Saturday, 25 May 2019

A traditional Bengali wedding menu

This post is inspired by someone in one of my foodie groups who said that she did not know much about Bengali traditional food. I was trying to find out a pic or some reference to a traditional Bengali wedding menu on the internet but found only the modern ones with biriyani and what not, masquerading as traditional menu. 
So I sieved through my childhood memories and remembered the family weddings which I used to attend in the 80s and this is what I remembered...

Breakfast: Luchi (Puris made purely with refined flour), shada alu'r torkari (Potato sabji with no or very little turmeric) and bode (sweet boondi)

Lunch: moong dal with cauliflower and peas, jhiri jhiri alu bhaja (very finely sliced potatoes fried crisp), one or two types of fish curry usually a pabda maachher jhal and/or alu-fulkopi diye koi maach er jhol (only if the wedding is in winter as koi maachh is best at that time), patla aam er tok (a sweet and watery chutney with raw mangoes, if in summer) or tomato chatni (in other seasons) , papad (fried in oil), mishti doi and rasogolla

Dinner: Usually served on a banana leaf. The leaf would be laid out on the table with a lump of salt and a 1/8th slice of a lemon. Then started the feast of - luchi or radhabollobhi (the latter is filled with a filling of mixed dals), alu's dam or chhola'r dal (a thick channa dal), maach er matha diye moong dal (moong dal cooked with fish head), long and thin slice of begun bhaja (brinjal fry).
As kids we would say to each other - bhushi maal diye pet bhorash na meaning don't stuff yourself with rubbish, cos the main items were yet to come 
Now the actual feast : rui maach er kalia (rohu cooked in a thick onion gravy) or if the family was rich enough then golda chingri'r jhal (king prawns cooked in a thick onion gravy) followed by kosha mangsho (mutton gravy usually cooked using mustard oil)
The sweet ending: Aam er chatni (thick and sweet mango chutney) or tomato chutney with raisins and dates, papad (fried in oil, of course), mishti doi or ice cream, sandesh, rosogolla.
Mouth freshener: Mishti paan

Both lunch and dinner was served with good quality, steaming hot white rice.

Of course, even after all this many guests who would eat their fill would discuss how the taste or quality of food did not meet their expectations while belching satisfactorily, on their way home. 
There used to be times when some guests would have two wedding invitations on the same evening and belive it or not, they would eat at both places.
If you are a vegetarian, the non-veg dal would be replaced by a normal moong dal and the fish and mutton dishes would usually be replaced with cauliflower and paneer dishes.

Note: All pics are from the internet.
Chingri maachh er jhal

Alu fulkopi diye koi maachh

Kosha mangsho

Pabda maachh er jhal

Rui maachh er kalia

Thursday, 28 July 2016

I am scared of sympathizers

Yes, I am !!! I’d rather have fair-weather friends than friends who sympathize only because you are in a deeper rut than them.

We i.e. my brother and I lost our father when we were 12 and 5 years old respectively. My mother, a homemaker and a woman who was loved and protected by her family and later, her husband, was ill-equipped to handle the situation that had suddenly befallen her. Other than the really close family, some of whom lent us 100% support and some of who completely disappeared, some who appeared to sympathize with us were the sympathizers whom I have come to fear. Many of these were people who had been variously helped by my father to rise in their careers or otherwise and this was their chance to show that they were there for us. We took them at face value only to realize that they would sympathize only if we listened to them at every step of the way and if we were always at a lower social rung than them. And by help here I am not, never, not for once talking about financial help.

Sadly for them, my brother and I were good students and since my father’s company paid for our education, we studied what we wanted to and fared reasonably well. Then came the time of getting jobs. We were living in West Bengal where jobs were difficult to get and my engineering college didn’t have many campus opportunities. So, I was struggling to land my first job and out came the helping hand of one Mr. B who had been helped to further his career by my father. We readily accepted his helping hand for we believed that he had our best interests in mind. He took me to meet a gentleman who owned a company in Delhi and was ready to pay me a paltry sum to join his company there. Given that I had to manage my food and accommodation in a strange city in that money, I decided to refuse his offer after discussing it with my mother. I also truly believed that I was capable of landing a better job. When we told Mr. B that I wouldn’t be joining there, instead of understanding the reason behind my refusal, he barked at my mother, “What does she expect? She’s not going to get a better offer than this!!!” Thankfully I could prove him wrong soon enough by acquiring a job which paid me more than double of what Mr. B’s acquaintance had offered me, along with accommodation in a foreign city. We haven’t heard much from Mr. B since then though he was invited to my wedding which happened some years later.

Then there’s the case of Mrs. A. Maybe she thought that we would always be her poor cousins. When my brother and later, I started doing reasonably well in our professional lives, she started behaving more and more rudely with us, especially my mother who, despite all that she had seen in life, still remained a simpleton at heart. Finally we decided that it was better for us to ignore her and stay away from her negative energy.

My mother, a young widow, has been variously propositioned by some sympathizers. Many of our fair-weather friends came back once we started to fare better. However, we were lucky to have some empathizers in our lives, who always stayed by our sides in our times of difficulty and in happy times. They rejoiced with us when we did well and still do. I am thankful for the empathizers in my life and wish them the best, always, just as they do us.

Friday, 4 September 2015

The "fallen" woman

The Indrani Mukherjea saga has once again brought to the fore our obsession with the "fallen" woman. And, as usual, more women than men are crying foul and discussing in gory detail how bad a mother she was or what a social climber she has been and how she deserves exactly what she got. Well, maybe all this is true in her case or maybe not. Haven’t we all heard the adage “innocent till proven guilty”? We are ready to believe that she has committed this crime even though there were no eye witnesses to this act other than those also equally guilty but there are many who still don’t believe that Salman Khan ran over innocent poor people sleeping on the footpath while in a drunken state, though eye witnesses confirm the fact. See what I mean?

Yes, we are sometimes too ready to tag a woman as “fallen” and find excuses for the men.

Even though divorce is a common thing today, even in India, a successful divorcee woman is regarded rather warily by many other “happily married women” in the society. They fear that these women might lure their own husbands into some kind of a honey trap. Please !!! Give it a rest women …your husbands - paunchy, balding, miserly et al - are attractive only to yourselves. Nobody, especially not these successful, gone-through-the-wringer women, is interested in your husbands. And the same goes for those smart, successful women who choose to remain single. They are not interested in your husbands. Now, whether your husbands are interested in these women is something you have to ask yourself.

Woe be to those divorced (or widowed) women who found love and are either, married a second time or living in with their partner. People around start commenting about how soon they could move on when the ex-husband couldn’t, though these same people wouldn’t bother to comment if the ex-husband went around with a thousand girls & the woman remained single and maybe, miserable. If the woman has children then there will be those who’ll comment on what a bad mother this woman is and how unsettling it’s for the kids when the mother remarries or lives-in with another man. Never mind that the kids are well-behaved, well-balanced & happy!!! And startlingly, these comments come not from enemies but from some of the closest friends, also women.

Why are we still like this? Why haven’t education and a broader world-view been able to change this woman-hate-woman attitude? I don’t know. But it angers me every time I see it. It makes me cringe and I am neither divorced, widowed nor single.