Begun Alu Diye Palong Saak -Spinach cook with aubergine and potatoes
I have known this family for years. In fact I have been part of them since I started to walk. My father after teaching in Kolkata got tired and took up a teaching position in one of the universities in Dhaka. To be honest it was my thakuma (paternal grandmother), who wanted to go back to Bangladesh and her only option was to blackmail my father emotionally.
And that’s how I came to know savar er( savar which is a name of a place) dadu( grandfather) and didon( grandmother). Elder son of the family was my father’s student and he offered that we stay in their home as they have plenty of room .They would able to offer my father one section of the ‘jaminder Bari (House of the Jaminder)’. They were very respectful towards my father. However, it was my mother who became the apple of their eyes and remains so till date. She is always their ‘Boro Bou ma’ (eldest daughter in law). And me…. the special one always! Their ‘buri’ and remain so very proudly.
I have learnt to speak there; I have learnt to believe that entire Savar bazaar would give me any sweets that I wanted and that dadu is a horse and only didon can feed me. This is the house where I still have Lychee tree, which was a gift from dadu on my birthday. They sell fruits from all other tree but mine. After all these years, it still is mine.
My father, who almost scared the hell out of every one including all his students, was scared of didon. I used to hate eating. My mother who I guess gave up on me by then would wait until my father came back from department. Then he would close the doors and feed me forcefully. I used to store food on one side of the mouth for hours and he would go on screaming ‘potla bhang’. And I would not.
I would wait for didon to rescue me. Every day she would come screaming at my father. I would by then have the glee of winning war against my father. Then didon and dadu together would feed me for hours at night, one trying to be a horse, the other trying different foods and what not. Didon smelled of milk as she used to spend so much time in kitchen boiling milk (they had cows at home). I would be tired from eating or trying to eat and sleep on didon’s lap.
I guess, my first cooking was in their kitchen. They had this huge mug made ‘Chula’. On one of them a karahi of milk would remain.. boiling. I being the most spontaneous child of the house went to cook the milk and in the process cooked my feet. Burnt and marked. For months I stayed on didon’s lap, for months my father did not have permission to feed me and for months I blackmailed my father to take me to Savar bazaar every evening to buy rosogolla and misti doi which I would not mostly eat. I look at it with so much loving memories now. I was such a pampered child and remain so for all these people.
I have not been to the house since 1994 when most people of the house left for India after Babri Masjid incident in India and its repercussion on Hindu’s of Bangladesh. Dadu Dida remained along with Ratan sadhu ( my uncle.. he had bread so I called him sadhu). Half of people are in UK now, the family still fights over property that has been taken over by Muslims as Hindu and enemy property ( I am sure same happened in India.. so do not take it as religion bias.. I am just telling an experience, which is part of me)
A aunty -the daughter of the family stays in UK and I keep visiting her very often. Last week when I went to stay over the weekend, she cooked me this spinach recipe asI am very fond of and it reminds me of my childhood. This is very much Dhakaiya Hindu cuisine which is very close to Ghoti cuisine of West Bengal.
½ kg Palong Saak or Spinach, washed and cut thinly
¼ -of an aubergine, small diced
2-small potatoes, clean and small diced
2-clove garlic, smashed
2-green chili, cut into fat slices
½-teaspoon cumin powder
Salt to taste
1. Heat oil in a pan
2. Add potatoes and aubergine.
3. Add salt and little bit of turmeric and fry properly until golden
4. Keep them aside
5. Give little more oil and heat
6. Fry the garlic until golden, then add green chili slices and fry
7. Then add the spinach
8. Add turmeric, salt and cumin and cook until water comes out
9. Add the fried potatoes and aubergine
10. Cook until dry and fried
11. Serve as first course with white rice and a deep fried red chili