Sunday, September 12, 2010
An Old Friend Resurfaces and I'm Hungry
A few days ago my friend Seema Desai found me on facebook (isn't the social networking age great?) I met Seema in Miami who is a scientist and was working at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (she's now an assistant professor in Chicago at RUSH). In Miami we would meet to cook Bengali food and the seafood dishes of the Koli fisherwomen who were the original inhabitants of the cluster of islands that became Mumbai (Bombay). Seema is from the Juhu Beach area of Bombay and worked in the Koli community before living with a Bengali family when she was doing research in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata). I haven't told anyone yet about my passion for Bengali food, but my mouth waters thinking about carp in yogurt custard and greens cooked in mustard oil in a paste of ground spices. Bengalis are clever but smart enough to back themselves up and have a creative streak a mile wide. Seema is a genius. She found frozen smelt to make a deliciuos Bengali fish dish and taught me to stuff mild finger peppers with fake crab among many adapations to life in America. She's not like any woman scientist friend you could have who happens to be Indian in this life (she jokes I must have been Indian in a past life and I'm sure it could be true). She calls me Kalindi Mukherjee, a great Hindi-Bengali pen name. The best news is I'll be seeing her in January when I am in Chicago and we plan to go to Divine Devon Street, a great artery of Indian shops and restaurants mingled with old world Jewish shops selling kosher meats, pickles and yogurt. It is a great river of life like the Indus that was the birth of one of the great civilizations in the world. There's just some people you meet along the river of life that become a current so strong you can never lose them and Seema Desai in one of them.