Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Post on the Ploughshares Blog: Where Food and Literature Collide

I am pleased to share my recent post from the blog of the U.S. literary magazine Ploughshares: "Woolf at the Table: Good Dinner, Good Talk." The post talks about the sumptuous description of food in Virginia Woolf's work and her interest in culinary and gastronomic matters. So if you are interested in the intersection of food and literature, you will, I hope, like it.

A Serendipitous Discovery: Australian Television Story on Food Bloggers

It was my daughter who did the discovery recently -- well, a couple of months ago. My 10-year-old, who is an expert in Googling, found out a YouTube video of an Australian television story on food bloggers, including me. This is a video I had been curious about.

I became a part of the story when the journalist who was shooting it in Mumbai interviewed me when I lived in Mumbai. The story took shape, I assume, mostly in Mumbai, but I never again heard from the journalist. Over time, I just let it go, pushing it into oblivion.

So I was surprised when my daughter, Trisha, turned up the video while Googling her dad's name. I feature in the video in a pink t-shirt, rolling my eyes while speaking in a cafe, where the interview took place. If you are interested, here is the video, Food lovers post gourmet blogs on internet.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Peppery Flavor, Lost in a Sandwich

My mother, at 80 years of age, has an uncanny sense of smell in regard to cooking. The other day, while eating a sandwich, she hankered after a flavor -- that of green pepper, her favorite. She missed the delicate smell. The filling of the sandwich was made of half-mashed potato, bell pepper, onion and carrot. The maid of the house had made the sandwich.

"What happened to the fragrance of the pepper?" she said, clearly dissatisfied.

Usually, the maid makes the sandwich without carrot. This time she had added diced carrot.

"Ah, the carrot!" she said, "The carrot took away the fragrance of the pepper."

How acute her olfactory sense is at this age. The smell of green pepper shall become eternal on the face of the earth.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

In Search of Bori on a Sweltering Morning

I walk to a neighborhood bazaar, full of hope, on a sweltering morning. I reach the store in anticipation of the one thing I have been looking for over the past several weeks: hing bori, sun-dried dumplings, flavored with asafetida. The store owner tells me, after a long pause, that the batch of long-awaited  bori has still not arrived. I draw a deep sigh, sweating profusely in the May heat, dabbing my forehead.

Bori has been of one of my favorite Bengali foods. Even though, bori, also known as bari elsewhere, is eaten all over India, bori has been elevated to an art and has enjoyed a cult status in Bengal. Bori is flavored with different kinds of spices, including asafedita. My craving for hing bori must wait -- until the neighborhood store in Kalikapur gets its supply.

That day, after soaking up the sweat oozing on my forehead and swallowing my disappointment at the kirana, or grocery, store, I bought regular bori. Bori is usually used in some special curries, or with vegetables or spinach, or just eaten deep-fried.

Someday, perhaps, I will post a recipe. Until then, let bori be a dream gathering on the horizon.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Writing about the food of Bengal

Talking about Bengali cooking, one of the finest food writers of our time is Chitrita Banerji. I have just finished reading her Eating India: Exploring a Nation's Cuisine. Even though the book is about cuisines of all of India, the traditions of Bengal feature prominently in the food travelogue. The author writes evocatively about the banana leaf as an overriding symbol, and the stellar role of fish and rice, in Bengali cuisine. Banerjee was born and raised in Bengal, but now makes her home in Boston. Check out her Website.

Photo courtesy: Author's Website

Monday, November 19, 2012

Global vs. local cuisine: Does it makes sense?

My mother mostly cooks Bengali food, but sometimes she goes global unwittingly. Hey, wait a minute! Maybe I am wrong -- global is a misnomer. All food is one. There are overlaps among foods of the world.

Just the other day, she prepared a topping for toasts. It was a variation of a simple yogurt topping she often serves. That day, she prepared a topping with steamed cauliflower, spiced with roasted cumin powder, and seasoned with red and black pepper, and salt. The robust flavor of the cumin made all the difference.

A day later, I read in The New York Times as story about squash on toast, a dish rustled up by no less a cook than chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. I realized, again, how food has an ecumenical character. So, dear reader, I hope will forgive this post on a blog that celebrates Bengali cuisine.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Poppy seeds are small, but big in flavor - I

One of Bengal's best-known -- and most homey and delicious -- vegetarian dishes is alu posto, or potato with poppy seeds. Poppy seeds used in Bengal are mostly tiny, brownish white, and grain-like. It may sound strange -- and scary -- that posto is derived from the same plant as opium poppy. But, fear not, dear reader. Poppy seeds used for cooking are harvested from dried pods versus the green pods, which used to extract opium.

Today's post is merely the tip of the iceberg. So much can be written about the tiny seeds and they pack so much of flavor. A recipe of alu posto is in order, too. So stay tuned. Until then, here is the Wikipedia entry. Enjoy.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The story of a lemon

I love lemon -- despite its negative connotation in informal meanings. And the kind of lemon I like most is gandharaj lemon, available only in Bengal and other eastern states of India. At least, I haven't seen it anywhere else; nor have I heard the kind of praise showered on gandharj, or fragrant, lemon, anywhere else.
Gandharaj lemon deserves all the credit it gets, for it is truly fragrant. You need to actually taste it to perceive its flavor -- the fragrance is indescribable. The shape is longish, the rind thick. It's beautiful. And divine when squeezed over hot rice mixed with a dollop of ghee! Gandharaj lemon, then, makes me give in to sin, too.
What kind of lemon or lime do you like, dear reader?