book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

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

Chitrita Banerji

Banerji, Chitrita;

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

Seagull 2001 / Penguin, 2007, 160 pages

ISBN 014400142X, 9780144001422

topics: |  food | india | bengal | bangladesh | history | recipe

Bengali Food: History, culture, variations

Takes you on a idiosyncratic journey through the intricate backlanes of
Bengali food.  Unfortunately, in her desire to address the non-Bengali
reader, Banerji often omits the Bangla name for these items, which I feel
is an irredeemable disrespect to the food.  I mean, what is food without
the name that evokes all its associations? For example, which red-blooded
bengali can relate to:
    karola, slimly chopped, combined with eggplant and daikon radish
   .. and made into a stir fry  p.40
How can the smell, taste, and texture of mUlo relate to "daikon"?  And a
chacchaRi as "stir fry"!  The other Bangla foodie, Buddhadeva Bose, was
eloquent on this:
    A "DAlna" is no more like a "'chachchaRi" than a horse is like a goat;
    to label both of them as "'curries" is just like using the term
    "quadruped" when the goat or horse is meant.
Precisely why language is more than reference, and "evening star" is not
the same as "morning star".   This is frequently a complaint of authors
from the non-western cultures, as in this passage from Octavio Paz's
Labyrinth of solitude

	When I commented to a Mexican friend on the loveliness of Berkeley,
	she said: "Yes, it's very lovely, but I don't belong here. Even the
	birds speak English. How can I enjoy a flower if I don't know its
	right name, its English name, the name that has fused with its colors
	and petals, the name that's the same thing as the flower? If I say
	bugambilia to you, you think of the bougainvillaea vines you've seen
	in your own village, climbing around an ash tree or hanging from a
	wall in the afternoon sunlight. They're part of your being...
					 - p.18

Actually this refusal to address the actual name can get rather irritating
- e.g. while discussing pnAchforan, fenugreek is given as an ingredient -
but since I didn't know what fenugreek was in bAMlA, I had to work out the
other four and eliminate them. (p.89)

But on the whole it makes for light, easy reading, uncovering many novel
facts.  For example, it seems that paneer is made differently from chhAnA
[though both are made by cutting with lemon juice!].  Most interesting was
that we Bengalis (Indians?) learnt about chhAnA from the Portuguese
queijos frescos.  Or that the bnoTi is an ancient pre-Aryan (iron age)


However, the research is weak, and some claims appear to be downright
erroneous.  For example, the whole (otherwise excellent) chapter on
chhAnA, is predicated on the claim that chhAnA is somehow unique to
Bengal.  But Banerji never addresses the difference, if any, with paneer.
Both are made by curdling milk (milk solids are separated with an acidic
additive).  The only difference is that paneer is usually congealed by
having more of its fluids squeezed out, whereas chhAnA receives a bit more
gentler treatment - but this is far from mandatory (one can find crumbled
paneer as well).  To my mind, this does  not constitute sufficient
distinction - at least not one that can be passed over in silence.

From her writing, it seems Banerji is quite unsure of these aspects,
and the difference is re-emphasized on p.116, where she lists paneer as a
separate type of cheese.

It seems that Banerji was not exposed to cooking as a child - food came to
her relatively late in life - still, such an misconception is rather
serious for someone who has been a food writer for many years now,
and puts a lot of her writing in question.

There are some other factual errors that indicate incomplete research.
Ghanaram Chakrabarti's Dharmamangal, is said to have been "composed
during the reign of Dharma Pal 775-810" - this would make it among the oldest
extant text in Bengali, older than Khanar bachan - but it was actually
composed nearly a millennium later.  Similarly, she is surprised to
discover a serendipity (p.13-14) that the English meaning of "loot" is
similar to the Bengali, but any etymology dictionary would have showed that
the English word actually comes from India.
[OED: loot, n. etym fr. Hindi lut, 1788; used in India-related contexts
	1850s and then more generally from 1876 onwards]

Other reviews

I found an echo of my discomfort with the anglicization of the terms in a
review in the Hindu, by food critic Arundhati Ray:

