Bengali Cuisine: Chitrita Banerji

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In recent times, I have been reading quite a bit of longform food writing (accompanied by food to stave off hunger pangs), and I was keen to read a more detailed exploration of my homeland’s cuisine. This book proved to be perfect.

Banerjee opens a window into Bengali cuisine by structuring it along the four seasons – spring, summer, monsoon and winter. She talks about the festivals in the seasons and the foods prepared around those, the native fruits and vegetables that get incorporated, illustrates her family traditions through food and sprinkles a few recipes on the way.

What I loved about this book is that it is not a cookbook; it is a food book. Sure, recipes are present, but they are not the focus. The book took me back to my childhood, to all the traditional ways and wisdom that my mother follows, and at many points, I was like, oh we do that too in our home! For non-Bengalis, this book would be a fascinating dip into the intricacies and the differences between the cooking styles and food of West Bengal and East Bengal, now Bangladesh. Banerjee writes with love about her food and its history, and also uses food to provide commentary on social mores, such as the treatment of widows in Bengali (and often Indian) culture. A book that should be read by every person having the smallest interest in food.

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