Columbus Owns Country Captain, Thanks To The British Spice Trade And/Or FDR. Or Miss Leslie Up North. And Maybe/Probably Others.Thursday, March 20, 2014
Country Captain is a dish said to have come to this country via worldly sea merchants in port at Savannah. Indian curry, tomato, chicken, and rice...it's fantastic (my recipe here). Somehow, though, home-of-the-scramble-dog Columbus, Georgia adopted it.
Well, since Av loves Country Captain so much, the last time we were in Columbus we tried to look it up. I heard that they serve it at Minnie's Uptown Restaurant:
Turns out, they weren't serving it that day, so we and the boys shared:
It was served cafeteria style and not much of it appealed to me. I had some little bites, and none of it was particularly good, even the fried chicken. Meatloaf was tasteless. I thought: maybe we just aren't here on the right day. They get lots of great ratings on Urbanspoon and Yelp. However there was a review on Yelp from 11/30/13 that mentioned their bathrooms. In that regard, I just and only want to say that while I did not have the experience (oh, thankfully!) of that person, I did unfortunately need to visit the ladies' room, and any restaurant that puts such little attention and care into the upkeep and sanitation of their facilities frightens me about what else they might let go which is not in the public eye. Left immediately with a disdain for the whole place for letting things go like that. And let's just keep moving on, because I don't want to think about it again.
Many think that the recipe for Country Captain Chicken had nothing to do with Savannah but rather a certain local socialite, Mrs. W.L. Bullard, who made the whole recipe up herself and served it with pride to Franklin Delano Roosevelt who traveled to his 'Little White House' in nearby Warm Springs, Georgia to ease his polio symptoms.
From the National Park Service:
At Warm Springs, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States found the strength to resume his political career and a positive outlet for his own personal struggle with polio through creation of the Warm Springs Foundation. Roosevelt returned to use the therapeutic waters at Warm Springs every year, except 1942, from his first visit in 1924 until his death there in 1945. Influenced by his experiences in this rural area, President Roosevelt developed New Deal programs, such as the Rural Electrification Administration. He also carried on important official duties when he was there...
...Roosevelt arrived at the resort on October 3, 1924 hoping to find a cure. The next day, he began swimming and immediately felt an improvement. For the first time in three years, he was able to move his right leg. Because Roosevelt was nationally prominent, his visit assured publicity for Warm Springs. A syndicated Sunday newspaper supplement featured his experience. By his return in 1925, other patients were coming in the hope of a cure. In 1926, he bought the resort property and 1,200 acres from George Peabody for some $200,000. Seeking medical advice and contributions from his friends, he organized the nonprofit Warms Springs Foundation in 1927 turning property over to the foundation.
The Warm Springs Foundation created what became the first and for many years, the only hospital devoted solely to the treatment of poliomyelitis victims in the world. The organization became the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the sponsor of the “March of Dimes,” and was instrumental in promoting the development of a cure for polio...
Country Captain was a favorite dish, too, of George S. Patton, and was developed into a MRE in his honor in 2000, and a press release went out in January 2006 that it was discontinued. Apparently, it didn't translate well in, you know, pouch form.
It's what my Le Creuset tagine was made for cooking.
Saveur ran the recipe from Watershed in Atlanta for the dish, and the March 2010 Bon Appetit did a recipe for it with cauliflower and peas. American Food Roots simply calls it 'America's Curry Dish'.
Oh, and just to make the whole provenance even more in question, an AP food editor named Cecily Brownstone traced the dish north to Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book, published in Philadelphia in 1857. Who knows?