Monday, January 23, 2006

Sarva-bhookh

I'm obsessed with food, and I'd like to imagine that I have, over the years, tried food from pretty much every corner of the world (most recent extensions to the repertoire of my palate have been Senegalese and Burmese). When it comes to food, i'm the equivalent of what Derek Zoolander called a 'try-sexual' - yup, I'll try pretty much everything (When it comes to sex, on the other hand...). According to my grandfather, who I think I inherited some of this from (I'm pretty sure he would have tried sushi with gusto, which is something most Bengalis, who like their fish but like it well-cooked, recoil instinctively at the thought of), there's a word in Sanskrit which describes me well: Sarva-bhookh (or One Who Eats Everything: ever notice how Sanskrit words, when translated into English, tend to sound really portentous?). My mother, though, has a less impressive word for me: 'Habhaat', which pretty much means 'glutton'. The literal translation involves greed for rice, so as a child I was always prone to declaring that I was 'not a Habhaat, but a Ha-mangsho' (for the non-bengalis, this means, approximately, that I was accepting my gluttony, but claiming that it was restricted to meat and not something as prosaic as rice).


This willingness to experiment, coupled with an inherent tendency towards carnivoria (it's a word if i say it is, okay?) has meant that I've tried, and liked, most kinds of meat. I recently tried rabbit and snails, and loved both, have had superb veal in the past, and can even summon up enthusiasm for something as lowbrow as chicken, though I have to say that chicken in the US usually tastes remarkably like rubber, unless you splash out on the really expensive organic stuff, but I digress. I love beef (steak is something I actually, physically crave from time to time - while on the topic, I have to mention the thin-sliced steak sandwiches at my favourite neighbourhood restaurant/cafe, which is marinated to perfection and served, without further embellishment, on thick-cut Portuguese bread with Portuguese-style fried potatoes on the side - on which more in another post , crave lamb, especially roast lamb (one of the only things the British truly know how to cook), and will happily devour large amounts of sashimi, especially if someone else is paying .

The irony of it, though, is that after all this exposure to every possible variety of livng creature that can be eaten, the king of meat to me remains good old goat meat, preferably halaal. Oh for the melt-in-the-mouth feel of a good goat meat on the bone, on a day when my mother's mangshor jhol has turned out just so (it's always excellent, but there are days when it is truly sublime). So, my point is: after all my wanderings through the cuisines of the world, I am back, like a good Bong, craving mangshor jhol and bhaat. Maybe I AM a habhaat, after all. Or at least a ha-mangsho. As long as it's pathar mangsho...

2 Comments:

Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

There you go. Knew there was a Bong connection after all. I tried Burmese food recently as well. Haven't had Senegalese though.

Hmm...about the British roast lamb, I've never had roast lamb in England, but a chef whose opinion I respect told me that the Brits tend to use older lamb and then attempt to mask the smell and insipid taste with mint jelly. And whenever I've had British style roast lamb, I've tended to concur.

Greek roast lamb on the other hand....mmmmm divine.

How strange that I've been craving pathar mangsho for a few days as well.

10:21 PM  
Blogger SomeOl'Guy said...

greek lamb dishes are my all-time favourite, too. there's this place here that i go to specially for what they call their baked lamb: truly, truly divine. my memories of british roast lamb are pretty favourable, though this may in part be because everything else was so ghastly...

9:07 AM  

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