Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Alsatian, Cobra beer, Drusus, fakir, Food Hygiene Rating, Henry Williamson, Jamie Cullum, Jean Rhys, jellied eels, Kingfisher beer, kipper, lamphrey, mongoose, Naan, Neil Gunn, Pliny, Poppadom, Prawn Dansak, Shahjanee, Silver Darlings, smiggle, Sophie Dahl, Tarka Dahl, Tarka the Otter, Wide Sargasso Sea, Wind in the Willows
Brassica and I decided to go out for a curry at Benares Balti,
since the town was freezing cold. Apparently they had a new
menu, so we thought we would give it a go.
We were shown to a table for two right under the speaker
which over-amplifies the CD on a loop. No matter. I’ve heard it
so many times that I just switch off, as I do when my husband
talks to me about budgeting.
Hmm, Suttonford Shahjanee with saffron rice and star anise sounds
interesting, I opined.
Two Cobras- half pints, please, Brassie told the levitating waiter.
Where had he come from? Was there a coil of rope in the corner
where he kept his mongooses? Mongice?
Okay. So my friend would like Number 42 and I’ll have the Tarka
Dahl, Brassie informed him politely.
No. Wait! You can’t possibly, I interjected. I don’t approve.
What are you on about? queried Brassie. Why can’t I have it?
Haven’t you read that classic book by Henry Williamson? I asked.
Tarka The Otter. You can’t eat a curry named after one of those
gloriously sinuous creatures. And what about Portly and his daddy in
Wind in the Willows? They were practically human. They complained
about the noisy, materialistic behaviour of other wild creatures in their
environment. You can’t eat such superior moral beings. They have much
to instruct their human neighbours.
Especially in a town such as Suttonford, I suppose, Brassie agreed,
grudgingly. But, don’t be ridiculous, Candia! What’s in a name? as the
Bard said. Do you think Jamie Cullum and his band avoid post-
performance Indian take-aways, just because he’s married to
Sophie, whose surname is reminiscent of a lentil curry? Indians are
probably the only places open at that time of the morning. They can’t
afford to be picky.
I turned round, but the waiter had seemingly ascended his rope,
or gone to seek out the Cobras with his mongoose.
Shhh! It’s just that otters have been spotted in The River Sutton,
I whispered. It’s all too close to home.
How long have they been there? Brassie silently mouthed.
About five million years, give or take a few periods when they
went on holiday, I informed her.
You don’t think..? Her eyes grew wide. Rumours of tethered
Alsatians were coming back to haunt her. But she could see the
Food Hygiene Rating certificate showed a 4, so that was
The waiter returned with the drinks. He lit a candle under the hot
Have a Prawn Dansak instead, I suggested.
Well, I suppose no one has immortalised their pet prawn, have
they? Brassie can become very silly.
I wonder if people have ever curried eels? I mean, they jellied them,
didn’t they? I mused. They still do.
Next you’ll be saying that they shouldn’t smiggle them from their
coverts- I think I have used the correct term-as you have just read
Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea! Or one shouldn’t eat a kipper if
one is a fan of Neil Gunn.
The Silver Darlings, darling!
I broke a Poppadum and dipped it in some chutney. You know
a Roman Emperor once had a tame lamphrey and Pliny said that
certain notables called their fish by name. Antonia, the wife of
Drusus, used to hang jewels in their gills.
This lady is ready? The waiter had crept up on us again. Very sorry
to say, but no Tarka Dahl tonight.
Well, that’s a relief, I replied. She’ll have the Prawn Dansak.
One plain; one spicy. He noted this down.
Sometimes it’s better not to know, I said to Brassie. Wait! Can I
have a Kingfisher, please?
But our attendant fakir had disappeared again.
There’s nothing like a curry on a cold night.