For nine months, all we had were Skype and WhatsApp to bridge the invincible time gap of 12.5 hrs that stood like a wall between us. In the excitement of seeing each other after so long, we hurriedly planned a short trip to Goa when I returned to India over summer. What I had failed to consider was the fact that two weeks prior to departing the US, I had taken my first shot of Depo-Provera and now my hormones were fucked up to the point that I was behaving like a raging maniac at the drop of a hat. I was oscillating between calm and angry every few hours. I felt bloated all the time. The fantasies that had kept me alive were replaced by technicolour dreams of how to plan the funeral of my libido. Add to that frustration, my digestive enzymes had declared a strike which meant I could hardly put any of the food I was craving for almost a year into my mouth without any fear of repercussions. Thus, after a romantic date at one of Goa’s best restaurants, we walked home except that our walk in the sea-tinged night air was anything but romantic; I was rambling inebriated and clutching my stomach, sweating profusely as we desperately searched for the nearest loo.
Of course, this world and its people will impart a lot of education to you. But have you ever, on an evening stroll, wondered what to do about that sondhyebela’r khide? Have you ever felt that pressure of impressing your Bangali premika with a thesaurus like knowledge of chop, cutlet, and peyanjis? Has the Herculean responsibility of arranging the finger food for a murimakha and adda session ever been bestowed upon you and you have no clue what to do? But no more worries! You, dear seeker, have come to the right place. Read on to find out how you can be a chop expert too and be ready for the next renaissance, the industrial revolution that is chop shilpo!
Note: Much has been spoken about the singara, the Bengali cousin of the samosa, and though we love it immensely, we are giving it a break from this article.
Seattle embodies everything that the Pacific Northwest is famous for. From pristine outdoors to excellent museums, a lively arts scene and delicious seafood, Seattle has something for everyone. There’s always something new happening in Emerald City. Recently, it was ranked the 4th most hipster city in the world! However, make sure you carry your raincoat for Seattle is notorious for year-round drizzly weather.
Olympic Sculpture Park | 7:30 AM
Start your morning in Seattle at the Olympic Sculpture Park, an open-air park with monumental sculptures. If you prefer starting your day with a run, head over to Myrtle Edwards Park across the street. Nothing feels more rejuvenating than a morning run along the waterfront! Both offer stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, the Puget Sound, and the Seattle Skyline with the iconic Space Needle piercing the purplish skies.
Pike Place Market | 8:45 AM
Join the Market Walk with Seattle Free Walking Tour (and tip your guide generously) or let the aroma of freshly cut flowers, smoked salmons, baked goodies, raw seafood, spices, or coffee lead you around. There are enough samples to count for breakfast and if you are still hungry, walk into any of these places for a sumptuous breakfast!
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon was my introduction to flower farms. Rows and rows of bright blooms swayed in the gentle breeze under a sunny spring sky. The effect is euphoric! Watching their beauty, their undeniable elegance it isn’t difficult to imagine how tulips became a symbol of affluence and luxury, and ultimately the cause of what is known as the Tulip Fever that gripped Holland in the 17th Century. However, recently the Smithsonian ran an article that debunked the madness that is associated with the Tulip Fever. Stories of sailors being jailed for eating a bulb, bulbs selling for the price of mansions, the whole country spiralling into economic ruin are all over the place but how much of it is true?
Shillong, once the capital of the erstwhile Assam Province and now the capital of the northeastern state of Meghalaya, has transformed from a quaint colonial retreat to another bustling city in the expanding urban map of modern India. The rolling hills around Shillong have earned it the sobriquet of Scotland of the East but Shillong is more than its magnificent waterfalls, its stunning lakes, or the cherry trees that wash it in blush pink in spring. Every November, Shillong hosts the annual Autumn Festival: a three-day extravaganza for rock, metal, goth, and punk enthusiasts with performances by local, national, and international bands. It’s a treat in every season but if you want to avoid the crowds, avoid the summer holidays, Durga Puja and Christmas breaks when tourists, mostly from Bengal and Assam, arrive in droves.
Don Bosco Square, Laitumkhrah | 3:00 PM
Arrive in Shillong from Guwahati and make your way to Don Bosco Square, Shillong’s equivalent of Calcutta’s Park Street where the young and trendy seem to be tirelessly meting out lessons in fashion and styling. Both an academic and cultural hub, this is where young love blossoms under the watchful eyes of the statue of Don Bosco, educator and apparently a romantic instigator. Settle for lunch at Jadoh, a renowned cafe serving authentic Khasi cuisine. Smoky meat curries are their best sellers but the menu has vegetarian options too. Spend some time people watching and if you are still not full, indulge in a plate of Puri Sabzi (INR 30 / $0.50) from a street food vendor and wash it down with milky chai (INR 10 / $0.15)!
My love affair with traditional Bangali food had a long incubation period. During the rather impressionable growing up years, my daily diet was a strictly home cooked North Calcutta affair. The repetitiveness of the dishes meant that they soon lost their appeal and unsurprisingly, I found my little self craving, more often than not, a kathi roll with extra lime or a Moghlai porota dripping with oil. But every story contains a story of coming of age in which the prodigal son returns to take up the mantle of the King. In the story of my life, this story revolved around returning to my roots, to the food habits of my ancestors and ethnic clan. As I grew older and began to explore the city’s gastronomic secrets, I learned about the nuances that differentiated what I call gharanas within a cuisine. The more I learned the more I found the reverence for the simple home-cooked dupurer khabar making a comeback. Where else would you get something like panchmishali torkari in which the vegetables despite being tempered with spices as pungent as mustard still retain their delicate flavours? The thought of swapping the robibarer mutton for a creamy and nutty alu posto no longer gave me nightmares. In the cultural mingling that occurred during muktijuddho, ingredients and techniques used in the East Bengal or Bangal style of cooking seeped into kitchens of West Bengal to create a unique profile. Now we, the children of a later generation, have an important responsibility: To dive into archives (and kitchens) and re-discover shaabeki recipes that are slowly vanishing from both ghoti and bangal rannaghors.
When you live in cold, wet Oregon some thousands of miles away from your boyf, you regularly experience what I called “foodpangs” or busts of painful craving for a dish you have enjoyed with someone you love. This list started off as a random conversation with Aninda on a night my taste-buds were aching for some Calcutta-style Chili Chicken. I ended up making a dish that my father often makes and talking to Aninda about chicken dishes we had enjoyed on our weekend eating sprees since December 2014 when we started dating. It was an interesting list-making that drew very different reactions from both of us; while Aninda was oohh-ing and aaah-ing and planning the next trip to the eateries, I was sinking deeper into a chasm of helpless hunger and making loud slurping sounds in the air. It was weird, alright, but my roommates were out that night and I ultimately ended up making some extra-spiced Chana Masala. So here you go, in no particular order:
1. Chicken Shapta at The Blue Poppy, Middleton St.
Blue poppy shines when you join them in embracing their fiery ambitions. It is somewhat ironic that a dish tracing its roots to the snowy landscapes of Tibet can be this lip-smackingly hot. Thin slices of chicken fried till golden are generously paired with shredded chilli peppers and onions, and presented in a light sauce that is the perfect balance of sour, sweet, and umami. No turmeric means the dish has a rather pale colour but what it lacks in looks, it makes up in taste by unfurling fireworks as you place a spoonful in your mouth. Pair it with their burnt garlic fried rice. Fair warning though, not for the fainthearted!