Well, the Currie Cup is in full swing, and Western Province have had a change of heart, it seems. No longer will they allow the Northerners, whether wearing red or blue, to sneak a win at the end. No, no, no! The Streeptruie seem determined to win the Currie Cup, to make up for their failure in the Super 15. And because the subject is the Currie Cup, My theme is going to be curry, but not in a cup, and not in front of 40 000 spectators.
Curry. I love it, and I love it hot. Not where I need a fire extinguisher, but if it’s not hot, why bother? I am also not of those people who will pour loads of hot sauce and chillies into an already hot curry. No, if I go into a curry restaurant, I ask for the hot curry, and am usually satisfied. Some are hotter than others, and can make my nose run and my eyes water, but never anything unbearable. I have a friend who, like me, loves curry, but also likes to challenge chefs.
And one day we decided to try one of the restaurants in Chatsworth, something like Satan’s Chillies, or Beelzebub’s Bottom, but when we walked in, we were the only whites in the establishment. So...serious curry. The smells that assailed our nostrils were heavenly, even if they were from Satan’s Armpit, or whatever it was. My friend, who will remain nameless, for fear of embarrassing him, sniffed the air the way a hunting dog does when he’s just picked up a trail. ‘Relax, Freddie, I said. ‘It’s only curry.’ ‘Only curry?!’ he hoarsely whispered, as if I’d just blasphemed. ‘This is the best curry restaurant in the whole of South Africa!’
This I knew, because we had driven all the way from Ballito, where our wives and children were having a day in the sun. We take our curry seriously. Once we were shown to our table, the waiter took our drinks orders and left us to peruse the menu. We both ordered narn bread, of course, and various other unimportant, but tasty side-dishes. We were here for the curry. The music was not, as you’d expect, traditional Indian music, but Bollywood pop tunes. Strangely enough, it worked; it all added to the ambience.
I scanned the menu, and eventually decided on a lamb curry. I would have preferred beef, but it’s rare to find a good curry restaurant that serves beef. I chose hot. Of course. Then I sat back and munched on a poppadom, dipping it in this spicy green sauce which had been brought to our table. Freddie deliberated a few minutes more and then, when the waiter arrived, we were ready to order. I ordered the lamb curry, the waiter studiously taking the order, then he turned to Freddie, pad in hand, and I quote: Freddie – ‘What’s the hottest curry you’ve got?’ The waiter looked quizzically at him. ‘All the curries are as hot as you want, sir.’ ‘Really.’ ‘Yes, sir. Look here on the menu; mild, medium and hot.’ ‘Okay here’s what I want,’ said Freddie. ‘I want your lamb curry, as hot as you can make it, okay?’
The waiter looked dubiously at him, but nodded, then Freddie added. ‘Then... put petrol.’ ‘Excuse me, sir?’ ‘Put petrol. Make it as hot as you can, then put petrol; turn the heat up a bit more. Do you think you can do that?’ The waiter looked a bit worried, but nodded, then went over to the proprietor and had an earnest conversation with him, casting frequent glances over at us.
Eventually the proprietor smiled, rather evilly, I thought, and went to the kitchen with the waiter. I could hear muffled conversation, and then whoops of barely suppressed mirth. Freddie looked as if he’d suddenly realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew. Freddie had a beer and I a sparkling water, and we chatted amiably while waiting for our order to arrive. When the waiter approached our table with the tray - the aroma was tantalising to degree that could only be, I imagined, matched by a Roman orgy.
My mouth watered as the smell hit me, and the waiter smiled wickedly as he put Freddie’s food down before him. Freddie looked at his food with a mixture of delight and trepidation. He, too, had heard their chortling and whispering. I spooned the rice onto my plate and Freddie looked on in envy and disbelief. His rice was not in a separate dish, but swimming under deliciously evil-smelling gravy, deep red in colour, with pieces of lamb and potato mixed in. Meanwhile I spooned my curry onto my rice, tasting it as I went along, to get the balance just right. It was some of the best curry I’ve ever eaten, and well worth the time taken to get there.
Freddie picked up his fork and took a smallish forkful, examining it before putting it into his mouth. By this time, all the waiters and diners were watching. They knew something special was in the offing. Freddie munched on his curry, his face turning red as he ate, and beads of sweat popping out on his forehead.
His eyes, normally a pale green, shone out of his face like cat’s eyes on a particularly dark stretch of highway. He swallowed the mouthful of food and then pulled the bowl towards him, shovelling it into his mouth as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks. I’d forgotten all about my curry in the ensuing drama, but then went back to eating, and enjoying my meal, the sideshow adding to the enjoyment. By this time, Freddie was drenched in sweat, his shirt sticking to his body, and sweat running in rivulets down his face.
Freddie was in obvious distress by this time, so much so, that my concern for his wellbeing detracted from my own enjoyment. By this time, he was on his third beer, and second narn bread, with half the bowl empty, and Freddie breathing in gasps. By now, the proprietor and waiters were not chortling, but looking on in concern. How would it look if they killed someone? Freddie manfully pushed on, until his bowl was empty. He sat back, pushing the bowl from him and taking a long draught of his beer.
I got stuck in again, thoroughly enjoying my curry now, when Freddie called the waiter over. The waiter hurried over with all speed. ‘Correct me if I’m wrong,’ said Freddie, ‘But did I, or did I not in fact ask for the hot curry?’ The waiter looked puzzled. ‘Yes, sir, you did. ‘Then why did you bring me the mild curry’ ‘The mild curry?!’” The waiter went from puzzled to astonished. ‘Yes. The mild curry. I travelled all the way here from Ballito, because I heard you make good curry, but I am personally disappointed.’
I looked at him in amazement, as did the waiter. ‘If I decide to come back here again, and that’s a strong if, I expect to get a hot curry. Is that understood?’ The waiter nodded dumbly. ‘Then please bring us the bill.’ After we had paid, we went out and got into the car. ‘We didn’t even have coffee, Freddie!’ I protested. He started the car. ‘No. But that’s because if I don’t get a litre of milk inside me in the next five minutes, I’m going to pass out. Or explode.’