      The book is beautifully produced but the overall effect is somewhat
      marred by instances of editorial inconsistency. For example, in the
      chapter "The Bonti of Bengal" (in the first place, the absence of
      diacritics makes one automatically read the word with a hard `n' and
      thus the first response is to anticipate — with a degree of puzzlement
      — an essay on the role of the younger sister in Bengali culture!);
      bonti appears at times in italicised form and at other times
      de-italicised. And if `bonti' is italicised then why is `shil nora'
      (the grinding implement in Bengali kitchens) not? On the other hand,
      ghee is italicised throughout — without any justification since it has
      now officially entered the English language and is listed in the Oxford
      English Dictionary. There is also the rather uncomfortable
      juxtaposition of Bengali and English terms, like a sentence that lists
      "jasmine, bel, chameli, kamini, gardenias". Surely, there should have
      been some policy to ensure uniformity.


Vaishnav beginnings

"harir loot" of round, meringue-like batashas - "airy, brittle puffs of spun

Remarks on the serendipity of "loot" meaning the same in Dnglish and Bangla 13-14

[NOTE: no serendipity!!  English "loot" is from Hindi:
 LOOT (N.) :: 1788, Anglo-Indian, from Hindi lut, from Skt. lota-m "booty, stolen
    property." The verb is first attested 1842, from the noun.]

Her grandmother's Vaishnav altar: two deities:
Gopal - chubby smiling infant - bronze statue - always sat on altar
Krishna w Radha - he carved from a dense black stone, she from white marble -
	"every night the lovers were put to bed together in an exquisitely
	carved wooden bed, complete with bedposts and snow-white mosquito
	net.  In the morning, my gm would ceremoniously raise the mosquito
	net, lift the images out of bed, and install them on the throne
	reserved for them on the altar." 16

The power of Literature to become Real

On janmAshTamI, huge vegetarian meals - esp a sweet fritter (no bangla name)
	made from taal : sweet saffron pulp mixed w coconut (grated) and
	rice flour - a supposed favourite of Nanda, Krishna's adoptive father
	(not right) - all of us knew the song of nanda dancing joyfully as he
	ate these delicious fritters.  [tAAler baRA? ]
[AM: first the tAl fibers have to be removed by filtering, add a little
     banana - sometimes wheat flour (maydA) - fry in little balls]

As I grew older ... diminishing sense of joy and festivity in our family
life.  My grandfather's death put an end to those glorious evenings of
kirtan-singing - the singers had mostly been his friends. ... Krishna's birth
came and went but there were no 24-hr marathons of kirtan singing...

The lightweight life of Bengali widows

[widow-hood, and loss of power : ]
Comparatively isolated in her widowhood, my gm did not have the heart to
organize festivities as she had in earlier times.
[? Is the Bengali widow really lightweight?  Certainly she is deprived of
  family ties - but she still wields considerable authority perhaps? Thakuma? ]

posto - creamy whiteness very diff from the black poppy seeds of the west


Bangali mustard - sharShe - dark, Indian variety, are ground together with
   one or two fresh green chillies and a touch of salt.


Take a spoonful of sharShe, dark, small beads rolling around on your palm,
and put them on the wet pockmarked surface of the stone shIl.  take a couple
of green chillies.  add a dash of salt, a few droplets of water carried in
the palm, and start grinding them with the knobbly cylindrical stone - norA.
Holding the nora horizontally and rubbing back and forth, the mustard seeds
break and immediately the air fills with their pungency.  the black dots
transform into pungent yellow paste.

