I'm not racist, you know," one white hen says to another in a newspaper cartoon. "My former friends are all chicken tikka masala." And therein lies a tale, one that's not just about hens. A veritable war of words raged across Britain last week over its supposedly multicultural society and national identity. At the symbolic, and often actual centre, of the debate were those plates of delicious chicken tikka masala (apparently, some 23 million of them are sold per year). Only in England, it seems, could chicken tikka masala have triggered a national crisis.
But why chicken tikka masala? For one, it's quite the nation's favourite. But there's also something of the melting pot about it. The story goes that somewhere, sometime an Englishman in an Indian restaurant did not dig his plate of chicken tikka. He ordered some gravy over it. Presto, there and then was born the nation's favourite, combining the old and the new, the Indian and the English, a new mix that was decidedly multicultural and hugely edible.