In 1968, just a day shy of her 11th birthday, Bell strangled a four year old boy in her home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; just a few months later she (possibly with the assistance of a friend) murdered a three-year-old boy, Martin, by the same method, afterwards inscribing the letter "M" on his stomach with scissors. These are horrible murders to be sure; but perhaps even more disturbing was Bell's apparent lack of remorse or concern, a psychopathic trait that should be familiar to regular readers of my Macabre Meals and Serial Killer Supper series.
Disturbing as this is, here's something downright frightening: You may live near Mary Bell and not even know it. She was convicted of manslaughter because of her age and "diminished responsibility" and though she received life, she was released at 23 and granted an order protecting her anonymity. And if you think that psychopaths are born, not made, consider that Bell is a grandmother. Maybe it runs in the family.
But why feature this curry dish? Have I become hopelessly random, you ask? Not at all. I always have my reasons, as you'll see. In the Mary Bell biography Cries Unheard, Bell describes her life at Askham Prison, which she liked because "the food was good." In the rotation for lunch? "Curries, rice, spaghetti, and fruit."
I've called this dish "convict curry" also as a shout out to the film Stuart: A Life Backward, a true story (based on the book of the same name) about Stuart, a mentally ill homeless man played by Tom Hardy, and his biographer, Alexander Masters, played by one of my favorite Sherlocks, Benedict Cumberbatch. (My other favorite Sherlock is Jeremy Brett but try as I might I couldn't come up with a curry connection. Though I suspect I just didn't try hard enough.) The film explores issues of class, privilege, violence, and mental illness, and it's deeply disturbing and sad at times.
One of my favorite scenes centers on (what else?) food. Stuart cooks for Alexander in his council flat, the first time we really see the pair begin to form a bond that reaches beyond the assumptions and preconceptions they've brought to the relationship. Stuart dips into his rather bare cupboard of generic government-issued foodstuffs to create his dish. Into a pot he plops bricks of frozen chicken, a tin of mushrooms, and a curry spice, among other things, telling Alexander that this is the sort of thing he ate in prison, and in fact calls it his convict curry.
Not content to leave my convict curry with a meagre two meanings, I went for it and culled a third: Poppa Trix and I are moving to London, where I expect we will eat a lot of curry. I am insanely excited but also ridiculously busy managing the move. Poppa is going ahead of me, and I'll be on my own for awhile, so don't expect much in the way of posts over the next 6 weeks.
I am, however, thinking about brief posts revolving around the inevitable Eating of the Strange Things that will occur as I clean out my cupboards and cook for one.
Until then, your assignment is threefold: read the book and see the film Stuart, a Life Backward; read the Mary Bell biography, and create your own chicken curry. That should keep you lot busy until I get back.