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NEWS & VIEWS SPICE BUSINES S


CURRY HELPED MANDELA THROUGH DARK DAYS


THE death of Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid campaigner, touched the world, reminding us all of what a great man he was. Many articles were written and TV programmes aired about Mandela, who was an inspiration to people across the globe, because of his dignity and ability to forgive. One article in the Times of India, written by Vikram Doctor, caught Spice Business’ eye as it revealed his love of Indian food and how it helped him through some tough times. It seems Mandela was always ready to try the cuisine of the other communities in South Africa, but Indian food was a particular favourite. There are several recipes


for curries in Anna Trapido’s book, Hunger for Freedom’, described as a ‘gastro-political history of Mandela’s life.’ Amina Pahad, for example, whose son Essop became a minister in the South African government, is remembered for the chicken curry she could provide at short notice. It was signifi cantly also to an Indian restaurant that Mandela took his fi rst wife, Winnie, for their fi rst date, on which they are said to have eaten chicken curry, mutton curry and rotis.


Indian food became even


more important as the apartheid government started persecuting activists who had to go into hiding. Local families took one week in turn to supply the activists with food, and Ahmed Kathrada, one of Mandela’s closest comrades, recalled that, “the accused looked forward to the Indian weeks because they cooked substantial food: curries and rice and so forth. The white ladies made peanut butter sandwiches.” It is also reported that activists sent them curries while Mandela and others were in jail and that rotis were sometimes used for smuggling in, and out, secret messages. It seems


Mandela was well known for having a great


appetite for food generally. But curry was always something he would happily talk in depth about. In October 1990, soon after leaving prison, Mandela travelled to India to receive the Bharat Ratna, making him the second non-Indian citizen (after Khan Abdul Ghaffer Khan) to receive it. The Times of India reported that at the Rashtrapati Bhavan reception a journalist saw him snacking on vadas and asked if he liked Indian food: “Oh yes,” he is said to have replied with a smile, “we can have a long discussion on this.” n


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