Shubho Noboborsho! Wishing all of you on the occasion of Bengali New Year. Also wishing everyone for the other Indian regional New Years like Ugadi, Puthandu, Vishu , Baisakhi, Vihu, Gudi Padwa and others. If you aren’t celebrating a New Year… may we simply celebrate life!
A new dawn and a beautiful morning… and some behind the scene hustling
We are blessed with a stunning sunrise over an uninterrupted view of the backwaters. It had rained the whole night and the horizon was dark and thunderous on Noboborsho morning. The morning breeze carried the earthy aroma of the fresh rains and the seagulls seem to be too drenched for their daily flights. There was happy hustle and bustle in the home as well… polishing of silver bowls that dates back to our Annaprashan or first rice ceremonies… specially my flower arrangement in an urli.
Celebrating Noboborsho, the Bengali New Year
Our lunch and the dinner menu for yesterday for ‘Poila Boishakh’ or ‘Noboborsho’ was a simple Bengali menu. It was a working and a school day and I had asked the Z-Sisters what they would like to eat. Lil Z requested for luchi, aloo bhaja and plain white Rosogolla, or rasgullas … “lots of it”, she said! Big Z declared that she didn’t care as long as there was Mishti Doi, made by me. The latter has been a bit overdone in our kitchen , the last time I made mishti doi, which was only three weeks back, stayed in the fridge almost for two weeks. So I decided against it. “Then Mihi Dana please”… was her next request. Roshogolla and Motichoor Ladoos were swiggy-ed in from the sweetshop Sri Gupta Sweets and we were happy. Our cook Matree’s Malabari parota making skill was made to use for the brilliant phulko luchis… the perfectly fluffed up Indian flatbreads. Our menu was as follows… luchi, aloo bhaja or fried potatoes, begun bhaja or fried eggplant, cholar dal with delicate aroma of coconut pieces fried in ghee, Basanti or mishti pulao and Katla Kalia, a thick gravy preparation with Katla fish. The strategy was to focus more on the luchi for lunch so that generous portions of pulao and Kalia would be left over for dinner.
I always feel that Bengali food is served in courses and can never be concised into a single thali. The only one thali that could ever be … is the proshad, offered to the Divine Almighty. A thali with a mini sampling of the food is placed in our casual altar, and after we have had a few spoonfuls from it, it’s handed over affectionately to Big Z… “why does thakurer proshad always taste better?”, she always asks. I guess it’s the intention and the heart felt emotion that changes it all, I guess. Sharing the blessed thali from our home with you all… and then the rest.
Celebrating Puthandu, the Tamil New Year… back to back celebrations
The day before was Puthandu, the Tamil New Year and it was naturally a holiday here (for those who are still wondering… Chennai is our new home). We had a sapaddu, a traditional Tamil lunch served on banana leaf. Matree was keen to do a small puja followed by the traditional lunch that she had cooked. She insisted that we sit on the ground and eat while she served. We swapped her suggestion into sitting on the ground and putting the food on our coffee table! It was a beautiful afternoon and we savoured everything that she had cooked. She explained the order in which we had to eat. First, we had to eat the plain white rice with Vendekkai Sambar (sambar cooked with ladies finger. Next, we had to eat the rice with Kara Kulambu or a spicy tamarind and tomato curry of brinjal, potatoes and other vegetables. The light Milagu Rasam or Pepper Rasam came last. A carrot beans Poriyal or curry and Urulai Kilangu Masala or a spicy potato curry and some Appalam or papad were served as sides to the rice. The Ulundhu Vadai she made were soft as well as crispy and had to be dunked into the sambar. The Dessert looked exotic and something I was tasting for the very first time. Javvarisi Payasam was a milk pudding or payasam made with tapioca pearls with delicate fragrance of cashews and raisins roasted in ghee. I bought a new silk sari, a traditional weave that a would be worn for this occasion and put a garland of malli, the heavy-scented jasmine in my hair. Again, starting with the prasad offering and then the rest.
In my happy space… in my home, talking about Bengali food
A prequel to Noboborsho was my Bengali food chat with culinary expert Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal in her InstaLive series #SpiceChroniclesWithRMG. Rushina started this in May last year during lockdown as a Instagram LIVE research project and her culinary marathon was now headed to Bengal. Rushina captured me in her inauguaratory Bengal episode in my happy space… in my dining room in my home, chatting about Bengali food. I wore a kantha stitch dupatta instead of the traditional red and white saree on Lil Z’s insistence on wearing something casual and this was the most casual I could get! Sharing a picture that Lil Z took of me sitting amidst all my favourite cookbooks, dekchi, pots and pans and my shortlisted items from my Bengali pantry. Do watch the episode here.
I felt like sharing the therapeutic energy of our backwaters and the new day in my virtual Noboborsho video greeting. I wish I could embed the video here with the birds’ chirping and the sweet sound of the seabreeze. Sharing a screenshot of a still frame… hope you all will like it and and be engulfed with the same emotion that I felt… a new journey filled with hope, faith and joyful anticipation of a bright future!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Some posts from my recent Chennai Chapter: Finally calling Chennai home Homemade spicy Chicken 65 Chicken Chettinad cooked in a claypot Celebrating Pongal with Sakkarai Pongal and other dishes
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