At mealtime, you are served a dollop of yellow paste next to the heap of rice.
You "break" the heap with your fingers, dragging a handful towards the front,
empty part of the knAshAr thAlA, and you mix the mustard paste into it,
flecks of green chilly in the yellow, your fingers kneading between the cool
of mustard and the steam of freshly broken rice, and then you lift it to your
mouth, the chilly and mustard mixing in your tongue and wafting up cleansing
pungency through the nose.  At this point, you lift the knAshAr thAlA with
your left hand, and drink some water.  ]

ALLIUM -- (large genus of perennial and biennial pungent bulbous plants:
	garlic; leek; onion; chive)

The range of Bangla food

The Bengali seems to have always had a sweet tooth. - KT Achaya, Indian Food

But the Bengali is also fond of bitters - shukta, nIm-begun,
ucche-bhAte... eaten not for penance [like the bitter herbs at passover]  but
as gustatory treats; CB is reminded of Sardinian bitter honey miele amaro] 39

karolA - a knobbly, green-skinned, white-fleshed vegetable of the
	 cucurbitae family, often inaccurately called bitter gourd. 39

Range of the Bengali palate - is it greater (by some measure) than other
culinary traditions?

DIMENSIONS of culinary taste:
    a. chilly / spiced  <--> bland  <-- may be a result of the availability
			of spices from ancient times
    b. bitter <--> sweet
Other aspects re: presentation - e.g. texture - grainy vs smooth,
But then, there are also very fine discriminations that matter.

true test of a Bengali cook is in the quality of her shukto - p.40

patent attempt by W.R. Grace of neem as fungicide - WRG implicated in
Massachussetts case of dumping chemicals - thrown out by European courts
after it was shown to have been traditionally used by Indian farmers

[irritating absence of Bangla names - e.g.
which red-blooded bengali can relate to:
   "karola, slimly chopped, combined with eggplant and daikon radish...
	and made into a stir fry"
How can the smell, taste, and texture of begun, or mUlo relate to that of
eggplant or - for heaven's sake - daikon? 40

ghoTi-bAngAl debate

Ghoti-Bangal (bAMAl) debate - in ghoTi cooking, sugar is added to shukto to balance
	the bitter.  The bangals prefer it bitter. 44  ??

In ghoTi discourse, Bangals are an unsophisticated lot, w the appetite of peasants,
	potfuls of mAchher jhol and mountains of rice.
A frequently quoted doggerel refers to Bangals as subhuman.  p.51

	I came to one conclusion that would infuriate most ghoTis,
	particularly if they heard it from one of their own ... there is a
	greater degree of adventurous inventiveness in the cooking of East
	Bengal.  ... Perhaps, under a prevailing sense of uncertainty (due to
	shifting rivers), you learn to make do with very little and yet turn
	it into something palatable... 52

Chitol koptA / _muiTThA p.52, recipe p.56
    When moving the spoon to scrape the flesh from the bony back portion, you
    have to be careful to move the spoon along the lines of the bones, or
    they will also come out.

Loose Moorings

[when she is about to go to Harvard for PG studies, opposed hints from
family] I was stricken with guilt and sorrow, but it was also a revelation.
I saw how far I had moved from my moorings, how ready I was to let go.

what is it in our society that devalues our own identities?  why is it that
we have no compunction to "let go" of our moorings?

Is it - a sense of being powerless, being less effective in influencing the
		world's events?
      - a sense of a better life (I doubt that alone),
      - a sense of "glamour", reinforced by the gifts brought in by the
		lifestyle of that expatriate uncle, whom we relate to the
		charracters in our story books, the Fatties and the George's
		from Enid Blyton novels, the daffodils on the Lake district,
		the high and mighty on Wall Street. ...

The word "glamour" is a bit specialized - it is an artificial creation, a
   product of the media.  The social consciousness created not by family or
   social discourse, or even the educational process, but a longing fostered
   by a sense of inadequacy in ourselves.  How do we discover this
   inadequacy?  It is perhaps a series of images...

- The image of the affluent NRI, living a lifestyle of fancy cars and
  a salary of lakhs, returning to India laden with gifts.
- The image of the American lifestyle, where everyone has a big car and a big
  house, and the aroma of sex is everywhere
- The image of our own poverty and limited means...

These images are so commonplace that we never even notice how these are
reinforced.  We accept these images without attending to them, for they form
the background of our everyday discourse, so established is the image that we
find nothing new or interesting to make us pay any further attention.
[see John Berger, Ways of Seeing ]

This image feeds into the general feeling all of us have, that the other side
must be greener, and reinforces its glamour.

