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