What did Leela Majumdar share in her Rannar Boi?
Je radhe, shey chul-o badhe, wasn’t that a very common Bengali proverb used by our mothers and grandmothers? Well, famous Bengali author Leela Majumdar, whose books for children have over decades even inspired adults, also happened to be a cook with a difference!
FIFTY SHADES OF BENGAL’S PADDY
In an interview to Parabaas, Srilata Banerjee, granddaughter of Leela Majumdar, mentioned how her grandmother was never quite the quintessential cook. “…although she did cook as and when required… but she loved food, not just eating but the intricacies of preparing and cooking a dish, and how certain spices would go with certain fish or veggies and others would not. She used to say that cooking was like creating a story and she would collect recipes from everyone because they had a history attached to them.”
So much so, she penned down Majumdar’s cookbook, in collaboration with Kamala Chattopadhyay, that is a treasure trove of recipes, ranging from basic to intricate, with small advices that take you to the indoors of your kitchen mania.
For Majumdar, “The kitchen is the centre of a household, keep it clean…In foreign countries, including America, women cook themselves and there’s little to distinguish their kitchen from the living room and dining room… They have also mastered the art of toiling less over food…They usually cook a main dish and something convenient to go with it… we can make it easy for ourselves too.”
The daughter of Surama Devi and Pramada Ranjan Ray, Majumdar was the niece of pioneering children’s writer-illustrator and publisher Upendrakishore Ray Chaudhuri. Growing up in a family at the forefront of Bengal’s cultural renaissance, the convent-educated Majumdar was encouraged by the literary environment at home and the company of cousins such as Sukumar Ray to dabble in writing from her teens. She would go on to become one of Bengal’s leading writers of children’s fiction (Kheror Khata, Shob Bhuture, Podi Pishi-r Bormi Baksho).
Many of the recipes that Majumdar describes in the book are adaptations of Anglo-Indian dishes or have been influenced by Kolkata’s large Chinese community or Muslim settlers, while others are an amalgamation of recipes from East (Pre-Partition) and West Bengal (chochhori, ambol, jhol and jhal).
GB will bring some recipes on your table from this book.