In other nations, the glamour is different.  Some Japanese feel that there is
a glamour to India; some Germans I know feel a glamour for Africa.  ]

Perhaps the recent feeling of India beginning to count in the world, together
with the slowdown and US employees losing jobs ... may get noticed eventually.

Revulsion of Muslims

[she marries a Bangladesh muslim, co-student at Harvard]

[In how her parents and relatives tried to dissuade the marriage, there was]
An amazing fear and revulsion of Muslims, a community that I hadn't
personally encountered much in Calcutta. 63

[I wonder why we don't "encounter" the Muslims in Kolkata.  Of course, we
encounter them, at the restaurant, as the taxi driver, on College Street, and
also the occasional colleague - but surely far less than 1/5th of the Hindu
friends are Muslims.  Does one encounter Sardarjis more liberally?

Is this a religion-based distinction or a class-based one? ]

In Bangladesh: Differences in cuisine
A preponderance of onions - was used in CB's household only for meat

    My grandparents, in fact, never ate chicken, a 'heathen' bird associated
    with Muslims, like the onion itself.  One of my uncles had broken that
    household taboo and introduced his siblings to chicken, but never my
    grandparents.  63 ?? hnAs

Bangladesh food

[While living in Bangladesh]
I could not remain unaware of the daily religious reality of this new home.
no tinkling bells or resounding conch shells from temples and houses, but the
song of the muezzin sounding from minarets, calling the faithful to prayer
five times a day; no aesthetic rituals with flower leaf and perfume, but
austere obeisance on a prayer rug before an invisible god; no bustling,
tumultous crowds of men and women in temples ... but orderly, all-male prayer
assemblies in mosques.  God in this Muslim universe had no humanly definable
shape or form; the concept of incarnations was absurd, any thought of
offering him food every day and partaking of it unimaginable.  64

stacks of paper-thin chapattis made from freshly ground rice flour
	[in Bangladesh meal] 68
rice chappatties served during islamic festival - shab-e-barat - with an
	array of haluas. 69

[of the ilish, as well as the American shad:]
ANADROMOUS: -- (migrating from the sea to fresh water to spawn) 69
[To me, this sentence:
	"spawns during the monsoons in the estuarine waters and then travels
	upstream through Bengal to N India." 69
seemed to suggest that it lives in the upstream rivers, returning to the
estuarine area to spawn.  But it is most likely just infelicitous language.]
Banglapedia confirms the legendary story I knew:
	The fish is anadromous, with a life cycle that follows the general
	pattern of breeding upstream in fresh water and the larvae hatching
	from the free-floating eggs. The immature young stages grow in river
	channels and then descend to the sea for a period of feeding and
	growth before returning to the rivers as mature breeding adults to
	complete the cycle. - banglapedia:hilsa

Even the English made one of their few culinary contributions in the form of
smoked hilsa. 70

[Why do we have so little left of the British culinary processes?  While
British cooking has been far more broadly invaded?]

[hilsa blood is not washed off before cooking, to preserve the flavour - both
among hindus and muslims. (not clear about ghotis).

I wonder if this is true also of African tribes that consider blood a
delicacy, and from whose habits AIDS is supposed to have entered the human
world. ]

learns "Hilsa with ghee" recipe from cook in bangladesh - recipe not given

recipes: khashir rezala,
ilish paturi: nun-halud on fish, lankA + good helping of sharSher tel - wrap
	in banana leaf, tie with string and keep in embers of unun (or toast
	on tawa or flat pan over low heat, or oven 300F) - when top layer of
	leaf is burnt black, fish is ready.  Al foil can be used.

