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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Sunday Long Reads: Christmas celebration, festive food, economist Abhijit Banerjee’s cookbook, and more

Here are this week's long reads!

December 19, 2021 10:15:32 am
christmasChristmas comes calling (Source: Getty Images)

Why is a bakery in Landour the centre of celebration and keeper of community recipes

“Where’s the Bacon House?”

It does not matter where you happen to be. The aroma of their Christmas cake full of cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg, wafting in the air, will drag you to the Landour Bakehouse that visitors refer to as the Bakery, the Bacon House or even the Bread House.

To those of us to whom Landour is home, we see it as our revenge upon our symbiotic twin Mussoorie’s over-crowded Kempty Falls or the Mall Road.


Whom would a Nobel Laureate invite for a Christmas dinner?

Nobel Laureate, Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee, economist Abhijit Banerjee, Abhijit Banerjee cooking, Abhijit Banerjee food interview, Abhijit Banerjee cookbook, Cooking to Save Your Life, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news A Nobel laureate in the kitchen: Abhijit Banerjee (Courtesy: Juggernaut Books)

Find out as economist Abhijit Banerjee, who recently released his cookbook, ‘Cooking to Save Your Life’, does a rapid-fire on all things food

Buffet or sit-down dinner?

Sit-down dinner, absolutely!

Favourite dinner guests?

People who like to eat well, laugh a lot, who are indulgent of silliness.

A typical Christmas dinner would have?

Khurdi (or Kolhapuri Pandhra Rassa), Mutton biryani, beetroot pachadi, carrot koshimbir, palong saag (spinach) bhaja (stir-fried) with almonds and raisins, Bûches de Noël, Christmas fruit cake.


What makes Christmas in a Delhi household more richer than a festive New York

suvir saran, christmas cake When I moved to New York City, as soon as the temperature dropped and the leaves began to fall, I developed an insatiable craving for Shashi Auntie’s fruitcake. (Photo: Suvir Saran)

One of my favourite childhood memories is a smell, a most haunting scent —the sweet, alcohol-laced fragrance of this incredible fruitcake made by Shashi Gupta, who lived next door to our home in Delhi. Every November Auntie would begin soaking dried and candied fruits in rum or brandy to make kilos and kilos of fruitcakes that would fill her house as the weeks progressed, all to be given away to friends and neighbours as Christmas gifts. I would watch Auntie with rapt attention, and some lucky times, I would get to help her while she made the cakes and feel most fortunate about that happening.


An open letter to COVID-19

Ranjit Lal, covid-19 The coronavirus is running through the Greek alphabet at quite a canter. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Dear COVID-19,

For the last two years, you have been ravaging the globe like some crazed “wild jungle critter” (as survival experts like to call them) hell-bent on getting us. While it’s the bounden duty of every self-respecting virus to replicate itself crazily — we humans do it, too, and have fun doing so — sadly, you’ve been doing it in a completely reprehensible way — just like your cousins, the rabies and Ebola viruses.


All I want for Christmas is Kulkuls

kulkuls, christmas foods Made in most Goan, Mangalorean and Anglo Indian homes, kulkuls trace their origin to European fried pastry dough. (Photo: Nina Goes)

Small, fat, caterpillar-shaped, little bits of vanilla-flavoured dough deep-fried till they are crisp on the outside and melting on the inside. That’s how I love my kulkuls. They have been my favourite Christmas sweet ever since I can remember.


Christmas Special: How Kerala’s beveca and the Goan bebinca are related

Beveca or bebink Unlike the ghee-and-coconut-milk-infused layered Goan dessert bebinca, the beveca (pictured) is made with nendra pazham, an indigenous banana grown extensively in Kerala. (Credit: Abhinav Saha)

Christmas was the most exciting time of the year,” says Crescentia Fernandes (née Scolt), 73. It was when her entire family — parents and four siblings — would congregate at the ancestral Scolt home in Ernakulam, Kerala. Even in 1955, when her father renovated it, the house was over 250 years old. The days leading up to Christmas were spent decorating the house and setting up the nativity scene, with each child entrusted with a task.


Christmas special: A taste of home

Sunday eye Cardamom and ghee, each have strong fragrant notes but when blended with milk, flour and eggs create a mellow yet potent aroma. (Source: Sanhita Dasgupta-Sensarma)

School breaks meant Bhai and I explored the vast Maharaja Bir Bikram College campus in Tripura, cycling with our friends. The college (now MBB University) campus situated on a hillock named College Tilla, flanked by the Howrah on one side and a huge natural lake, was filled with purple lotus-shapla (water lilies). We lived in beautiful tin-roofed English-style bungalows constructed around the 1940s, for college professors by the great educationist Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarman of Tripura. Each bungalow had large spaces around it. Our garden overlooked a beautiful slope, where Baba cut terraces for growing vegetables. My parents, who are fond of gardening, had a “name-it and you-got it” range of plants — cauliflower, peas, pumpkins, lemons, chillies, bananas, custard apple, mangoes, jamun, guava, and whatnot.


The Christmas Cake can just be a posher, boozier version of the everyday cake

Christmas, Christmas celebrations, Christmas recipes, Christmas cakes, delicious Christmas cake, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news The citrusy tang and the bitter edge of the marmalade, the gentle heat of the cloves and ginger, the fruit steeped in the neon-orange dodgy whisky — all comes together brilliantly in the Christmas Cake. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

In the dark ages, when we were children, with no Netflix or indoor plumbing, Christmas hadn’t yet become the December ki Diwali that it is today. However, a steady diet of Enid Blyton, trilling Christmas carols non-stop at school and the optimism for which I am world-famous, meant that one Christmas Eve, I hung some stockings on my headboard hoping for presents from Santa. On Christmas morning, I woke excitedly to my mother boxing my ears — “Is a bed, that too, right next to your pillow, any place for dirty socks?” she yelled. In her view, Goddess Saraswati (who lived in bed headboards and every book and piece of paper) would pakka fail me in my exams since I’d sullied her living space with filthy, stinky socks.


When the life of the mind is nourished by a pot of fragrant, slow-cooked haleem

christmas Of friends and Christmas cheer (Source: Getty Images)

It is winter in Delhi, and we are living the life of writerly poverty that I have always idealised —by which I mean the life of writerly poverty I have read about in books and magazines. (This, I shall have you know, is distinct from the life of writerly poverty that has been insinuated by well-meaning people back home in Calcutta: profound coughing, sheafs of unpublished poems, liver disease, leaky roof, death, the end.)


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