‘I needed my character’s voice to be the collective voice of a modern-day girl’
Posted by Paromita Chakrabarti | New Delhi |
October 14, 2020 2:50:37 pm
When she started her blog, Bong Mom’s Cookbook, in 2006, writing about Bengali recipes that she grew up with and wanted her daughters to enjoy, New Jersey blogger Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta did not expect an exciting trip that would give her. Over the past 15 years and the best cookbook ever since, Mukherjee Datta has now found his first book, Let Delicious Letters (Rs 299, HarperCollins) which is, surprisingly, a meal in between with a 40-year-old woman. the two are trying to get it all together. In asking this, the author speaks of his deception and learns to reconsider food during the plague. Notes:
Food, recipes, stories – your first book, The Happy Letters, seems to be leaving you on your way to Bengali cuisine. How old was the book?
(Laughs) Except for food, (that’s not what it is). However, many readers send me a message to say how they feel about the protagonist, Shubha. I wanted Shubha’s voice to be the voice of a modern woman, her small trials and joys in daily life, her mindset of being able to walk away from her childhood home and her spunk to take risks and take every second chance to come even if they don’t expect it. I think this is in line with many Indian women.
When did the idea for this book come to you?
The ideas of a million books always come out of the back of my head, especially on my one-hour trip to work. The challenge is to write on paper, among other things, between the two book covers.
I love reading food books and manuscripts. Even as I write my first book, I want to read a food book in the back of the Indian diaspora where Indian food plays. However, there was none. There were notes on the menu, food notes, cookbooks but not Indian food. You may have heard the saying ‘If you can’t find the book you want to read there, write it’. I took this to heart and wrote a food book that I would love to read. It took about four years for the new idea to grow as good as it could, just because I write about a hundred other things and take my time.
How was it different from writing a book from your old cookbook (Book Mom’s Cookbook, 2013)?
It was a lot of fun. Myths give you freedom, and, at times, you feel like a god, capable of creating or destroying lives! It’s scary, a lot of responsibilities, but it’s fun.
Ever since you started the blog, how do you feel about the Indian diet that has changed among those living abroad?
When I started blogging, Indian food was not as divisive as it is now. There were several plates representing India to the people. Gradually, this changed and we noticed food from different areas; Pop-ups and pop-ups have grown – one from northern India may now have known that aloo post is a Bengali dish. I have also learned about Kashmiri cuisine through rogan josh or more, say, Konkani homemade food. Over time, I see more and more food coming. This is great and you learn a lot about different cultures through food, but I feel that, in some cases, it also contributes to social divisions. In some cases, people may have a larger share in their diet.
Can you help us figure out how your relationship with food has changed?
Like most people, I loved food but didn’t care until I left home. The farther I left home, the closer I got to her food.
The need to inform my daughters about my childhood was growing, and I began to cook a lot. Gradually, as I got to the beginning, I began to want to know more about where the secret came from, why we ate what we did and I was fascinated by reading food notes, reminders and food history. Now, I look for food with love and respect and I also eat positively.
I have been very comfortable with what I eat. I try to order hidden items from the menu, often regretting it later! When we plan a trip to a new place, I spend a lot of time researching local foods.
The plague has been a very different time, especially in India. One of the surprises of what has happened is how the middle class has turned this into a pornographic time when many people are starving. You posted this on your Instagram feed but what do you think of this?
The plague has been devastating in various ways. As I said in my writing, I sometimes blamed myself and shared food and cooking at home when the plague hit. However, there are two sides to the matter. On the one hand, there were the future smart workers, their families, migrant workers whose jobs were ruined. On the other hand, there were people who struggled to stay at home, some who did not understand the importance of social diversity, some who did not enjoy online school, some who were afraid of losing their money, some who could not go to their loved ones, some just wanted to go out.
If the second group of people could benefit in any way from the good things in food, art, music and other television broadcasts then I don’t see any problem. The main thing is that it helped people to stay home and be safe.
Has the epidemic affected your use of ingredients?
During the epidemic, our visits were banned and we had to carefully prepare what we cooked and ate… In most cases, what I wanted to get when I used the internet was over and we had to do without them. It really was a valuable lesson in life. We did not buy things that we did not need, and we loved what we had. I hope to continue the same in the future.
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