Thursday, January 22, 2009

"French Toast" Recipe

This version of french toast is very different from the version we Americans grew up with. Instead of a sweet dish, this is a savory Kolkata street food version and very tasty as well.


3 pieces of bread

1- 2 eggs

3 small Thai chillis, cut crosswise into small pieces

Oil, enough to just cover bottom of pan(2 Tbsp)



Toast bread and cut in half diagonally. Starting with one egg, beat it in a bowl and add diced chillis, salt and pepper to taste to this. If egg is finished before all the bread is used up, add another egg.

Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Dip pieces of toast in egg and chilli mixture, soaking it well. When pan is heated, place egg- soaked toast into pan and cook until slightly browned. If you feel the uncooked side needs alittle bit more egg mixture, drizzle it on as needed. Flip toast over and brown on other side. You may add more chillis if you like it hotter.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Hey Babe, Let's Get Married In Venice...

my husband, then fiance said to me one day. Wow! I was totally shocked! How could a serious Bengali guy be this romantic? "Why Italy"? I asked. "Why not?"he said.
We had looked for many destination wedding organizations in Italy on the internet and found "Weddings Italy" (fabulous organization and I would recommend it to anyone). After speaking with them via e-mail and phone, we decided that this was the one we would use. Lovely people and so accomadating , helpful, and friendly. We also decided that it would only be the two of us so who to invite and not to invite was never an issue and decided to wear our own cultural wedding gear. I wore the white wedding dress one dreams about all their lives and Sarat(SHO-rote) wore a beautiful beige kurta pyjama with a burgundy long scarf. He looked fabulous and I didn't look too shabby myself. Ohh, and all this was decided just three weeks before we decided to get married. We had to arrange all of the details while I was still working and he was in Calcutta visiting family before he was to start a new job. He had just acquired an new job in South Florida so after returning home from Italy, he flew to Florida the next day while I stayed to work my notice and be there when the movers came, then joined him in Florida two weeks later.

So our wedding was everything we had hoped it would be. The weather was predicted to be rainy on September 1, 2005 but I woke up to a lovely warm summer day. Our wedding package did not include a gondola ride to Palazzo Cavalli (the city hall where our ceremony was held) so the day before, we arranged for a gondola to take us to the venue(we could have actually walked to it in 5 minutes but what fun is that?). At 11:30 that thursday morning, Our wedding planner Barbara arrived and made sure everything was perfect and helped me get into my wedding dress. it was amazing from that point forward. The hotel was situated on a square beside a waterway. Alighting on the square from the doorway of the hotel was a lovely experience and one that made me realize that the day was truly about us. When we walked out onto the square, tourists stopped immediately and clapped, cheered, and took pictures. Sarat looked at me with a large grin on his face and said "this is embarassing". I loved it and felt like a celebrity. We then walked over to the gondola with Sarat holding the back of my dress up off the ground so it wouldn't get wet or dirty. The hotel manager who was so lovely in arranging the gondola for us and our wedding planner were waiting for us beside the boat. He looked at me and asked if he could kiss the bride.I looked at him and said "of course"so he then planted the two- cheek traditional Italian greeting kiss on me and helped me into the boat. Let me tell you when you see a long skinny boat and you are wearing a poofy white dress, the last thing you want to do is get in that boat and try to sit down, but I did and it was great. It is funny to look at the video and see this happen again, and again and again.

The boat ride was absolutely splendid! Along with us in the boat were the photographer and the videographer as well as the gondolier. People in other boats would wave and shout at us along the way and all of a sudden we could hear churchbells chiming and decided they were ringing especially for us. I wonder if the photographer and videographer thought we were the most boring couple they had ever photographed because we basically sat and talked to each other, the gondolier, and them. No hugging or kissing(do you know how many people in India will see this video? No public affection allowed). The best incident happened as we were approaching the Rialto Bridge. A water taxi plowed by us filled to the brim with people and they all cheered, yelled, and applauded us, then all the folks on top of the bridge looked then shouted and clapped . I felt like I was in the royal wedding and being photographed by the papparazi. It was really wonderful. My husband is not one to be the center of attention. I don't mind it once in a while so i enjoyed it, if only for one day.

