Friday, March 24, 2006

The Hour of the Goddess, Memories of Women, Food and Ritual in Bengal

Chitrita Banergee, Publisher - Penguin Price Rs. 195

In The Hour of the Goddess: Memories of Women, Food and Ritual in Bengal, Chitrita Banerji is eloquent and erudite as she demonstrates the place of food in Bengali culture in prose that is as light as a luchi "set afloat (in oil) like a paper-boat". The food memoir, by the writer from Calcutta now based in the US is a delight whether she is describing the famed Bengali penchant for fish, the quintessential Bengali five spice mix - Panchphoron, bitter flavours, the versatility of Bengali widows with their food despite the strict food proscriptions forced on them and the discovery and subsequent journey the Bengali Sandesh to iconic status. Unlike some memoirs that include recipes which are incomplete or half baked, the recipes at the end of each chapter in this book were authentic, and easy to follow. The addition of occaisional annecdotes and friendly advice almost gives the illusion that Banerji is standing by you guiding you through the recipe. The hour of the goddess bares the longing of a woman for idyllic bygone days, gently reminding us that change may be all around us but it is possible to stop for a moment and indulge in a spot of nostalgia with a traditional family recipe. All read and cooked, The hour of the Goddess is aromatic with Panch phoron and delicious!

Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal

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