Bengalis – alias “Fries R Us”
Much like in the South (of USA), where we take something as healthy as a green tomato and then proceed to fry it, if there is a singular purpose Bengali food stands to serve, it has to be to scoff at your best cholesterol limiting medicines. You can name any food – let’s say “aloo” (potato) or “maach” (fish) or “dim” (egg) or go to more esoteric “uchhey” (bitter gourd), “kumro” (simple gourd), “begun” (egg plant), “potol” (need to find the English word)… You just throw in a suffix “-bhaja” at the end and yep! you have gotten yourself a delicious Bengali dish.
Add a healthy dose of white rice, your expertise in mixing that with the “bhajas” like an expert masseur’s bare fingers kneading thru your tight muscles and you have successfully created the first course of a Bengali meal. The last course is usually an antacid. For every Bengali meal worth writing home about is bookended by a loud burp first and then an “ombol” – acid induced indigestion – a couple of hours later.
You will get an idea about how frying is deeply embedded in our psyche when I tell you how many of our idioms involve frying. You are just being lazy? That is frying “bheranda”. Because we tend to be very lazy (but intellectually sharp), we have another one to separate the degrees of laziness – frying “khoi”. Want to prove innocence? You do not know how to turn your fried “maach” over to eat it. And so on and so forth…
After finishing up with DN, I went down to see if I could get myself a light dinner. There is nothing light about the full spread of a JW Marriott dinner. By the time I am done surveying what is on display, I usually forget what I had seen in the first half. So, to narrow my scope, I went straight to the Bengali corner.
Not to be disappointed, you can see (the picture is a little indistinct) your familiar – “jhuri aloo-bhaja”, “potol-bhaja”, “begun-bhaja”, “corola-bhaja”, “eta-bhaja”, “seta-bhaja” … and then the rice!!
Somehow felt very comforted that I am back to my roots!!!