California Dreaming

We have overindulged. On February 9, some 12-16 inches of snow fell in Chicago, and the next morning, in a moment when the stars were aligned in our favor, we boarded a plane and flew to California.  Unmarred swaths of snow lay everywhere in the early morning hours.  My car resembled a small igloo but would…

Sleet

I’ve been reading Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals, by Chitrita Banerjee.  Her book is not so much a cookbook, in the way we have become accustomed to cookbooks, with their glossy pages and beautiful photographs, but rather is a series of essays about food and religion, food and ritual, food and culture.  Through her homage…

Catching Up

The holidays have come and gone and I have been somewhat remiss with my posts.  This is perhaps a bit ironic, because it is the time of year when I cook constantly — for parties, family, and friends — and yet, I seem not to have found the time to write, much less photograph, most…

More or Less

Once I began to live on my own, I cooked via trial and error quite a bit, especially when I was in college and was at a loss for precise measurements and cooking techniques.  I learned how to make murgir jhol, not through a recipe, but rather by “helping.”  That is, I stood next to…

The Year My Father Grew Beans

My father was a gardener.  He grew vegetables primarily.  Long before it was fashionable  — but rather during the heyday of chemically-rich, perfectly green, and pesticide-laden lawns in the suburbs — my father carved out one-sixth of a relatively small backyard for vegetables.  He also appraised the sides of the house, as well as sunny…

Thinking Outside the Box

Once upon a time, a man invited a woman over to his house for dinner.  She had never been to his house before, and in preparation, he cleaned thoroughly and made the following meal: Beef shish-ka-bobs with green bell pepper and onion Mushroom couscous Broccoli florets with parmesan cheese He grilled.  For dessert, there was blackberry…

There’s a Certain Slant of Light

The light has changed even though the weather is not too inhospitable, not yet.   But it has been dark.  And the weather was oppressive  last week,  rainy and uncharacteristically grey, somber, even at noon.   This weekend has been sunny and mild: an interstice of  blue-sky warmth forestalling the arrival of winter.  We went for a…

Dispelling Myths

Occasionally someone asks me what kind of curry powder I use. I don’t. I tell them that “curry powder,” as far as Bengali cooking is concerned, is a British invention, a spice mix not unlike Mrs. Lawry’s Italian Seasoning or McCormick’s Cajun Seasoning Mix. Spice mixes can be fun and convenient and delicious too, but…

Friends Forever

I never met a vegetable I didn’t like.  Really. I mean, I’ve met a few vegetables that I may not consider BFFs, but truth be told, I like most of them when cooked properly.  And I think that Bengali cooking does justice to most vegetables, although we do cook them thoroughly.  The vegetable dishes of…

Humble Beginnings

Let me start with a memory. I was in Manhattan one winter weekend many years ago, wandering through Chinatown, when I was struck by the similarities between its open air markets and various markets in Kolkata. Storefronts on Mott Street boasted wooden crates piled high with okra, stacks of dried fish and fragrant cilantro, a…