Potpourri: The Carnival of Bengali Cuisine Part 2

After the good response (800 views and counting) to Part 1 of Potpourri, we’re here with the second edition. Read on for interesting articles on several aspects of Bengali Food – food in literature and its critique, memoirs, influences, popular culture, restaurants and the bong connection.

Just Eat it

Popular Culture

Sreyashi Dastidar argues that the time around Durga Puja is the ‘sweet season of Bengal’. What else will explain a 20-something, with gelled and spiked hair, shouting “কাকু আমায় আরও দুটো সন্দেশ  [Uncle, 2 more Sandesh please] at a community lunch in a housing complex. Or, crowd noisily demanding “তিরিশটা ছানার গজা” [30 … please] She also outlines the demands of ‘new kids’ and ‘GeNext’ that has forced the sweets entrepreneurs to innovate.

Sample these – a mix of Bengali mishti and north Indian mithai, Kiwifruit Chhanar Payesh, Carrot Rasogolla, Sitaphal Kanchagolla and the likes. A tasty read indeed.

City Bites

4 years back, Shrabonti Bagchi wrote about how several Bengali Restaurants have opened up in cities across India. 6 Ballygunj Place, Oh Calcutta and K C Das in Bangalore, Chowringhee in New Delhi, Howrah in Mumbai and 4 more in Kolkata. Well, since then, more bong eateries have mushroomed outside Bengal. I can count at least 8 in Bangalore, 10 in Mumbai and 4 in New Delhi. This is both due to immigrant bongs and increased awareness of Bengali platter among other communities. I would say probably a third of the clientele of these eateries doesn’t speak Bengali but want to check what Bengalis eat other than Maach (মাছ – Fish) and Rosogolla (রসগোল্লা – Rasgulla). As Shrabonti says, let’s raise our aam porar shorbots (আম পোড়ার শর্বত) to that!

Bengali Groom

Bengali Groom (Model: Jaydev)

Bong Connection

Radheshyam Sharma explains the pains of a vegetarian while eating out in Kolkata. Now imagine hating anything that ‘smells fishy’ (literally) but any restaurant you go to serves fish. Or, has written ‘pure veg’ on its signboard, but essentially doesn’t use separate utensils for meat and fish dishes. Nasty indeed. He gets ‘especially bothered’ if he is invited to Bengali Weddings even though he likes Mishti Doi and other sweets. And all because he can’t stand smell the fish. Smelly Cat must be smiling. 🙂 Another version of the video.

Well, if you know any good Pure Vegetarian restaurant in Kolkata please let him know. I’m sure you would be thanked.

Impact

Venu Madhav Govindu presents India’s enduring love affair with food in this Outlook article. He argues that like every other cuisine, Bengali food is also affected by both mindless imitation and the simple expedient of convenience. Well, do you agree with his version?

Critical Eye

Chitrita Banerji (চিত্রিতা ব্যানার্জী  – read her interview with Timeout) is a celebrated author on Bengali food. Three of her popular works are Life and Food in Bengal (released in 1990), Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals (released in 1997) and Hour of the Goddess: Memories of Women, Food, and Ritual in Bengal (released in 2007). In the first book, the author ‘invites the reader to enter, observe, feel and absorb Bengal-the Indian state of West Bengal and the sovereign country of Bangladesh’ [source].

Chitrita Banerji

Chitrita Banerji (Source: TimeOut Dubai)

Evolving Tastes says that the second book talks about the differences and contrasts in food between the various regions in Bengal, of Ghotis and Bangals, of Hindus and Muslims, of rich and poor, of the past and the present, along with plenty of recipes interspersed within the narrative. [Interestingly, if you Google search for ‘Cooking: Seasons and Festivals’, Srivalli’s blog comes right after this book’s Amazon link. :)]

The third book takes you on an idiosyncratic journey through the intricate backlanes of Bengali food, argues Amitabha Mukherjee in an elaborate critique of the book. Here’re two more reviews –  Anuradha Roy’s in Outlook and Arundhati Ray’s in Hindu.

Have you read any of Chitrita Banerji’s books?

