When a Bengali earns money, he will first indulge in food, no compromise…
There’s this saying. So, a Punjabi when rich will buy a car, and when he’s richer he’ll change his car for a bigger car. When a Bengali earns money, he will first indulge in food, no compromise.
This excursion starts in the late afternoon at the wholesale market, an extraordinary experience that’s completely different to the fish and vegetable market you see in the morning. Here you’ll witness these three-ton trucks from which people will be manually unloading packages of vegetables, each weighing around 200kg. Can you even begin to imagine manually transporting that kind of weight above your head? But people do – around four people line up, stepping in synchronisation like penguins as they carry these packages to the respective traders.
It’s a busy market where tourists don’t tend to go for fearing they’ll get in the way. But there’s a certain discipline to it and we know exactly how to guide people and where you can pause amongst the chaos and take good photos. I believe you won’t see another market quite like it because most of them use machinery nowadays. But I think this particular wholesale market will be like this for another hundred years. There’s simply no space for mechanical transportation.
Afterwards we sometimes have dinner with a family who own the most prestigious Bengali publishing houses in the world and who are very interesting to talk to. Otherwise, I will cook for you in my own home where you can sit in an open courtyard surrounded with banana trees and either watch or join in the process. We usually do a veggie dish like shukto which incorporates gourd (similar to squash) banana, papaya, potato and sometimes bitter neem leaves. Then sides like paturi which is ground fish baked in mustard seed sauce and a bit of green chilli.
If you have more time, I can make a curry using a hundred-year-old recipe passed down from my grandmother’s generation incorporating the traditional Bengali method of flavouring the dish with many spices. It’s a meticulous process that involves much preparation and not often practiced today, but I’m fortunate enough to have been born into a large orthodox Brahmin family in which cooking these sophisticated curry’s is still the norm.