Paying tribute to Kolkata's rich cuisine, sweetmeats, and snacks, Calcutta on your plate takes a deep bite into the culinary history of Kolkata and tells you the various influences that have made it what it is today.
From Kolkata’s colonial history through food to the influence of Dwarkanath Tagore on shaping Kolkata’s palate to the love of snacking, the emergence of cooking books, and the creation of Roshgulla, Sandesh, and other sweetmeats, Calcutta On Your Plate encapsulates all this and more with 178 pages. Nilosree's excellent research and articulateness with Irfan Nabi's apt photography make this book a must-read especially if you adore Bengali food and Kolkata.
One aspect that we appreciate most about the book is how it transports you back in time and discusses the influence of the British on the elites of Bengal during that period. It explores how the parties and cuisine of the Britishers were admired by the Bhadraloks ('gentlefolk' who emerged during British rule in the Bengal region in its eastern part) and delves into their particular obsession with food.
The book begins by detailing the founding of Calcutta and gradually leads you through the colonial era, elucidating the role of the East India Company in shaping Kolkata into a city that was accessible to many and a business hub of its time.
You will also gain insight into the societal norms of that era and how they evolved over time. The emergence of cooking books and magazines played a significant role in this transformation toward a more food-centric culture, illustrating how women were expected to be knowledgeable not only about their traditional cuisine but also about the culinary preferences of the Britishers.
Nilosree also discusses the contributions of the Portuguese and Tagores, as well as the influences of English and Mughlai-Awadhi cuisine, to explain the changes that Kolkata's foodscape underwent. An entire chapter is dedicated to the sweetmeats of Kolkata, especially Roshogulla and Sandesh, making it a delightful read.
Throughout the book, you'll encounter amazing photos of Kolkata's staples, skillfully captured by Irfan Nabi, enhancing the reading experience. The cover is another highlight and is beautifully illustrated.
In a nutshell, 'Calcutta On Your Plate' is a compelling read for non-fiction enthusiasts, food lovers, and those who have relished Kebabs, Biryani, Roshogullas, fish chops, and kabirajis.