Flavours From The House Of Tagore Or Thakurbari
Image Credit: Sweet Curd Malpua. (image: saltsugarnspice)

It’s no hidden fact that Tagore was not just a connoisseur of fine art and literature but also equally appreciated good food. Much has been written and expressed about eclectic food tastes as Thakurbari kitchen ahs been epitome of some of classic recipes that are still admired and relished. Culinary innovations were much common in the Tagore household and also their cooking techniques were also much ahead of the age. This poem by Tagore himself talks about his love for food; mangoes in particular. “Aam sotto dudhe feli, Tahate kodoli doli, Shondesh makhia dia tate, Hapush hupush shobdo,Charidik nistobdho, Pipira kadia jay pate” which literally translates too ((Aamshotto (sun-dried ripe mango) is dropped in milk, banana is and shondesh (sweet) is smashed in this. The sound of eating this delicacy amidst the silence. Even ants return, shedding tears seeing the empty bowl.). 

Wife of Rabindranath, Mrinalini Devi, was a great cook and she created some signatures like rice mango in rice,  a sour dish made up of aubergine, ber, amla, and sesame and more. As curd and dessert was a mandate after every meal, dinner, dessert and curd was mandatory. Mrinalini prepared a special kind of Gaja and Tagore named it Elojhelo and later named the same as Paribondho.

As cooking was on the genes, Abanindranth Tagore, the nephew of Rabindranath also started cooking class where it saw many culinary experiments. It’s said that even poet Jasimuddin had once come to the class and had made Joshi Kebab. The experimental tales of Tagore’s food no secret. It’s known that even the simple luchi was highly taken care before being prepared and it goes that Luchi of Tagore family with only 3-inch radius. Even when Gurudev was not keeping well and came back to Jorasnako in 1941, the dish ‘Panthar Bangla’ was prepared for him so that he can regain his strength.

Not many know the fact that the globetrotter that Tagore was he would collect menu cards from buffets he attended across England, Spain or Turkey and more. This led to dishes like Hollandaise sauce, British pie or Hindustani Turkish kebab in the Thakurbarir kitchen. Even his Khamkheyali Shobha, that was a literally club, what most enjoyed there was the culinary treat that one would experience as apart of the club. Tagore had a osft corner for partial to naarkel chingri (prawns in coconut milk), chachhori (vegetable medley flavoured with shrimp) and chandrapuli (a sweet-that is half-moon shaped and is made of milk solids and shredded coconut).

Books like Pragyasundari Devi's Aamish O Niraamish Aahar or Purnima Devi's Thakur Barir Ranna document some exotic and lesser-known dishes like mankochu r jilipi (Taro root jalebi) and doi er malpua (fried pancake cooked in curd). It’s really rare to find them these days.

In the book Thakurbarir Ranna by Purnima Devi is a guide to the cooking systems and internal culture of famous Tagore family of Calcutta. One such dish is the famous ‘Thakurbarir Keema’r Doi Bora’. As mentioned in the exercise book ‘Thakur Barir Ranna’ by Purnima Devi, Keema’s Doi Bora is usually a dish made by replacing the regular vadas in dahi vada with minced meatballs.

The Thakurbir kitchen is nothing less than a storehouse of delicacies, delights and flavours and yes heritage all wrapped in one.