At any point of time the story of my life revolves around 2 cities – the city that we are living in at that point in time and which we refer to as our home and Kolkata – the city which has shaped my life and which has brought me up. Again which I also refer as home. Lucky to have two homes at any point in time!
Right now these two cities are Dubai and Kolkata. It has been for the last one and a half decades with a gap of 3 years in between when when Frankfurt had replaced Dubai. Or in the beginning of my married life with S when Colombo had become the other home.
Each summer has the same story. The months of July and August are spent in Kolkata – when the Z-SISTERS are off from school for two long months. The Z-SISTERS and I – the three of us, make Kolkata our summer base. I call this period my ‘Summer Hibernation’. Amidst make-shift arrangements in the homes of two set of grand-parents – both maternal and paternal, the Z-SISTERS adjust themselves like match-sticks thrown into a new match-box containing a different set of match-sticks. So far they have been adjusting admirably and light up with equal fervor.
What about me? Well, I still continue my work from here – sometimes typing on my Macbook from the verandas, sometimes lying on the drawing room sofa, sometimes using the dining table as my desk, post lunch while I continuously nibble on some hand-made savoury or snack. Though working but my mood is very different – it’s like I am in the middle of a long noisy holiday.
And I’ll continue to do this as long as the Z-SISTERS don’t complain about going back to Kolkata every summer or as long as the parents and a few dear friends are around. And I know that a time will come when probably the Z-SISTERS won’t like to be uprooted from their friends and the life they are used to for so long – but I’ll write about that story when the time comes…
But for now, my story probably resonates the the story of most expatriate Dubai-ites!
As I was packing for Kolkata, I started looking at Dubai with a renewed love – as if I am leaving my current lover with whom I have the perfect understanding to stay with my ex-lover for some time…
The date palm trees lining the streets of Dubai at this time of the year are filled with dates – the colour of the dates reflecting whether the dates are ready to be plucked or not. Some of the date bunches are covered with nets – these dates are the ones which are not ready to be plucked. Plucking these ones could be legally offensive.
At this time of the year, picking up Big Z from her school and walking down to the place where my car is parked – is a big task. Not only is the temperature hovering around 45 degrees but also the branches of the date palm trees are stooping down – perfect for Big Z to pluck some dates. Perhaps, snatching a few moments of child-hood innocence in this blingy artificial city of Dubai. Blingy and artificial – that’s how a lot of people describe Dubai to be. But not me. The proof is my last article on Dubai – where I’m wandering through the streets Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City! The article is an ode to the city of Dubai which I’ll miss a lot in the next two months.
Flashback to my childhood in Kolkata… the connection being dates, dates syrup and obviously some FOOD!
My paternal grandmother would distribute her whole year by staying amongst 7 of her kids – 5 sons and 2 daughters (yes, this was before the concept of Family planning set in India!) So that would translate into one to one and a half months at each of her child’s place. We would eagerly wait for our turn to come and would pray that her stay at our home coincides with our school holidays. And this period would be my earliest summer hibernations. She would make traditional Bengali sweets called ‘Gurer Naru’. The aroma of Coconut and Jaggery would float around the entire house. There would be unexpected trails of ants lining into the shelves where my Granma would keep these Narus! Narus are special sweets made during various festivals. It always seemed easy to make these Narus as Grandma and other relatives and Aunties would make them so effortlessly. This myth was broken when I started making Narus myself much later on and introduced them to the Z-SISTERS as Coconut Jaggery Truffles!
Who will sleep with my Granma – my brother or me? That was the entire focus of our lives when Granma made her prestigious appearance. She would read out bedtime stories from Thakumar Jhuli, which is a collection of Bengali folk tales and fairy tales. Thakumar Jhuli translates literally into Grandma’s Sack! Stories would pour out from the sack – horrifying battles, deadly demons, incredibly beautiful princesses and the most valiant princes. All Bengali children have grown up hearing these tales from Thakumar Jhuli. Even the children belonging to the IPad and Kindle generation. Because the stories have left the pages of hardbound books and migrated into the Amazon bookshops as well. I’m always thankful to technology for that.
While at night these bed-time stories from Thakumar Jhuli shaped my imagination, the days were spent watching her sit at the edge of the bed, doing embroidery on Bedsheets – an art-form that has become a signature of Bengal. This form of stitching is known as Kantha Stitch and is very similar to run stitch. Bengal is known for it’s Kantha Stitch. Different stories – from religion, from epics or plain poetry, are re-told on textiles through this Kantha Stitch. This rural folk stitching artform has migrated into urban Bengal and now catapulted the form commercially into an export industry.
