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Interview with Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta a.k.a the Bong Mom, noted Indian food blogger, about her new book on Bengali cuisine, Bong Mom’s Cookbook.
When Sandeepa first started blogging about Bengali food, she did not expect to publish a book on it one day. But her book, aptly titled, Bong Mom’s Cookbook has been released recently. Here she talks about her journey from being a food blogger to a food writer and about creating memories and traditions with food.
From blog to book – what was the journey like? Was the writing needed in both cases very different? What did you have to unlearn/learn?
The journey was very exciting to say the least. I would say that it was a little difficult but much fun. Writing a blog is very different from a book and though I have tried to carry the same essence across both, to do it in the book was much harder. For one, when I blog, it is instant. I write what I am thinking today and the gratification is also immediate. Not so in a book.
For the book, I had to think ahead, plan the chapters and also since this is a book interspersed with recipes I had to make sure that it was not abrupt and there was fluidity within the chapters. But I had so much close-to-my-heart stuff to write that I would actually look forward to 9:30 PM every night when I could sit down with my writing.
If there is one single “star” recipe and dish you had to pick out from Bong Mom’s Cookbook, which one would it be? And why?
It would be unfair, if I pick a single recipe from the book, for the simple reason that each of them comes with their own tales and each of them has touched my life in a certain way. For me, food is beyond what you taste on your tongue, it is also the memory you associate with it. So while some like the mutton rezala is a “star” in taste, the others like the simple bati charchari is a “star” in how the dish is intertwined to my life.
Food as a link to culture, as an enduring memory of childhood emerges strongly as a theme in Bong Mom’s Cookbook. Do you ever worry that as an NRI, these traditions may not pass on to your children?
I do get these niggling doubts once in a while but I am not too hung up on traditions. I am kind of flexible about them. So even in the US, I might do the celebrations my mother is doing back in India but in my case they are just moulded to suit our life here. On an everyday basis, our meals hover around Bengali cuisine, we speak Bengali at home and we listen to Bengali and Hindi songs even if my daughters might not be too fond of them.
One of the main reasons I started the blog was actually to preserve these traditional recipes for my daughters who might not have access to it anywhere other than their own home in the future. Regional cuisine is not a popular genre while eating out and Indian food in restaurants remains slotted between butter chicken and masala dosa. It is the home-cooked food which brings my daughters closer to our culture.
I also believe that instead of hanging on to traditions it is always nice to create some. That way you don’t feel their burden and yet enjoy them. So through eating paayesh on birthdays, a grand meal of pulao and kosha mangsho on special occasions and the occasional luchi for Sunday breakfasts we create our own version of traditions.
There are a number of food blogs, and in particular Indian food blogs in the blogosphere. What advice would you give to newbie food bloggers or food writers?
There are many food blogs in the blogosphere, Indian or not. They are excellent and every day I learn so much if I get a chance to blog hop. That Indian cuisine is much more beyond chicken tikka masala can be learned just by visiting the regional Indian food blogs. With their beautiful food pictures and luscious recipes, they can get very addictive.
I am not an expert but I have been blogging for almost seven years now and if I have to say anything to newbie bloggers it would be: Blog because you love it and be honest while doing so. The rest will follow.
Who is your favourite food writer/blogger?
I love food writing. Current favourite food writers are Ruth Reichl, Amanda Hesser, Monica Bhide, Chitrita Banerji. I also like Nilanjana Roy’s articles on food.
*Photo credit: Bong Mom.
Now dear readers, a book giveaway for you!
Simply answer this: Is there one dish that is like you as a person? What one dish would you choose to represent you? Be creative and tell us which one and why!
Just leave your answer as a comment below – and the best comment wins a copy of Bong Mom’s Cookbook.
Please note: Only 1 comment per person. The book can only be sent to a valid address in India. Giveaway closes on 9 AM IST 19th June 2013.
So what are you waiting for? Comment away!
UPDATE: GIVEAWAY CLOSED.