As much as I try to deny it, I am a little bit of a nerd who loves her literature (and Harry Potter) and enjoys nothing more than an afternoon spent curled up with her favourite book. I reserve the right to be nyaka the way only Bengalis can. I love my afternoon siesta and of late, I am even beginning to enjoy a cup of cha.
Music, prawns, family, being laidback, prizing intellectual achievments over being rich and famous, adda... the list of Bengali stereotypes I DO identify with goes on. But to me, the essence of being a Bengali is the passion we have for food. My personal love affair with food is such a large part of my identity. This is the 5th year in a row I'm not with my family for Poila Boisakh/ Nobo Borsho (Bengali New Year) and when I think about what I miss - it's definitely the family reunion but it's also most definitely the food.
Me, I have always been a food lover. I grew up with a mum who cooked everything from a boring bhindi to a fancy roast like a Masterchef and a Dad who (can cook but prefers not to :P) encouraged us to try everything - from the street food in Gariahat to the flash new restaurant on Park Street. Together they opened up our tastebuds (and minds) to food and experiences not many have been privileged to.
Of course, the Bengali passion for food is closely tied in with the Bengali sweet tooth. If there's anything a Bengali loves more than a good meal, it's a good meal that's finished off with an even better mishti or dessert. If you know me, you know that every meal is followed by an INTENSE craving for something sweet! Growing up, my cousins, my sister and I bonded over our common passion for good food and baking. One, of the four of us, was always baking ensuring the family was never deprived of sweet stuff. Over my holidays in India last December - our "going out" revolved around food, staying home also revolved around food (eating it or cooking it). We're not gluttons I promise, we're just gastronomes.
Today, I am a combination of my parents' passion for food - I enjoy cooking as much as I enjoy eating out at places small and big. Food makes me happy like nothing else and like a true Bengali, I'm doubly happy when I have someone to make goo goo eyes at my food with. They say, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach - well the way to *this* woman's heart is definitely through her stomach. Treat me to a good meal and I will love you long time ;-)
You don't have to be born a Bengali in order to become one of course. If you grew up in Calcutta you are often a Bengali and food passionista by osmosis.
So, whether you're a Bengali by birth or a de facto Bong, I hope this Poila Boisakh is filled with an endless supply of good food and mishti. We might not know what year it is in the Bengali calendar, but we sure know how to celebrate it over a good meal ;-)
Here's to food...and being Bengali.
Shubho Nobo Borsho!