you to assume that role!” Snorted Marion. “You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?”

“I so do!” Countered Mr Briggs, “I lecture in catering at the University and everything!” He exclaimed.

At that moment, the doors swung open and a group of students with matching t-shirts and placards stormed in. Their leader had a megaphone which was hardly necessary in the small cooking studio.

“Briggs is a fascist!” The student leader shouted through the megaphone. “He should not be given a platform for his far-right agenda! Briggs is guilty of microaggressions against vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians and fruitarians!”

The students formed a wall in front of Mr Briggs and started singing We Shall Overcome.

Geoff wondered how the golf was going.


14 thoughts on “How to make a beef curry

  1. Sometimes I wonder if I’m alone in thinking what a pile of steaming **** this stuff all is. Glad I’m not alone. Can’t believe it’s in schools, now too. Happened here in Oz & I’d be spitting the dummy.

    1. in Canada? Absolutely. Identity politics and misplaced Social Justice guilt is replacing the 3 Rs in our school curriculum. It’s disgusting.

      1. Have read the extract and also have seen this elsewhere. A history of education would suggest that the traditional model of a teacher giving explicit instruction to pupils who are sitting attentively is universal: it is how Ancient Egypt did it, and China. This seems to be because of the recognition by these societies that learning information not related to immediate needs is not natural and therefore needs to be inculcated. Have also just read this: – on Teacher Toolkit re Finland making schools open plan, with grouping areas, and comfortable sofas. I am sitting on a sofa at the moment and it is ok with a laptop, not so hot with a notebook and a book which you need to take notes from – the problem is that one feels in relaxation mode not work mode. I have also sat in tutorials on sofas: people tend to nod off.

    1. I recall feeling confined by the colouring books with white pages and the feeling that I had to colour between the lines was oppressive…just kidding… that’s total BS and how anyone talking that much BS (let alone writing it) can get away with is what really needs investigating.

  2. Just wanted to add that Ann Milne’s argument for culturally responsive and sustaining schools must apply to UK schools where the indigenous culture is sometimes buried under slavish multiculturalism. This may be one reason white working class boys react so badly to their education and do so poorly. Note, I am not arguing for ‘relevance’ here. It has always seemed to me that whenever educationalists talk of a ‘relevant curriculum’ they mean a culturally deprived one: depriving the already deprived of a view of the wider culture they live in and of any chance of escaping their deprivation. .

    1. I’d not put much weight into Ms Milne’s ideas. Ideas are easy, but facts are stubborn.

      I read the Education Review Office report for Kia Aroha (literally Love College, sigh). If you know the ERO code, which always attacks issues obliquely, it translates as the school having lower than average achievement, allowing for income and race. Attendance is a problem in senior school, which suggests engagement is low.

      The college avoids the problem of external standards — which really tells if the kids are scratch — by being against them. As all the key parts of the curriculum are external (e.g. algebra and calculus in Year 12) they must be teaching quite a degraded curriculum.

      No amount of cultural responsiveness will make up for that sort of low expectation — and passing it off as saying you don’t want to play the “white” system just ensures the next generation stays deprived too. Meanwhile at the traditional college near me the Maori boys are held to the same standard as the white ones. Oddly, they do much better for it.

    2. Having worked in such a school I’d say it’s not the multiculturalism per se (though it is tiresome and I’m a British Indian saying that) so much as making everything “fun”, blaming poverty for failure of progressive methods, a relentless presenteeism – popular culture as “their” culture not even working class culture or history (unless it’s something to do with conflict), removal of local stories/myths (no doubt racist – actually I see what you mean about multiculturalism – Robin Hood not taught as standard over East Midlands anymore) and access to high culture indeed removed as “elitist”. Low expectations of white working class boys behaviour and learning from the start – my favourite excuse for not teaching boys to write – “they would rather play outside” followed by “they are only mark-making to please me”. The single thing we could do to improve the lot of poor white and black boys in our education system is to remove bleeding heart liberals from their primary education. Unfortunately, this is where they are concentrated and as much as I tried in my classes I’m not sure it was enough.

  3. I particularly hate the removal of high culture as ‘elitist’. I was given this opportunity in my secondary modern in the sixties and it is bitter to me to realise children now often don’t get it – and the most deprived are the least likely to be shown other worlds than their own. On the same theme at a school I worked in the East Midlands teaching Shakespeare was questioned as being irrelevant to the pupils. The only argument that seemed allowed was to say they enjoyed doing it! We had a pupil in to say how much she had enjoyed studying Macbeth (which is good) – but such justification has no place in an education curriculum.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s