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Your guide to natural, healthy, Bengali cooking with an American Twist.

Hello! My name is Sudipa and ever since I was a young child the daily activities of a kitchen fascinated me. From the age of 5 to 10 we lived in Bangladesh where food preparation was always the most important task for the woman of the house, since there were very few restaurants to go to or get take out from.  The ingredients used and aroma of the cooked food was always familiar, however, everyone had a different technique/process to their cooking. I remember these small differences in my mother’s small kitchen, my nani’s (maternal grandmother’s) large kitchen or in my sejo khala’s (3rd eldest maternal aunt’s) gigantic kitchen in Khulna. 

In those days, food preparation took up the longest block of time for the Bengali woman of the house, and all her helpers (if she was fortunate to have any).  This was because if you wanted to cook chicken curry for lunch, most likely you had to prepare a freshly killed chicken with feathers and everything.  Same thing was true for fish it would typically come with all its scales and head attached. The only means for the poor Bengali housewife to successfully conquer the situation was to use the extremely scary looking instrument of attack, known as the mighty Boti (which is basically a very sharp curved metal edge attached to rectangular block of wood), on which the woman would rest her foot while squatting, and use the metal edge to remove scales, cut chicken into smaller pieces, or cut vegetables.

When I was 10 we moved back to the States and I became my mothers sous chef. The duties mainly consisted of peeling and cutting vegetables, and onions for endless hours, as it seemed we always had someone coming over for dinner every weekend. I am both fortunate and unfortunate to be born into a culture where the preparation of the daily meals are considered to be the most important task of the day. At times, I would feel annoyed that my parents would be willing to drive over an hour to buy fresh fish and vegetables from Haymarket in Boston rather than do something interesting.  However, any Bengali living in America (or any other part of the western world) will understand the great lengths one will go through to procure fresh fish, meats, spices, and the slightly exotic vegetables and greens.

I don’t think I ever thought of writing a cookbook (or blogging) while I was growing up spending most of my free time in the kitchen. Rather, it was something I told myself I would do as a young adult when I could not find any Bengali cookbooks perusing through the shelves of all the well-known book stores. It was especially frustrating to see a butchered version of a Bengali dish in an Indian cookbook. Fast forward to 25 years later, and while Bengali (or Bangla) is the 6th most spoken language in the world, there are still scarcely any Bengali cookbooks at the bookstore. Hence, the idea for this blog came to light with lots of encouragement from some very special semi adults.