The Bonti of Bengal

baMla bhAShAr abhidhAn, by Jnanendramohan Das:
the term "bonti" derives from the language of the ancient tribal inhabitants of
E. India.  Das traces the word back to ancient Bengali narrative poems such
as Ghanaram Chakrabarti's poem Dharmamangal, composed during the reign of
Dharma Pal 775-810

[an error on the date of dharmamangal; banglapedia:
    Dharmamangal's original composer was Mayur Bhatta who is believed to have
    lived around the 15th century but no specimen of his work has been
    found. Other Dharmamangal composers are Rupram (c 16th century) and
    Manikram Ganguly (c mid-17th century). Yet another composer of
    Dharmamangal, Sitaram Das, may also have lived in the 17th century. The
    best-known poet of Dharmamangal is Ghanaram Chakravarti, whose version of
    the poem may be dated 1711.  ]

Historian Niharranjan Ray, bAMAlir itihAs:
presents compelling evidence of the indigenous people who settled Bengal long
before the Aryans and whose lg, customs and ritualistic beliefs still
permeate the cultural life of Bengal.  Ray also notes that Buddhist
terracotta sculptures from the days of the Pal dynasty depict people using
the bonti blade to cut and portion fish.  79

associated with a "floor-oriented" culture, as in Japan.  It is only ~19th
c. that the living room / drawing room get to have couches, chairs and

[I still remember the transition to tables in mAmAbARi - around 1970, while
dAdu was alive perhaps, or maybe pafter dAdu's death.  the kitchen was
downstairs, and chhoTomAmA while rushing to catch the 8:18 shAntipur
galloping would be permitted a meal at the table under the Adh-talA stairs,
and we western-raised brats would be permitted to eat there as well - and
eventually it morphed into the dining table for all.]

Usually two bnoTis - one Amish - slightly larger for removing scales from
fish etc - and the other nirAmiSh.  Ansh-boTi
 "itinerant experts roam the cities with
special equipment for sharpening bontis and knives" 81
[AM: special equipment = a grinder mounted on the rear bicycle wheel]

Sexual connotations of the bonti

The bonti was also reputedly used by women "to defend themselves and their
homes against gangs of armed robbers who attacked prosperous homesteads when
the men were away." 82

[netA was trying to do something w woman cut off his penis]

Bengali literature contains ... recurring images [of the woman at the bonti]
as young and demure, sitting with her head bent... Often a married woman is
pictured, her head modestly covered with the end of her sari, whose colourful
border frames her face and hair.  But the discreet posture and modest
covering are a foil for a flirtatious element in extended family life, which
offers virtually no privacy.  A man - whether husband or a romantic interest
- can expect many eloquent, sidelong glances cast with surreptitious turns of
the head as the woman goes about her domestic tasks with the bonti.

An extension of this mild titillation is found in shobhA, a fascinating
album of photographs by Gurudas Chattopadhyay publ around 1930.  His
photographs portray some of Calcutta's best known prostitutes and are
obviously intended for erotic stimulation.  But this is no Playboy collection
- each woman is fully-clothed and seated before a bonti!  Straight back,
parted legs (one crossed, the other raised), the coy eyes peeking out from
under the sari covering her head.  To the Bengali viewer, the bonti [was
part] of an uniquely erotic vision of the female figure.

crushes on boudis and wife of brother.  Amazingly this is a relation which
has no name other than the compound bhrAtribadhu in an otherwise rich
relationship nomenclature of shAlAs and boudi's and nanads and shAlis:

Spouse names:
	dada	bhAi	bon
Spouse	boudi	??	jAmAi
		[no conv w her, by shashur or bhAsur; only the formal
		compound bhrAtri-badhu]


	Husband's   Wife's
bhAi    deyor     shAlA         deyor=Thakurpo
dAdA    bhAsur    shAlA
sister  nanad     shAlI         nanad=ThAkurjhi;
dada-W  boudi     ?? [not staying tog?]
bhAi-W  ?? [didi already married off]
sis-H   nandai    bhAyrAbhAi

Five little seeds: pnAchfoRan

pnAchfoRan: jire,    kAlojire,   mouri,   methi       shaRShe
          cumin    nigella     fennel   fenugreek     mustard
cumin cyminum; mentioned in bible; used in Rome as per Apicus
brassica juncea (brown variety)
Foeniculum vulgare : fennel
Trigonella Foenumgraecum : greek hay

recipes: nArkel Alur chacchaRi / bhAjA muger DAl

what bengali widows cannot eat

whenever the thAn covering their heads slipped off, CB would be
	overcome with an urge to rub my hands over their prickly scalps,
	resembling the spherical yellow white-bristled flowers of the kadam
	tree.  98

part of restrictions on diet was also an attempt to have the widows die
sooner - property would then inhere to the successor males.
[AM: after all, the earlier institution was that of sati. ]

Despite deprivations, household drudgery and the imposition of many fasts
[AM: maybe becausee of this last?]
widows sometimes live to a great age, and the gifted cooks among them have
contributed greatly to the range, originality and subtlety of Hindu
vegetarian cooking in Bengal.