To see my Grandma creating yards and yards of story with her embroidery or her reading out the bed-time tales from Thakumar Jhuli must have infused some story-telling ability in me. Or so I would like to believe. And that’s why when in a span of two months I’m nominated again for The Food Stories Award for Excellence in Stort telling, I not only feel excited but absolutely lap up to the nomination. It’s like offering a lollipop to a child who’s addicted to candies. The child never says NO to a lollipop, irrespective of the size and frequency.
But what makes my Lollipop special is the fact that it comes from 2 persons – The Hedonista & The Food Soldier. While The Hedonista weaves food stories around people and places effortlessly in her articles, the Food Soldier is on her own food tirade. The last time I was nominated I had nominated My Custard Pie , I live in a Frying Pan , Dima’s Kitchen, The Hedonista and In Persuit of More.
So the nomination again this month gave me the opportunity to read and explore more blogs to find 5 different story-tellers who have started to enthrall me lately with their food stories. And they are –
1) The Food Soldier – Priyanka, the Food Soldier is the only one who believes in the most fundamental of food theories – No good meal is complete without dessert!
2) Sips & Spoonfuls – Sukaina, whose pictures make me drool and drift myself into world so light and airy that most of the times it makes me think that I’m exactly that – light and airy (something that I would like to see myself to be)!
3) Eat, Write, Think – Rajani Mani makes me do exactly that – eat, write & think and I really thank her for that because most of the times I stop thinking after I eat!
4) Never mind the Böreks – James who made me wander through the streets of Middle East as he frolicked through his posts!
5) Life in the Food Lane – Francine who writes about her gluttonous food trips so vividly that I feel less guilty with my gluttony!
By the way one random fact about myself that I want to share this time – I have learnt to accept that Food that I enjoy the most can never be ‘too much’, ‘too sweet’, ‘too cheesy’ and ‘too healthy’. And If you want to change my opinion I don’t mind any of my Fellow Food Bloggers to take me out for a food outing!
Gurer Naru/Coconut Jaggery Truffle
Category – Dessert; Cuisine type – Traditional Bengali
This is a traditional Sweet – Savoury where Notun Gur or Nolen Gur/Date Jaggery is used as the sweetener instead of sugar. In Bengal, this Jaggery is traditionally available fresh during the winters, hence Notun Gur (literal translation is New Jaggery) or the season fresh Jaggery is something that everyone would wait for. The smoky aroma of Notun Gur is something that one looks out for.
Here, in Dubai the Date Syrup is available in abundance – they are available in bottles in most supermarkets. Needless to say that this syrup suffices for Notun Gur almost perfectly!
Following are the characteristics of all recipes doling out of our little hands big hearth –
♥ Easy to cook
♥ Regular canned products off the shelf may be used (However, we advocate using fresh products)
♥ Goes well both as a regular or party dish
♥ Children can easily help in making the dish (My two little sous-chéfs are aged 8 and 3 years!)
♥ And lastly, guaranteed to be tasty!
Serves 6-8 persons (maybe less if they happen to be sweet-toothed Bengalis!)
Preparation time – 1 hr (Constant stirring of the Coconut and Jaggery– 45-50 minutes; making small truffles – 10 minutes)
– Dessicated Coconut Powder/Grated Fresh Coconut – 2 cups (You’ll get Dessicated Coconut Powder in the frozen section of most supermarkets in Dubai, or available in packets – ex Maggi. If you are using Dessicated Coconut Powder then just soak it in very little milk for a while. Grated Fresh Coconut is available in most Asian stores in Dubai – like Lulu Supermarket and in many well-known supermarket chains in Bur Dubai and Karama area)
– Jaggery/Date Syrup – 1 Cup (Date Syrup is available almost everywhere in Dubai!)
Method of Preparation
– Pour the Jaggery/Date Syrup and the Grated Coconut in a flat bottomed wok and work on a high flame initially
– Keep on stirring continuously till a strong aroma of Coconut and Jaggery fills up your senses and the entire Mix comes can be taken off from the sticky wok with ease
– Roll them into small balls and put them in air-tight containers while Refrigerating them
Try to ignore the stickiness of these sweets… the stickiness is an essential part of this legendary Bengali Sweet that is called Naru or if I may introduce them as Coconut Jaggery Truffles! Hoping that the same aroma of Coconut and Jaggery drifts through your house as well when you read my post… and while you enjoy viewing the pictures this is a gentle reminder not to use them. Have a wonderful Summer. Keep connected for more posts of my Summer Hibernation in Kolkata and my drifting tale of 2 cities – Kolkata and Dubai!
Unblogging it all… Ishita