Bengali Food

Stories of Love, Nostalgia And Memories |The Ingredients To My Cooking

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



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