You can find the assortment of all these links in StumbleUpon profile of bengalicuisine. Check it out. If you like this post, please consider linking to it or sharing it with others. I’ll love to hear your comments too. You can also Subscribe to BengaliCuisine by Email, or  Subscribe in a reader

Potpourri: The Carnival of Bengali Cuisine #1

Cook Like a Bong completed 100,000 pageviews in its new avatar. Plus, our Facebook page crossed 160 fans [of which, 100 came in last 3 weeks!]. OMG, can’t stop smiling. 🙂

Celebration

Celebration

In retrospect, I could see several factors contributing to it, but the discussion deserves a separate post. So, moving on…

To mark the occasion [1 lakh pageviews in 6 months and 100 facebook fans in 3 weeks], we’re starting a new series – Potpourri.

Potpourri: Carnival of Bengali Cuisine

Literally, Potpourri means an assortment of several [incongruous] items. Starting today, every fortnight we plan to share the most interesting ‘discoveries’ [links of course :)] related to bengali food on the internet. Please pass on any interesting link that you come across (over email, comments or facebook).

Whats different from an Event?

Well, many things. For starters, in events we talk about only one aspect of food – recipes. And there too, only the recipes posted on blogs. Even then, several event organizers required you to ‘repost’ the content for participation [never really understood the reason for this extra work]. Thats quite a convoluted requirement and misses an entire gamut of online resources.

Thus, generally events miss several interesting aspects of food – food in movies, literature and music, memoirs, influences, popular culture, restaurants and (unfortunately) the chef.

Potpourri will try and talk about these related aspects – with a single minded focus on Bengali food. We’ll start with a biweekly (once in 2 weeks) post on the interesting reads in several categories. Initially, we expect that most of these links would come from usual browsing (Sudeshna’s and mine). However, we expect that as the series picks up momentum a couple of months later, several of our readers would contribute.

Here we go with the first edition of Potpourri.

Popular Culture

The Telegraph had an article on 50 reasons not marry a Bengali man back in October. Predictably, #1 was his hatred for every fish but Ilish (Hilsa). Another reason was ‘men actually look down on women for chewing fishbones‘. Of the 50 reasons, 20+ were food related. The article became an instant hit and did rapid online rounds. Last Sunday, they came out with.. No prizes for guessing.. 50 reasons not marry a Bengali woman. Could you read and tell how many reasons are related to food?

In my backyard

Andy De talks about his sojourn with Aaheli at Peerless Inn in Kolkata [the post is almost 3 yrs old]. The Bangali Bhadrolok ambiance attracts him and so does the delicacies served (which inlcudes Kacha Aamer Sharbot, Bhetki Paturi and Morolla Maacher Bati Chorchori). Andy asserts that food is raison d’etre of Bengalis and that Bengalis are a tribe of Bon-Vivants (of refined tastes, esp. in food and drinks). Well, we can’t agree more.

City Bites

City Bites

City Bites

Bengalis residing outside Bengal used to crib about non availability of their favorite delicacies. And when they were available, it was either a bastardized version or extraordinarily costly. Well, not anymore. Several restaurants/eateries have opened shop across Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai in recent years.

Kalyan Karmakar writes about his visit to Hangla’s, a bong eatery in Lokhandwala, Bandra, Mumbai. And here’s another take on the same food joint. Nishant Singh, in the post, says – Hangla is changla! Interestingly, both the reviews are quite different. Read it to appreciate the perspective of both sides.

Deccan Herald talks about a couple of Bengali restaurants in Bangalore. The news piece, however, misses Bhajo Hori Manna though, my personal favorite. Looks like I’ll have to take up the cudgels to review this wonderful restaurant.

Heritage

Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta rediscovered his palate a year back. In this article, he examines the food and cuisine of Bengal in Colonial era. Interestingly, the Brits saahebs distinguished themselves from native bangalis by eating loads of meat. Read the article and Nation on a Platter: the Culture and Politics of Food and Cuisine in Colonial Bengal, by Jayanta Sengupta to know more.

Salivating Sight

Salivating Sight (Models: Sujit and Amit)

Impact

Your last Ilish Curry may only be a couple of years away. Jaideep Mazumdar explains in this Outlook article. The culprit – wrong timing of catching the fish. Ilish swims from the sea up a river to spawn.It lays eggs and gets back, and thats when it should be caught. But it’s usually caught on its journey from the sea to the river. This, plus the surge in the demand for Ilish during off season. Next stop? Ilish from Gujarat. But, can the bong taste bud appreciate Gujju Hilsa?

You can find the assortment of all these links in StumbleUpon profile of bengalicuisine. Check it out.

If you like this post, please consider linking to it or sharing it with others. I’ll love to hear your comments too. You can also Subscribe to BengaliCuisine by Email, or Subscribe in a reader

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