What’s the one item in your kitchen you can’t possibly cook without? A spice, your grandma’s measuring cup, instant ramen — what’s your magic ingredient, and why? Photographers, artists, poets: show us KITCHEN… that has been the WordPress Daily Prompt and I am waking up to it.

If there is one ingredient that I can’t possibly cook without, then that is some story. A story with some magic attached to it along with my childhood memories and nostalgia, the aroma of cooking from the kitchen, each dish arriving on the dining table, cooked with much love by some loving hand – either my Ma‘s, or my Thakuma’s (paternal grandma) or my Dida‘s (maternal grandma) or some Mashi (aunt) and much later, my Mum-in-law’s. Today, that secret ingredient is sourced from antique cookbooks or handwritten recipes, that have been duly passed onto me. Each recipe unfolds from some story or the other. And each story surrounds around some delicate and delicious food moment that I have experienced in my childhood. I intend to pass on the same magical ingredient to my girls – the Z-Sisters. Along with my collectibles and memorabilia from the kitchens of my childhood – some old pots and pans – some torn pages of recipes – a few tattered cookbooks – many rusty silver spoons – and innumerable stories surrounding them all. Capturing the secret intangible ingredient through old photographs, old pots and pans…

We (my husband and I) have inherited the silverware from both our families – and we have used them as children!

Thakuma’s iron wok to make Narkel Naru/Jaggery Truffles

Narkel Naru or Coconut Jaggery Truffles … my Thakuma’s recipe

This is my Ma. Desh, Anandobazaar and Rabindranath* defines her.

Pickles made from my Mother-in-Law’s handwritten notebook – her ‘Diary of Pickles’

Special glass jars dedicated only for making pickles... I've inherited all of these

Special glass jars dedicated only for making pickles… I’ve inherited all of these

Notun Gurer Payesh or Rice Pudding… my Dida’s recipe. I have inherited the silverware from both families – from my husband and my side.

My Dida and my unforgettable memory of her culinary skills

The silver glass that my husband used during his ‘Annaprashan’ or the first rice ceremony – when he was six months old!

‘Amish O Niramish Ahaar’ by Pragyasundari Debi. A scion of the Tagore family, Pragyasundari used to write a column in a vernacular news paper on various recipes. That perhaps was the first column of its type in the end of 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century!

‘Amish O Niramish Ahaar’ by Pragyasundari Debi… heritage recipes, some of them unique and unusual

Hand written scribbles of recipes – both traditional and modern, Bengali and western.. I have inherited these from my Mum-in-law!

‘Jhinuk’ – a soup like spoon used to feed milk to infants. This belongs to my husband!

An etched ‘Shil Nora’ – a grinding stone used in most Bengali kitchens to make Masala Pastes where one rolls the mortar back and forth on a stone slab sitting on the ground

An earthen fish mold (almost 9 inch) to make the traditional Bengali sweet – ‘Shondesh’. This belonged to my husband’s Dida (maternal grandma)

An enormous iron container belonging to my husband’s Thakuma (paternal grandma), which now holds all my food magazines and food cutouts

What goes out, comes back in a circle… now the magic is transferred to my kitchen with me trying to enamor my kids with food stories!

My kids now create the same magical flavour to the sweet corn that they make!

Before signing off, one advice that has been re-iterated by all these special mentors of mine – it is resonated in the Bengali phrase ‘je radhe, shey chulo badhe’. Translated, this would probably mean ‘she who cooks, also takes care to do her hair’… So cook and serve, but serve beautifully. And most importantly, look beautiful. As a reminder, the little mirror (below) has been passed on to my girls from my beautiful Mum-in-law!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.

