Monday, September 24, 2012

Learning to cook home food in a faraway place

When I think about how I learnt to cook Bengal's food, my journey is amazing and ironic. True, the seeds of cooking were sown early in me during adolescence in India, but it was not until my stay in America, 10,000 miles away, as a graduate student that I really learnt to cook.

Books and mandatory cooking turns in a house shared by room mates did the trick. It was by chance that I found a book in the library where I worked part time. The book, a yellow hardcover, was written by an author from -- of all places -- Texas. That book taught me a lot about how to cook Bengali dishes. I learned to cook alu dum, and potato and cauliflower curry, which my room mates and friends adored. Thanks to that book and my deep interest in cooking, I developed a reputation and found fulfilment in a foreign land.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bori brings back boyhood memory

I recently ate bori in our office cafeteria. Boris are sun-dried lentil dumplings popular in Bengal. Bori is comfort food, made usually at home, though the tradition of the home-made bori is fading. You can get bori these days at your neighborhood grocery store. But my best memory of bori belongs in the home.

There is something, apart from taste, about bori that endears it to me -- bori's grandmotherly or motherly connection. I remember my mother making boris with various kinds of lentils -- red, orange, and yellow -- each having its own texture and flavor. I also remember grandmothers in my extended family lovingly making boris, which are shaped like Hershey's Kisses. The store-bought ones, however, have other shapes, less attractive and authentic. The red lentil, or masoor, bori is good for frying and dropping in a tok, or tamarind-based sauce. Ah, the pleasures of bori, and the hazy memories of a boyhood spent on the red soil of small-town India!

I remember also the boris sold outside, but not in a store. Those boris, along with pickles, rode a cart, a covered kiosk, with glass walls, pushed by a man whom I can't recall anymore. His cart had a bell underneath that he would ring, pulling a rope, to entice the women of the neighborhoods he would pass through. I remember how his cart would come trundling into ours, and I would run out to greet the mobile grocery store. Women would follow soon and gather around the cart.

Boris have a rustic charm and flavor. Lau-bori, or bori with bottle gourd, is a classic. Savor it if you get a chance. It is amazing how simple food can transport you to a time long past, when the world was colored with innocence.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Bengal, Bombay, Boston, Budapest -- They're all one

This blog is about the food of Bengal, a state in India, but all food is one. Foods of the world all converge somewhere. Read an essay, "All the World's a Platter," on Your feedback and comments are welcome.