Original source: How Curry Became a Japanese Naval Tradition
"This was the curry powder that 19th-century British sailors took with them to Japan. The timing was serendipitous. The Meiji era, starting in 1868, was a time of both increasing foreign influence and domestic militarization. The Japanese government needed to feed its soldiers and sailors healthily and in bulk […] The Imperial Navy and Army offered unlimited white rice to attract recruits, and many ate little else. The deficiency soon became a drastic problem, laying low thousands of soldiers during the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War.
This is an interesting article about curry that I’d recommend in order to see how food, culture and history intersect in things one would not normally think.
Since I lived in Japan in the early 2000s this became my absolute favorite food in the world (yes, I am Peruvian, but I really do have a very soft spot for this one... I am lucky that NY has plenty of good offerings). I knew that Japanese curry had its origins in the British navy food practices of the mid-19th century, but I did not know how it then got popularized to become a staple of the Japanese modern palate.
The article shows very clearly how food, culture and history intermingle into things that would be considered "common sense" nowadays. Food is important not only because it is nutrient stuff, but moreover because it is the crystallization of a society's history and culture... and knowing all of these things about it whilst actually eating and enjoying it just helps us understand something through embodied experiences, not just academic explanation. Food, for all intent and purposes, is just like art.