• Thursday, December 18, 2014

Freedom in the air

FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD

Nostalgia

By Kaniska Chakraborty

None  of mine. It is a name of a food show being shot as I write and I was lucky to be a part of this show.
It all began when the very talented, the very warm Afsana Mimi called me and asked if I would like to be a part of her recent TV project in which she aims to highlight some almost extinct recipes of Bengal.
While I jumped at the opportunity, I was acutely aware of my lack of knowledge of near extinct Bengali dishes. So I pulled a fast one.
I decided to talk about the changing wedding menu both sides of the border. I remember reading about the great thespian Uttam Kumar's wedding menu. If my memory serves me right, there were close to twenty dishes.
That to the biryani and chaap/kabab of today is quite a journey.
Our wedding, 10 years ago, had close resemblance with a traditional Bangali wedding menu with luchi, begun bhaja, cholar dal, alurdom, mach, mangsho, chatni, mishti, et al.
But right before the wedding, I did get a call from a dear friend requesting the biryani not to be too spicy! My friend assumed biryani to be there and was surprised that biryani was not part of the plan.
Such has been the stranglehold of biryani on wedding feasts.
We have forgotten the pleasures of a good chingrimalaikari or that of kochipatharjhol. We do not crave ruikalia. Nor do we see a vien churning out luscious dorbesh, sandesh. Doi is a sight few and far between. This is the day and age of ice cream out of a waxed paper cup.
I was lucky enough to have the very erudite, learned and well-travelled Chandrashekhar Saha as the host of the show. We got on like luchi and koshamangsho.

By design of the script, I was a guest at Chandrashekhar Saha's place to talk about the changing food habits, the similarities and dissimilarities of cuisine this and that side of the border and to do some idle banter. He was charming, witty, warm and welcoming.
He also organised for eleven kinds of bhortas. Mashed food with mustard oil does not even begin to describe the soul of bhorta, but that is a close physical description.
We had a delectable prawn bhorta, full of texture and flavour. A lovely jam alubhorta (mashed purple fingerling potatoes), a superlative laupatabhorta (the leaf of gourd plant) to mention a few.
And then the most efficient cook on the set, Sumitra Di cooked some jaw dropping bectipaturi under my instructions.
We were in a lovely rustic setting, cooking on an open wood fired stove, eating alfresco.
If only it were not so hot…

Photo courtesy: Kaniska Chakraborty

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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