My Bengali Family

I ring the door bell and am greeted with a big hug from my best friend Dovi. We were college roommates, and have kept in touch in the four years since.

She invites me into the kitchen, where her mother is preparing lunch. I give her mom a big hug, and she smiles and asks me what I’m up to these days. Dovi’s mom is no-nonsense about food, and continues to create beautiful edibles while we catch up.

Soon Dovi’s dad walks in, Baba. He’s wearing a white sweater, and has a sense of humor like always. I tell him that I am aiming to be a journalist right now, and he warms my heart as he tells me that it is a noble profession.

Dovi’s family is from the Indian part of the region of Bengal. Bengal is politically divided between the country of Bangladesh and India. One third of Bengal lies on the Eastern side of India, and the rest is in Bengladesh. In 2011 the population was about 250 million, making Bengal the most densely populated area in South Asia. Bengalis are Muslims and Hindus, but most Muslims live in Bengladesh and Hindus live in India. The language spoken is Bengali, and it is the 10th most spoken language in the world.

Dovi’s parents moved to America when her dad was in college, before she was born. They have made their home here, and they have a tight knit Bengali community in Kansas where they live.

We sit down to eat, and Dovi’s mom serves up the food. Bengali food usually contains a good amount of fish and meat, but because I am a vegetarian, Dovi’s mom always includes an abundance of vegetarian dishes for me.

Channa Masala is first. Channa is a classic Indian dish consisting of chick peas cooked in tomato sauce, garlic and ginger with cilantro garnish.

Basmati rice is a staple in Bengali food, and it is served with dal (lentils cooked to a soup like consistency.).

Next up is eggplant. I dream about Dovi’s mom’s eggplant. I have no idea what it consists of, for all I know it might just be plain eggplant

During this visit, Dovi’s mom also makes a new dish that I’ve never tried before: kachori. It’s sort of like the traditional Indian flatbread (naan), but with ground green peas and peppers inside of it. It is amazing, and Dovi and I about eat all the kachori by ourselves.

We also pile curried potatos and peas, along with spiced black eyed peas on top of our plates.

We eat with our hands, using the kachori to scoop up lentils and potatos. When the kachori runs out, we use just our hands to eat. Food is scooped up under the right hand index, middle and ring finger, and then pushed into the mouth with the thumb. It’s an art, and Dovi is much more skilled at eating this way, so I soon pick up a fork.

Dovi’s mom keeps insisting and insisting that we take more, eat more. Eat, eat, eat. I have no problem complying, and soon have consumed a very healthy, very hearty meal.

 

A few hours later when I leave, Dovi’s mom packs Tupperware containers of the food for me to take home. She’s been doing this ever since college, when Dovi and I shared a refrigerator full Bengali food.

 

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