Aroma of the East

They say “Bengalis are born with a sweet tooth”. Well I will say “They are born with an empty tooth ready to gobble up anything and everything”. This statement rather justifies the humongous appetite of this hunger-eccentric fraternity. Though a Bengali by birth, I had been quite oblivious to this eye-catching trait. I have never looked in a more detailed manner at the food habits as in the past few years of my existence on this planet. Food is an integral part of the life of Bengalis. They can hold long rallies choking the entire traffic but they can’t choke their oesophagus or rather their food pipe. Ever heard of a fast by Didi aka Mamta Banerjee? Well may be you have but those occasions are like a drop of water in the Sahara desert.

Bengalis can come to the rescue of a suffering individual in no time but they find it extremely difficult to share a piece of pie from their plate. Well as some say “Money can’t buy you everything.” But believe me if it could, I guess then the only thing that you could have found in a Bengali’s closet would be food. This eastern part of India is quite famous for mouth-watering delicacies like roshogolla, mishti doi, langcha, chamcham, sandesh and numerous other sweets. Fish is the staple diet of the people here and Hilsa is the most cherished of the lot.

In the past three years that I have been in Kolkata, I have attended many marriage ceremonies. These was in stark contrast to the Punjabi weddings I had attended before that. The main attraction of these ceremonies is not the bride or the bridegroom but as you now can guess correctly, it’s the food. The eyes of a Bengali will rummage the menu card for the choicest of delicacies before anyone could say “Action”. Chicken Biriyani hogs the limelight undoubtedly. A plate full of masala rice with a huge morsel of chicken covered with green coriander leaves can stir even the laziest of the fellows to slurp. Next on that coveted list would be Mutton Biriyani, a variant of Chicken Biriyani. After that there will be a short round of meeting with the bride and bridegroom along with a small session of photograph clicks and then a dash to the sweet-dish corner or whatever left untouched till now. It’s an absolute shame in a conversation if a person sings praise for a delicacy and the listener has failed to even get a bite of it. Last but not the least the riot would end with a huge paan accompanied by a monstrous belch to satisfy the taste glands or they say it signifies “Everything Digested”. I wonder “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” must be some Bengali’s words who was utterly dissatisfied with the culinary skills of his wife.

The biggest panic that can be created in the mind of a Bengali is the absence of food. They can survive the alien attacks and terror attacks but they can’t survive the stomach attack. Muri or Indian puffed rice dry food occupies a special place in the gourmand heart of a Bengali. The staple breakfast in many parts of this region can be used as a wonderful snack in the evening with a little bit of pepper, red chilli powder, onions, cucumber, chananchur(popularly known is English as the Bombay Mix) all concocted in mustard oil and salt to taste. Most of the people in this region have spent their quiet mornings and noisy evenings doting on this fine delicacy.

The Bhadralok community of this region can never assuage the influence of the food in their own native culture. The status of a family in the Bhadralok society is measured on the parameters of the various types of sweets that it can serve. All other expensive wall hangings, state of the art decorations and luxurious furniture take a backseat in front of this ever pleasing parameter.

The culture of this old capital of India bears an uncanny resemblance to the sweetener that is found on the plates of the people here. You will seldom find a Bengali pouring out expletives in public. Probably the excess of sweets carry their aroma on their tongues also.

Numerous poets and writers have glorified the tastes of Bengalis in the department of gastronomy for many years and will continue to do so. I wonder the efficiency of Didi as Food Minister rather than Railway Minister. Btw the first revolutionary thing that she did as she succeeded Lalu Prasad Yadav was the formation of a committee to check the quality of food served by IRCTC. Well, more a case of choice than a case of chance.

By the way Luchis (Puri) are getting fried in the kitchen and the Dum Aloo is almost ready. They say “A sound mind lives in a sound body”. Well I will say “A sound mind lives in a sound stomach”. Ready to join me? :)
A Post by Sushobhan who blogs at Read to enjoy

comment 0 comments:

Post a Comment

Delete this element to display blogger navbar