Below are the posts from my blog that have already captured a bit of the secret ingredient…
Narkel Naru or Coconut Jaggery Trufflesmy Thakuma’s recipe
Hot Garlic Pickle | The Pickled Diary – Episode 1 my Mother-in-law’s recipe
Pickles | Mother (-in-law) Of All Pickles!my Mother-in-law’s recipes
Notun Gurer Payesh/Traditional Bengali Rice Puddingmy Dida’s recipe
Khichuri As Harbinger of Hope & Kolkata Soaked In Rainsmy Ma’s recipe
Traditional Bengali Cuisine | All The ‘Slight’ Detailsmy essay on Bengali Cuisine
Purple Haze Yoghurt with Purple M&Ms my kids’ recipe
Cuppa-Corn Sweet Yellow Momentsmy kids’ story


32 Comments on “Stories of Love, Nostalgia And Memories |The Ingredients To My Cooking

  1. Beautiful memories and memento’s…..that is what life is all about.

  2. This may be my favorite of your posts so far, Ishita. I love that you shared your treasures with us, both the family heirlooms and the photos of your beloved relatives. I can’t express how nostalgic this makes me feel for my own grandmothers and the warm times I spent in their kitchens. Thank you, my friend. I know your heart a little better now and that makes me smile.

    • Stacy, Stacy, Stacy… I am lucky to have friends like you around me. You have always made me feel super special. I am so touched by your love, always!

  3. I love that there is a first rice ceremony. Beautiful props and really enjoyed this very different post.

    • Thank you Sally! I think all of us are going through that ‘different’ period – kind of a breather, I guess. This post was absolutely unplanned. Saw the daily post and suddenly stumbled out with a whole lot of emotions. I remember that in my earlier post (long, long back), you found the first rice ceremony very interesting 🙂

  4. A post from the heart, your photographs speak a thousand words, or should I say lovely peeks of memories. By the way, I enjoyed your Dubai “Food Oscars” post, and particularly the points you raise. A really good read, makes me miss our blogger get togethers, discussions, and munches.

    • Oh Francine, I miss you so much. And thank you very much for the feedback. About the Food Oscars post, care to copy paste the comment there, so that it may come to the attention of any *concerned* person (assuming that they will ho into my post!). I am going to shoot you an email right away.

  5. Beautiful post. I have inherited a rice serving spoon from my Mum-in-law and will get two things when I visit India next time from my Maa. A salt jar and a rice measuring cup made from Parachute coconut oil metal can. I have two gun metal glasses and two plates (knashar thala ar glass) which are my Dida’s, given to my Maa during her wedding. They are treasures. Few sondesh molds made by my FIL’s grandmother. 🙂 Your post made me nostalgic Ishita. Loved it.

    • Thank you! A rice measuring cup made from Parachute coconut oil metal can? That sounds very interesting for sure, And thanks for reminding me about the ‘sondesh molds’ – I also have one – have just updated my post with that. But definitely that’s *young* compared to your treasure which belonged to your FIL’s grandmother? Surely, a fossil by now, what say? Amazing indeed!

      • Yes, in not so well off households, people came up with excellent alternatives to an established method and the parachute coconut oil can is one such thing. Once I get a hold of it, I’ll surely post a picture of it. The molds are in perfect shape. I am yet to make sondesh in them. They are more precious/priceless to me than the gold I inherited.

    • Thank you Madam. You didn’t share your secret ingredient though – no leaking of any *trade secrets*, hya? You have the ingredients passed onto you through your genes Asma 🙂

  6. Oh, I totally forgot to mention that the jhinuk bring backs so many memories. My brother’s childhood. Love it again. The sondesh mold is outstanding. Mine are much smaller and less grand than yours. Loved it immensely.

  7. Ohhhh this is soooo wonderful. I wish my mom collected such stuff instead of throwing them away to make room for better newer things .
    Guess il start my own

  8. A special and heartwarming post Ishita!!! I could relate to every word. And you wrapped it up with a perfect quote. I am coveting that fish mould!! 🙂

  9. Isn’t it a treat to have inherited from the lovely kitchens of so many great women and these women have preserved all these little elements of history for you now to treasure? I adore the celebration of cultural heritage as you know and this is just that!

    • Oh Absolutely! These things acquire new meaning as one matures (in age) and is away from home. Thanks for dropping in 🙂

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