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Critical eye.

It's standard to argue that Britain's national dish is now tikka masala rather than ye olde staples such as jellied heron, badger hotpot or whippet in a bap. Spice Britain (BBC1, Sunday 4pm) was the latest lid-lifter on how Little Englanders came to nobly champion an obscure type of cooking known as 'the curry'-which had previously been favoured by just a billion or so people across Asia, north Africa and much of the Mediterranean.

Happy-clappy stand-up Shappi Khorsandi was our guide for this wafer-thin look at how food from Muslim cultures liberated Brits from our slavery to stodge - overlooking the fact we've nicked food from more countries than we had colonies.

Khorsandi, who claimed her Iranian mum arrived on these shores with nothing but "a suitcase full of dried limes", spent most of the half hour chortling at how rubbish English food is. That was regularly inter-cut with footage of dough-faced Brummies confirming that yes, they quoite loike a curroy, and broiled sheep heads grinning helplessly like Big Brother entrants.

Book-ended with topical references to Ramadan, there more interesting show to be had here than Khorsandi came up with. In the chronicle of curry's conquest, there were only fleeting nods to the racial tensions of the 70s and 80s and how elements of the British drinking culture latched on to Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine with often disturbing results. "Thankfully those days are long gone," Khorsandi claimed - not very convincingly, in light of tabloid rabble-rousing about 'halal meat by the back door'.

She wrapped up with some feel good stuff about how Britain is a more diverse and tolerant place than it used to be. Which is a bit like saying that deep-fried Mars bars are healthier since the chocolate was reformulated. Her claim was true, but considering 70% of curry houses are Muslim-run, it seemed odd a decade of creeping Islamophobia should not even be mentioned. Still, the narrative remained upbeat-and the shift before Songs of Praise probably isn't the obvious place for challenging debate anyway.

Next week: Dawn French on how the digestive biscuit was a key tool of colonial oppression


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Author:Wright, Charlie
Date:Sep 3, 2011
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