Bengali homes are known for their fanatic love for cooking and eating. Morning starts with the thought of food and ends with it. At least my grandma’s home followed this. My nana reasoned: After all, why do we earn – to eat!! 😀 Simple it may sound, but it isn’t.
For my nani it meant a disciplinary run to the market to buy fish, vegetables, and spices, and then sitting at the backyard with her sharp-edged dao (a cutting instrument) to cut the fish into typical pieces for macher jhol (fish curry) and cut vegetables for the shorshe charchari (vegetables cooked in hand-ground mustard) that she would cook for lunch and dinner. While she performed this ritualistic cutting exercise, my nana watched carefully and gave instructions when necessary, sitting at the wooden chair that lay in the shady veranda of their little Assam-type house.
At 11 am or so, the much-awaited cooking started in nani‘s kitchen. She first lit the earthen stove with much difficulty – blowing the burning charcoal with a haat-paakha (hand fan) in her hand and tears in eyes. I can’t forget the smoky smell of the air, mixed with the smell of fish curry, cooked yellow lentils, beguni or eggplant fries, inside that little kitchen with blackened walls.
She used to cook in huge aluminum pots and pans – and served food with a huge aluminum serving spoon. That was inherited by her from her mum-in-law.
She would serve food in huge steel plates with hollows – each hollow would contain a yummy dish – spicy and tangy fish curry, tasty lentils, and flavorful vegetables cooked in mustard, along with a sweet and sour tomato chutney (sauce) cooked in jaggery and rice. I can’t forget the taste and smell of the food and the smoky fragrance of her kitchen.
She would not let us finish dinner without stuffing ourselves till the neck – her logic for doing this was that food should be eaten not only for tummy, but for the soul also. 😀 She served with so much love, that we could not say “No” when she offered multiple servings. I can’t forget the satisfied smile on her round and white face.
My nani expired in the year 2004. It’s been almost ten years now, but even now the floral smell of her hair oil, the smell of her starched cotton saris, and the smell of the delectable Bengali cuisine she mastered, still lingers around – somewhere in my memory.
Now, whenever I visit my mom, I request her to cook all that my nani cooked for me. And while she cooks, I sit beside her, reminiscing bygone days and reliving those childhood days lost in the winds of time.
Nani is not there – times have changed, but thankfully, the aroma and smell of her kitchen still remains in its original form in the cooking style of my mom which she inherited from her mother.
Thank God! Some precious things never change, never go. 🙂
Note: Here are some pictures from my kitchen – I do some amount of good cooking like mum and nani – Just learning. I shall carry these fragrances and aromas down the generations.
This blog post is a part of Ambi Pur “Smelly To Smiley” contest.