As part of the Nepali food component of the project we were able to conduct an engagement with the Gurkha officers and soldiery of Blandford Camp, doing so via a set of specific questions for the community. The questions are provided below along with responses conveyed by community leads. The interest we had was to see to what extent in conjunction with multicultural values and learning for the broader army community, is taking place presently, and could take place in the future in regard to the opportunity to learn about and enjoy Nepali food, due to the presence of the Gurkhas.
QUESTIONS & RESPONSES:
What types of Nepali khanaa are cooked in the Mess [compound], and in conjunctions with adjacent Mandir religious & cultural occasions / special days?
Both in the Offrs’and Sgts’ Mess, normal British foods are served on a daily basis on a pay as you go system. When we hold temple service and cultural events, we make ourselves or Gurkha Chefs prepare for us but nothing is funded by the Army.
What types of Nepali khanaa are cooked in the soldiers domestic, family settings?
Normal British breakfast and lunch served on a pay as you go system for Phase 2 trainees Bhai haru, Phase 3 soldiers and permanent staff. Their evening meal will be a mixture of British and basic Nepalese curry (Bhat).
Are there any particular meat dishes prepared in Nepali cuisine styles, that are considered to be ‘power foods’ for Gurkha soldiers?
Due to contractor supplying food on behalf of Army, they don’t just target for the Gurkhas, they sell basic Nepalese style curry made from chicken, Pork and may be lamb sometimes. The contractor needs, we understand to make profit by selling food to all, and on this basis at this time there is not such a messing facility in Nepali food for Gurkha soldiers.
Your thoughts on Nepali maasu ra tarkari [meat & vegetable] dishes being included in selections of Blandford Camp canteens?
As it is targeted for the wider audience, the food contractors currently do not provide such a full version of Nepalese type and standard of food. All our trainees (indigenous British as well as Gurkha) love Gurkha Curry: the standard is ok, but it is felt it would be better if my Gurkha soldiers are supplied with full version of Nepalese-style Masu, Daal, Bhat, Tarkari and chutney (achar; spiced pickle). This would add extra morale and motivation to the soldiers, but we understand that this may raise the food costs soldiers need to pay.
What provisions are made by the British Army at camps such as Blandford, for provision of Gurkha / Nepali staple foods ingredients (chamal, masala, etc.) provision?
The Army has hired a contractor service that controls everything; Gurkha chefs, rations, type of food available, labour etc. they are a profitable company and supply basic food for a charge. However standards of food could be improved. They provide some basic rice but this is not Basmati (our core and only type of rice eaten by Gurkhas in Nepal and outside the army), ingredients are ok, however we still have Gurkha Chefs,
Do you have any experience of British soldiers and officers at Blandford Camp joining in Mess or Gurkha soldiers domestic settings and on-camp Nepali festival occasions, eating and enjoying Nepali khanaa?
Yes, senior British officers are invited to join our key festivals such as Dashain, Tihar and New Year and they know exactly what our full Gurkha Curry looks and tastes like. They enjoy very much our Gurkha Dinner. The standard of food we serve during the key festivals referred to is far better than the one cooks serve to our Gurkha soldiers.
Question responses provided on behalf of the Blandford Garrison Gurkha community by Captain Gopal Saru, with additional support from Sergeant Major Saindra Chemjong, involving liaison with garrison Gurkha officers & soldiery.
I am responsible for looking after Gurkha community, serving soldiers, trainees and families. My Deputy is WO2 Saindra. We eat our food at our own homes. Captain Gopal Saru
The Blandford Camp Gurkha community responses show that in terms of quality of authentic Nepali food, there is some room for improvement. Having through the Gurkha community actual Nepali chefs to cook is a huge strength, as Nepali people have as a people a great reputation for expertise in cookery. There is clearly great potential for development of Nepali food being more widely available and promoted within the British Army generally as there are many army bases across the UK where Gurkhas are based, and therefore the opportunity to experience and enjoy Nepali culinary heritage exists for the British Army officers & soldiery in general in all of those bases.
At present, at least at Blandford, ordinary rice which is NOT the staple, Basmati rice represents a cultural sensitivity matter that it would be really valuable to address in terms of a global change to just using Basmati which will make Nepali food provision much more authentic and be so well received for morale reasons by our Gurkhas.
Uniquely, through this component of the Nepali culinary heritage information resource, we see in some responses of the interview questions responses, the specific topics of morale, and enhanced [military] performance linked unambiguously to food and type of food. In this special setting such matters transcend the role of food as just nourishment and a pleasure, per se, raising to key concepts at the heart of military performance. In the final part of the last section of the interview, this question of morale and food type & quality is reiterated in the information volunteered about making food at home; clearly a really important matter for the two considerations referred to.
It is exciting to learn of the involvement of senior British Army officers being invited to and clearly appreciating experience of attending key Nepali cultural festivals, a major aspect of which includes Nepali food (some types of which – Sel Roti, etc. – are particularly popular at and associated with some of these festivals), which through the Gurkha Curry and Gurkha Dinner they discover, and which stands out for its quality due to the culinary prowess of the Gurkha chefs.
In summing up the interview responses show that there is an element of culturally appropriate food available within the British Army for our Gurkhas and, importantly that the broader British Army officers and soldiery can and do enjoy this too. There are clearly areas where improvement can be made, particularly on the culturally sensitive matter of advisability for morale reasons (a Respect factor from the army food servicing provision point of view) of instituting Basmati rice. There are vey extensive opportunities as well for multicultural learning benefits to be expanded for all British Army personnel on using the feature of Nepali food on menus to share more about the broader cultural heritage (festivals, language, history, etc.) of the Gurkhas. Such learning can only further extend the elan and camaraderie in military operation contexts between the British Army Gurkha community and the broader British Army community that have such respect and admiration for the former on their courage and famous capabilities in battle.