This post isn’t about Bengali food; this post describes a moment in time, a fleeting thought about food, while eating on a hot summer’s night. (In the heat of the Mumbai summer, when sweat soaks you the moment you step away from air-conditioning or the ceiling fan, one hardly wants to cook. This is the only time of year when I cook only when absolutely necessary.)
As I ate a dinner last night that I had cooked, I ruminated. The house was empty and silent except for the rustle of a pest and the whir of the ceiling fans – my family was away in Kolkata, thanks to my daughter’s vacation.
I ate an Italian dinner: a chicken salad I made and some focaccia I had bought. For the chicken salad, I threw some cooked shredded chicken, sliced celery, crushed black olives, chopped onion, and a mixture of herbs into a pan, and sautéed them in olive oil. To add the tang of acid, I drizzled only a little white wine vinegar. I seasoned the salad, and lo and behold, a simple dinner for a hot summer’s night was ready.
As I ate my dinner in solitude, inhaling the smell of oregano and basil, one thought came to my mind. How different the flavors of the world’s cuisines are. The smell of herbs seemed so far removed from that of the garam masala and the Bengali paanch foron. But they all constitute human food: something that not only nourishes us, but delights us as well.