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DEBASISH BHATTACHARYA

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 5/15/2016 |




SONGSOPTOK: What, according to you, is the most important place in your house for communicating with the different members of the family? Why?

DEBASISH: It varies. When I am with my spouse it is either living room or dinner table; sometimes it is bedroom. For interacting with my daughter it is either a corner of her room or in my study. Kitchen is a common but important place for all of us occasionally, especially when I cook and my daughter entertains me with her pranks. 


SONGSOPTOK: In a lot of homes, kitchens are considered to be the nerve center where the whole family congregates at regular periods of the day. Is that the case in your home? Can you give us a brief description of such interactions?

DEBASISH: Occasionally the whole family gets in and interact as I cook and others share utilizing the time after the day’s jobs done at each one’s end.


SONGSOPTOK: Do you consider cooking as a chore or do you enjoy cooking meals for family and friends? What is it you like most about cooking? What do you like least?

DEBASISH: It is of course a chore for running the daily show, but I am extremely passionate about cooking. So considering this as a regular essential to do, I am more interested in cooking for keeping my creativity alive in this art. The most happiness yielding part of cooking is when my cuisines / delicacies / simple dishes are appreciated by my family and friends. I do not have any dislike for any of the cooking processes as I do all by myself with love…., peeling, cutting, chopping, grinding, roasting, frying, boiling all of it.


SONGSOPTOK: When you were growing up, did you often visit the kitchen? Was it to raid the fridge or to spend some time with whoever was cooking the meal?

DEBASISH: I have gem of memories spending time in the kitchen as a child or while growing up. Spent quality time watching my Maa cooking heavenly delicacies standing at the door, sometimes with a bowl and a spoon wishing to taste what were cooked. I had collected all nitty-gritties of cooking from Maa, from spices to background stories. It was such a rich learning process that one seldom gets. I consider me fortunate for getting such guidance from her.


SONGSOPTOK: Were the cooks mainly women in your family? Did they teach you how to cook? Do you have family recipes that you cook frequently?

DEBASISH: I was brought up in a joint family and in my childhood there was Baro Mashe Tero Parbon at home…lots of Pujas. Usually kitchen was dominated by women of the house led by my Maa. But during Pujas Bhog cooking was done by my father and uncles as those were made in very large and heavy bell metal vessels not easy to be handled by women. Both my parents were great cooks. And after our sacred thread ceremony all brothers got hands-on training in cooking Bhog (vegetarian dishes) from male members of the family.

I have memorized a large number of family recipes which I often cook till now. Non-veg and veg, I am equally at ease cooking these traditional/ authentic / family recipes.


SONGSOPTOK: Is your kitchen different from your parents’ or grandparents’ kitchens? In what way? Are there features that you particularly miss? Why?

DEBASISH: Yes, in metro living the kitchen has got a lot of transformation for erstwhile days to present. I miss large earthen hearths sometimes used for firewood especially for some roasted delicacies. This is mainly due to scarcity of space available in present day flats.


SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that cooking habits always reflect the culture and the practices of the societies we live in? Why? Do you consider this to be a positive or a negative point?

DEBASISH: Yes I think that cooking habits develop over generations and not overnight. This is an integral part of culture like dressing, house-types, social systems, customs, etc. which develop taking long courses of time and getting approval by the societies. Moreover, all these happen being there in a regional environment and help the societies to cope suiting to the call of the environment. This is a very positive aspect of any culture and provides identity to the followers of that particular culture.


SONGSOPTOK: What kind of food do you like to cook – traditional family dishes / traditional dishes of the country / society you live in / innovative and experimental cooking / fusion cooking / … Will you share some of your favorite recipes with us?

DEBASISH: I cook all varieties of food but especially fond of cooking traditional / family recipes which due to elaborate processing are avoided by people who are more into fast track living in metros. I cook and document olden golden recipes hoping that our future generations may like and cook and thereby protect these from going into oblivion. My most favourite recipes include Ilisher Bhapa or Paturi, Mongol Koru, Lau Khosar Chochchori, Murighonto, Mutton Kosha,  Slow Cooked Chicken in Red Wine Mariade, Railway Mutton Curry, Bhetki Fry, Chicken Ghee Roast, Chalkumro Patar Bora, Kumro Phool Bhaja, Lauer Beshwari, Arh Machher Shorshe Jhal, Chicken Adorini Kebab, Koi Machher Hara Gouri, Jhinger Sukto, Tyangara Machher PNiaj Lobonger Jhol, Chicken Do-PNiaza, Pabda Machher Begun Borir Jhol, Mohini Malpowa, Abhinabo Dhodhi Bartaku, Red Snapper Fry, Changu Whole Fish Fry, Chambo Fish Roast, Chicken Achari Fry, Avocado-Yogurt, Parsi Egg Salad, Shiuli Pata Bhaja, Mulo Bhaja, Chalkumror Pore Bhaja and so on. It is difficult to restrict my favourite recipes in such a short list.


SONGSOPTOK: In this context, do you favor the restaurants that offer the so called traditional food? Or would you rather cook it yourself? What is your experience, if any, about these ‘retro’ eateries?

DEBASISH: See I do venture out for retro eateries, but my interest of cooking always encourages me to do it myself. It is such a pleasure to create something special for the family and friends at the dinner or lunches.


SONGSOPTOK:  ‘Fusion cuisine’ has become very popular almost everywhere around the globe. What is your opinion about this trend? Are you an adept of this type of cuisine? Why?

DEBASISH: Some new experiments are welcome but I am averted to Fusion Cuisine for everything possible. May be that new things attract people, but I am not an easy game for such attempts.


SONGSOPTOK: Do you watch live cooking shows on TV? What is your opinion about them? Do you think that these programs, immensely popular in almost all countries in the world now, have actually contributed to better cooking and food habits?

DEBASISH: Yes I watch cookery shows on TV when I get time. But it is a big No if you ask me about their contribution to better cooking and food habits.


SONGSOPTOK: Do you teach your children to cook? Do you think that a lot of our traditions can be handed down to the next generation through cooking and food habits? Why and in how?

DEBASISH: yes, I always encourage my daughter to assist me in cooking so that she can learn it while watching me, gossiping and find cooking not painful but entertaining and interesting.



DEBASISH BHATTACHARYA is a Freelance Social Development Specialist working for various large-scale infrastructure development projects both in India and abroad. Basically a Social Anthropologist turned Regional Planner and have a Ph.D. in Social Sciences from IIT, Kharagpur he is fond of cooking, painting, dress designing, writing travelogues, gardening and spending quality time with wife and nurturing his daughter to become a good human being.



We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)

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