We arrived at Palazzo Cavalli and our wedding planner was already there waiting for us. She also served as our interpreter for the ceremony as it was conducted in Italian and by law you are required to have one so you know what's going on. It was a beautiful old bulding and the room was lovely. That day of September 1, 2005 was one of the happiest and funnest, days of our lives and it all transpired in Italian. How great is that?

After exiting the venue, we met more people outside that clapped and wished us good luck in Italian. there was even a tourist who came up to us and asked if she could have her picture made with us so we are featured in somebody's Italy vacation photogrpahs.The next two hours were filled with posing at various points around St. Mark's Square and in a lovely courtyard of a very old home. The photographs he took were fantabulous, enhanced by great lighting, plays on perspective, and motion. Right after the ceremony we went to and internet cafe and called both our families telling them we were married. They were all very happy and wished us well.

That evening we went out on to St. Mark's Sqaure (not in our wedding attire). In front of the rows of shops bordering the square are a few canopied areas outside of restaurants featuring string quartets and other bands. You could sit out there and listen, dance, and drink to songs you requested. It was such a lovely way to spend our last evening there.

The next day we flew to the United kingdom to spend the weekend with his brother and his family in the northern part of the country. I had not met them and found out how lucky I was to acquire a great brother -in-law(dada which means older brother), sister-in-law(bodi) and a wonderful neice and nephew. I so enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them a little bit. I have found that every time I meet new Bengalis they always make me feel very welcomed and like I have known them for a long time. Sarat's long time friends who live not very far from where I grew up were the same way. We went to show them our wedding video before we moved to Florida . I had never met them and when they opened the door, he hugged me and said "Welcome to the family." I just love him and his whole family immensely.

Upon arrival from London to the U.S. we had discovered my parents had come to our apartment and left balloons and a handwritten sign with good wishes for a happy life written on it outside the door. My Parents were very happy that I had finally gotten married because I feel sure they never thought I would. His family felt the same way. we certainly proved them all wrong.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Born to a career Air Force father and a stay at home mom in the midsixties, no wonder I developed a love for travel,appreciation for other cultures, cooking and learning. Moving around alot was always exciting but a little daunting to a very shy person like myself. Many summers and holidays were spent with cousins, aunts uncles and grandparents in a very small southeastern town, all holed up together in a very small, but very loving home. We picked vegetables from mama's(pronounced maah -maah, lord knows we would get in trouble if we called her grandma)garden and spent many days shelling peas and stringing beans on her screened -in front porch. My grandmothers made homemade everything and their biscuits were fabulous, as well as homemade Ice cream, fried chicken, peach cobbler,creamed(mashed) potatoes and sauerkraut. I think my love for cooking was germinated here while I was very young.For summer entertainment we rode bikes, went to "coon dawg races", camped out,played games, and hung out.I remember many times spent with cousins, after receiving a tape recorder for christmas in 1975, recording family conversations,and making goofy spoofs of tv shows, commercials and the olympics on cassette tape.

After retiring at the age of 45 from a 27 year military career, my dad moved us to a small southern US town near their hometown so my older brother could attend college. My life was spent as a typical kid growing up in 70's and 80's America; eating pizza, going to the movies(loved "Grease"), watching the Hardy Boys on t.v.(wasn't Parker Stevenson dreamy?), listening to records(Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, Earth wind and Fire, Beatles, and KC and the Sunshine Band just to name a few) going to school dances, vehemently reading Nancy Drew books, and hanging out with friends. I went to college twice, once as a traditional student, then as a much older student in my thirties, earning a degree in nursing.

I married my husband who is from Calcutta, West Bengal, India at the age of 41. I have always told him(he disagrees somewhat) that Bengali culture and food are very similar to southern culture and food. We have so much in common. We are both younger siblings of older brothers, our cultures are conservative, and both are very close to our extended families. Both our families love their daughter -in -law and son- in -law immensely. We both love to travel, eat, learn and cook. Bengali food and southern food use lots of okra, beans, peas, rice, homemade breads, potatoes, all made with lots of love.
We now make our home in the New York City area.

With this blog I would like to relay my experiences and insights as an American who married a Bengali guy. I hope to relay to you recipes, thoughts, poetry, and other things that I find interesting to discuss. I do not claim to be an expert in Bengali cooking or southern cooking, I only will relay things that I have learned from my mother-in-law and others. I don't chose to be political and I hope I will not offend. I would love to hear from others concerning similar experiences and answering any questions one may have.

Welcome to my World.