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.
No wonder foreign secretary Robin Cook served up this metaphor in a speech on Britishness at a think-tank dinner. "Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences," Cook said at the Social Market Foundation dinner. "Chicken tikka is an Indian dish. The masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy." It was meant to be a perfect illustration of the great new Britishness and its accommodating, generous spirit. But Cook's speech turned out to be a perfect disaster for the Labour party. The ctm (chicken tikka masala) speech came against the rising tide of racism sweeping Britain, straining as it is under the collective insecurities camouflaged as new nationalism. Cook mentioned three of them—that Europe will absorb Britain, that the United Kingdom will become disunited after Scotland and Wales begin to strengthen their separate parliaments, and that immigration is a threat to Britishness.