A 19th c food writer once said that it was impossible to taste the full glory
of vegetarian food unless your own wife became a widow. 102

How Bengal discovered chhAnA

chhAnA - only in Bengal  107
[Is paneer really different?
	made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice or other food acid. ...
	Most varieties of paneer are simply pressed into a cube and then
	sliced or chopped, although the eastern Indian variety (known as
	"sanaa" in Assameseছানা chhana in Bengali and ଛେନା chhena in Oriya)
	is beaten or kneaded like mozzarella, and crumbles more easily than
	the North Indian variant of paneer.
This does not come across clearly, on p.116 she lists paneer, thereby
separating it from chhAnA - but this divide is not elaborated any further!]

The most famous Bengali sweets - sandesh and rasagolla - are both from
chhAnA, which was unknown until recent times.

A famous turn of the century food writer, Bipradas Mukhopadhyay, in his 1906
book, miShTAnna pAk (making sweets), documents the diff types of milk and
their qualities as set down by the ancients.  Cows, goats, and ewes, water
buffaloes, camels, mares, female elephants, and women.  Cow's milk is second
only to human milk in its wide ranging benefits.  108

All milk: tasty, soothing, energizing, cool, rich, sperm-generating, reducing
bile and gout, and conducive to phlegm.  108

chhaRAs of bengal replete with images of milk that connote plenty and
prosperity.  Kings annointed w milk and butter; princesses bathe in milk.
Young girls hope to improve complexion by washing face w milk.  Mothers who
suddenly encounter long-lost children suddenly find their breasts sprouting
milk.  Rivers of milk, rippling waves of milk, lakes of milk, trembling
layers of thickened milk, even oceans of milk recur in myths, folktales,
poetry and song.  109

[why no acid-cut milk until the Portuguese]
Deep conviction about the fragility of milk - introducing alien element is
harmful - after the churning of the ocean of milk, nectar of immortality
comes out, and what was left behind were the salt-water ocean of today. 110

16th c. chandimangalkAbya by mukundarAm chakrabarti:
    shiva, who is considered choleric and prone to violence, eats foods
	cooked w pungent mustard oil, not ghee.
    vishnu: more sattvika foods - tender vegetables cooked in ghee, desserts
	from milk, etc.

17th c. krishnadAs kabirAj's chaitanyacharitAmrta (1612) : lists the
vegetarian (a novelty) meals of Nimai at his many admirers':
	A staggering variety of sweets are mentioned... many made from
	puffed, popped, or flaked rice, combined with white or brown sugar or
	kheer.  Others from coconut, ground legumes, or sesame seeds.
	Impressive array of milk-based sweets - kheer mixed with sliced
	mangos, sweet yogurt, and items like
	   - dugdha-laklaki : rAbri - layers of sar, cut into squares and
		   floating in mildly sweetened milk.
	   - sarbhAjA : fried in ghee and soaked in syrup
	   - _sarpuria: fried in ghee, layered w crushed almonds, khoa kheer,
		   cardamom, soaked in sweetened milk.
	   - sandesh: sweetened pellets of khoa kheer [not chhAnA]

In myths of Krishna, or in N. Indian sweets even now, sweets made of
solidified kheer; never chhAnA

The Portuguese connection

chhAnA came with the Portuguese style of queijos frescos [fresh cheese, made
into cakes of about 3 inches in diameter.  When mature, they are firm, with a
strong flavour.  When fresh, they are soft and spreadable.

