Indian-Chinese

I’d like to introduce a subgenre of Bengali cuisine known as Indian-Chinese cuisine.  Kolkata once had a large and flourishing Chinatown, which was established in the late eighteenth century.  Chinese scholars and traders have traveled throughout India for thousands of years, and a few hundred years ago, Chinese merchants settled in what is today central…

A Gradual Invention

The butternut squash is a winter staple for us, and I like the adaptability of its mild flavor.  This is a trickster vegetable, riotously bright with color but serene in taste and calm in texture.  The markets now carry squash that are manageable in size (i.e. smaller), with a dense upper cylinder and a smallish…

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…

Halcyon Days

Chicago has been home for much of my life, but once upon a time, I was seized by a recurring case of anywhere-but-here syndrome.  It lasted for some time, this urge to experience other places, and in the 1990s and early 2000s,  I lived here and there, going to school or working. During the mid-1990s,…

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…

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I like the contemporary spirit of Thanksgiving – the notion that we might come together with our families and friends and give thanks to people, gestures, ideas, things that make our lives better, more luminous somehow.   Sentimental, I know, but I like the ritual and the everyday magic that accompanies…