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Bori Diye Lau- Bengali (Bottle gourd cooked with Moong dal dumpling)

By 12:27

Cooking is hands down the best invention of human kind. Today, cooking seems like such a simple act. All one need is ingredient & spices, a recipe, pots & pan and fire.  However, if we look back on history, invention of fire is still inconclusive so as the practice of cooking. Forest fire started by lightening seems like most logical start of fire but when it was used for cooking is still debatable as opposed to use for worship and warmth. Many anthropologists believe that cooking fire began 250,000 ago and some other researcher found evidence of fire being used for cooking only around 40,000 ago. It is also said that maybe primitive human being did not cook deliberately. Maybe a game suddenly caught fire or animal killed in forest fire tasted better and easier to chew. While the debate continues, all section of researcher seems to agree that food and cooking was instrumental to human evolution.

What makes me wonder is in the process of evolution, how did household cooking become women’s job? ( you do not agree with me?) I goggled the question and came across various interesting conversation on the matter, one of which was particularly interesting “Why should a man marry a woman who cannot cook?” The answer was obvious –they should not. Why? Because men do their responsibility by earning and women should do their bit by managing the house (and wonderful if she can earn too). Seriously dude?................ 

Primitive men and women both went for hunting and gathering. However, caring for children and the cave was women’s responsibility only. After 1000’s of years later, has there been any change in the way men and women share their household cooking or work? According to an article in guardian, “More than eight out of 10 women born in 1958 said they do more laundry and ironing than their partner, while seven out of 10 women born in 1970 agreed” ( 10th March 2012,http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/mar/10/housework-gender-equality-women ). Late 1970’s is the time I was born and I so agree with the statistics.
Well, there is no denying that things are changing. I know few men who are great cook and spend equal amount of time cooking, taking care of household work and caring for children. However, I know even fewer women who doesn’t have to take on the responsibility or whose man willingly take on the responsibility equally or even think that men should take on the responsibility equally.  Also let’s not  forget that the women and men I am talking about here, belong to a certain class- middle/upper middle class, well educated family and well educated themselves, ( whatever it means, I am not getting in to that debate now) , urban, earns well and many of them lives outside India.  If I take the equation outside this ‘class’ has things changed much? I come across so many women on a daily basis (thanks to my work), who are full time worker yet  fails to negotiate spending decision of their own income, spends most of their evening cooking and caring for other family members and yet have no say in household decisions. Many women actually find it extremely difficult to even think that they should ask their men to share responsibility at home for cooking and caring. Women’s role as household cook has become normative rather then of instrumental value. 
However, if we take away cooking from the domain of household, the structure changes. Let’s see- in most of the wedding, the head cook ( Bawarchi)  is man and he has both women/men helper. All the best chef’s that come in various TV food programme are mostly men. On the other hand most amateur bloggers are women who cook (Like me) for their loved ones and share their experience cooking from their own kitchen. I have once written to a famous British Indian female cook (not disclosing the name. Please respect) disagreeing on her using strange English names for famous Indian dishes in one of her books. She wrote me back saying that being a women, it is very difficult to get a contract to write a book or have a TV show. On top of it, if she does not listen to her publisher and public’s demand it becomes all the more difficult a field to be that is so dominated by men. All the best biryani houses in Kolkata are run by men, egg roll walla, puchka walla are men, some have women as helper though. So it is really about cooking being women’s responsibility/job or is it about where the power is centered? Being a head cook (Bawarchi) at wedding catering or head chef in a hotel, are roles that have power, status, and decision-making opportunity and hence seems like a difficult entry place for women. Whereas cooking as household work is trivial and is a women’s job. I have a cousin who is a chef in one of really big names in kolkata and his mother is very proud of his work. Every one inevitably asks the most uncomfortable question “ So, does he cook all that great dishes at home?” or “ how lucky his wife must  be”  and my mashi furiously responds  ‘ Areeee na na.. ta keono cheler bou ache na! ‘ ( oh no! my son has a wife) and with the conviction she says it amazes me. Very discriminating role divide, I must say. What do you think?
By the way, I was reading this very interesting work by Zenobia Chan called “Cooking Soup to Writing Papers: A Journey through Gender, Society and Self”. Have a look at  http://www.bridgew.edu/soas/jiws/fall02/cooking_soup.pdf.
Now let me get back to my cooking. To be honest, I love it. However, I am aware that people around me thinks that it is my responsibility and mostly, I am unable to come out of this framework. Am I the only one?
Okay enough is enough for now. I am cooking Bori Lao for lunch today among many other things. I am Bangal and need at least four dishes to eat my meal.
Bori/ Sun dried home made lentil dumplings
Ingredient for Bori Lau
1 Lau (Bottle gourd) (around 800gm)
10 Dal bori (Moong dal dumplings)
¼- teaspoon of Kalo Jeera (Nigella seed/Kalongi/Black Onion seed)
2 green chilies (I have deseeded them. However, you can keep the seeds if you like your food hot) slit through the middle
½-inch fresh grated ginger or ½-tablespoon ginger paste
¼-teaspoon turmeric
1 table spoon of oil for cooking the Lau
½-cup oil for deep frying Bori
1 Bay leaf
Salt to taste
Bori diye Lau-Bengali Recipe

  1. Take the skin off the Lau or Bottle guard (you can keep the skin for later use. Cut the green skin julien. Put one tablespoon of oil and heat in a nonstick wok/pan/kadhai. Add the julien lau skin; add salt, turmeric and one green chilly slit. Fry it until the skins are tender. Eat with it rice )
  2. Chop the lau into thin slices/dices. Make it as fine as possible.
  3. Meanwhile add the ½-cup oil, heat it and fry the bori until then are golden brown. Bori absorbs a lot of oil. So when you can taken them off the oil you place them on a paper towel so that some of the extra oil is soaked by the towel. If you like oil, you don’t need to do this. Clean the pan to get rid of the residue of fried bori’s or use a separate pan/Kadhai/wok.
  4. Add tablespoon of oil and heat it. Temper the oil with kalo jeera and bay leaf.
  5. When the kalo jeera starts sputtering, add the finely chopped lau and cook for 5 mins.
  6. Add turmeric, grated ginger, green chili and Salt ( you can also add little red chilly if you like)Sauté for 2/3 mins then cover up. You will not need to add water as lau releases water on cooking. But if they don’t, add little water so that it doesn’t stick at the bottom
  7. When the lau is half done add the fried bori’s and mix them well with the lau.
  8. Cook until lau is cooked and bori’s are soft and cooked.
  9. You can garnish with chopped coriander. I did not for today.
  10. Serve with rice

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