Even now, at New Market, one can buy "bandel cheese" - cakes of fresh cow's
milk cheese, remarkably similar to the queijos frescos.

The earliest traders were the Portuguese who discovered the direct sea
route.  For almost the entire 16th c. Portugal virtually monopolized this

They settled in Goa, and also in Hooghly in Bengal.  Had a fearsome
reputation since some of them used their navigation skills to commit daring
acts of piracy along the coast as well as in the interior where the numerous
rivers served as primary conduits... Many of them intermarried with the
locals, paving the way for a more intimate exchange with the locals.  Among
the new crops they introduced were tobacco, potato, cashew, papaya, guava,
and a host of vegetables.

Simon/Schuster Pocket guide to Cheese, and Geoffrey Campbell-Platt's
Fermented foods of the World:
Two cheeses of Bengal: chhAnA and bandal.

Bandel cheese - originated from the Portuguese settlements at Hooghly
       [ portuguese called Hooghly "Ugolim"], near
Bandel [etymology: from "bandar" = port;
Present Bandel church replaced an earlier Portuguese one from 1599 which was
       razed to the ground by the Mughal armies after recapturing the town in
       1632.  The keystone of the original church, with the date 1599, was
       saved by one Gomez de Soto during the sack of the town. 117

K.T. Achaya:  By the 2nd half of the 17th c., [the Portuguese settlers]
	numbered 20,000, with some at Rajmahal.
	"They loved cottage cheese, which they made by "breaking" milk with
	acidic materails.  This routine technique may have lifted the Aryan
	taboo on deliberate milk curdling and given the traditional Bengali
	moira [confectioner] a new raw material to work with." 117

Francois Bernier, 1659-1666: "Bengal likewise is celebrated for its
	 sweetmeats, especially in places inhabited by the Portuguese, who
	 are skilful in the art of preparing them and with whom they are an
	 article of considerable trade." 117

why is chhAnA-based sweets are rarely made at home?  Bangladeshi historian
Prof. Abdur Razzaque, suggests that Muslim chefs were more open to this
"heathen" invention, and it was initially made professionally.
[But this is doubtful:
  The practice, once started, still prevails. 122]

Bipradas Mukhopadhyay 1906: names of sandesh:
  - AbAr khAbo, praNoharA, manoraNjan, nayantArA, AhlAdey putul, and also
    "good morning", and "lord ripon" 121

[even in terms of vocabulary, the portuguese words in Bengali - jAnAlA,
pAuruTi, appear to be more evocative of new styles of living]

milk is relatively expensive ...
annadAmangal-kAbya by bhAratchandra rAy 1753 - ferryman is not swayed from
	the path of virtue, and finally goddess annadA appears before him; he
	asks merely that his descendants may be able to eat rice with milk. 135


1 The Hour of the Goddess 1
	reminiscing from Boston - don't know why this is there
2 Feeding the Gods 11
	excellent description of her grandmother's personal connection with
	the gods, and her own role as the little favourite.
3 Patoler Ma 27
	Shil norA, sharShe bATA.  insubstantial
4 A Dose of Bitters 35
	Well researched article on karola tradition.  Speculations on why we
	Bengalis like bitter so much.  Would be nice if there was a more
	scientific angle.
5 Food and Difference 47
	Ghoti-bangal divide.  Well presented.
6 Crossing the Borders 59
	Bangladesh.  Somehow the mix of the personal doesn't click as well as
	in the early chapters.
7 The Bonti of Bengal 75
	attempt to portray bnoti as sexy is interesting
8 Five Little Seeds 85
	bare description - not much substance - again a scientific look would
	have helped
9 What Bengali Widows Cannot Eat 95
	more a memoir about her mother, doesn't work that well
10 How Bengal Discovered ‘Chhana’ 105
	excellent chapter - learned a lot; something that I am eager to
	research further.  however, difference between paneer and chhAnA, the
	backbone of the argument, does not appear to be valid.
11 Food, Ritual and Art in Bengal 125
	meandering discussion of folk art - disjointed, doesn't fit in

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] gmail) 2013 Apr 21