For your tastebuds - food from Tagore’s home (Eating Out With IANS)

August 11th, 2011 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 11 (IANS) Kebabs with Turkish spices, steamed hilsa, cauliflower sandesh… Once perfected in the kitchens of Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral mansion Jorasanko and relished by the Nobel laureate, these dishes have made their way to a city restaurant here.

From celebrities like singer Usha Uthup to percussionist Bikram Ghosh to commoners, many have been sampling these delicacies at 6, Ballygunge Place for the past week as the festival coincided with the 70th death anniversary of the bard.

“What better way to pay homage to the great man than to offer food of his liking to people,” said S. Ramania of 6 Ballygunge Place.

“We did a lot of research before preparing the dishes. We consulted several books, including that of litterateur Pragya Sundari Devi, which dealt with cuisines cooked during the time of Tagore.”

Pragya Devi, a scion of the Tagore family, used to write a column in a vernacular news paper on various recipes. That perhaps was the first column of its type. Later the columns were compiled into a recipes book, said Ramania.

The food festival ‘Thakurbarir Bhoj’ started Aug 5 and gave people an opportunity to indulge in delicacies cooked during the poet’s era. It is on till Friday.

The Tagores were frequent travellers and would often come back with recipes they liked. Their cooking was an assimilation of different flavours from India and abroad.

“From bhapa (steamed) hilsa to roasted mutton with pineapple, to kebab with Turkish spices, people got to taste a wide variety of dishes. Among the desserts was ‘chandrapuli’, a favorite dish of Tagore,” said chef Shushant Sengupta.

With 15 dishes to choose from, including a wide variety of fish preparations, foodies were spoilt for choice.

Another surprise was a sandesh made of cauliflower - a variation of the traditional sweetmeat. “Along with chandrapuli, a dessert made of kheer (sweetened condensed milk) and coconut shreds, Tagore also preferred the cauliflower sandesh,” said Sengupta.

“The cauliflower sandesh has a delightful history as well. Pragya Devi made the sandesh all by herself and presented it to Tagore on his 70th birthday. He was so overwhelmed by the taste and the gesture that he said the sweet be prepared on every birthday of his, and that too only by Pragya Devi,” said Sengupta.

With Rabindra Sangeet - songs composed by the Nobel laureate - playing in the background, the experience turned out to be truly memorable.

Tagore’s death anniversary, known as Baishey Srabon according to the Bengali calendar, was observed Aug 8. Incidentally, his 150th birth anniversary is also being observed this year.

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