17 May, 2021

3 Tbsp Mustard, Pride To Taste

A guided tour through the much-evolved, long-winding thoroughfare of Bengali cuisine

Bishwadeep Moitra
3 Tbsp Mustard, Pride To Taste

Ever since Gopal Krishna Gokhale sanctified the Bengali sense of intellectual superiority by declaring, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”, people from my part of the country have never stopped preening about their distinctive identity in almost every sphere of life—culture to cuisine. From that it is a small step to arrogance, often expressed graphically by a comparison between French sophistication vis-a-vis British “mediocrity”. A Bengali media baron created quite a stir some years ago when he suggested that his community rightly looks down upon the “boorish people” of the rest of India. The Bengali style of wearing a dhoti is different from others, the best saris are crafted here; our tastes are understated, even the cuisine is subtle, it grows on you, he told a foreign magazine, and concluded: “We are like the French”.

Not everybody, Bengalis included, may agree with this somewhat exaggerated self-perception, although it is a fact that the...

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