Last week I went home to Calcutta for a brief visit. Those two days were filled with delicacies of all sorts, including the most esoteric dessert. Actually the presence of some seasonal delicacies brought to mind the absence of others – like the Bengalis’ pride and joy, the Himsagar mango. I did get to eat “taaler bora” and “taal kheer” cooked lovingly by my aunt – a skill that my mothers’ generation would take to their grave rather than teach me.
Mother: Huh. Your generation has neither the time nor patience to learn these complex dishes…
Me: But who will make these for me when I’m eighty?
Aunt: Be realistic! You don’t even own a karai, how will you deep-fry the boras?
Yes. Unfortunately I gave up deep-frying (so unhealthy!) and so forfeited my chance to learn the art of taaler bora.
Me: But at least, taal kheer?
Mother & Aunt: No!
Mother: You have no patience!
My chances of cooking taaler bora thwarted, I set out to buy some Bengali sweets to take back to Delhi with me. But horror or horrors, the shops were selling all Marwari and Punjabi sweets!
Where was kheer kadamb, with the powdery white shell and the juicy centre? Where was dorbesh, that beautiful jewel-like sphere?
Nor tilkoot – made from sesame seeds – or jibegoja – the sweet I most identify with!
I was reeling from the shock. Finally I had to go searching across town looking for some real Bengali sweetshops.
In the end with much difficulty I found some simple sandesh…but I am still in shock.]