The intelligentsia (as defined by Wikipedia) is a social class of people engaged in complex mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them. You can very well attribute this term to the Bengali society who fits this definition quite well. But what does a timid and herbivorous (although Bengalis think goats to be omnivorous – chhagole ki na khay) mammal like goat got to do with this elite group of people? The answer to this is well known to all of us – Bengalis love goat meat. Although in other parts of the World, goat milk and milk products (cheese) are also extremely popular, but we the Bengalis don’t care much about the milk. It is the meat that is most important to us – the ultimate food in any Bengali plate. Historically, goat meat is the only kind of meat that Bengalis (especially the Hindu Bengalis) ate. Goats were the most popular offerings to Goddess Kali and Durga – and the meat then cooked in a recipe void of any garlic or onions and hence termed as “vegetarian meat”.
All around us we find tons of books, websites, and other information about food and nutrition. What we should eat and what not, what foods to avoid for diabetes, what foods to eat to lower cholesterol and what foods to avoid for weight loss. Zillions of nutritionists, dietitians, physicians, nurses, body builders and quacks have made millions writing such books. Most of these books, however, cater to the western food habits. Their meal suggestions, recipes and nutritional information cover only the kind of diet that we Indians hardly eat in our daily lives. Some diet books lightly touch upon some of the Indian foods but they are severely limited to the typical north Indian recipes like tandoori chicken or chicken tikka masala. But if you are a Bengali, then CTM (as they call chicken tikka masala in UK) appears rarely on our diet. We would be interested in knowing whether chhaanar dalna is a healthier meal than shorshe ilish.
Few months ago, a friend of mine forwarded me an e-book (a pdf file) titled “Indian Foods: AAPI’s Guide to Health, Nutrition, and Diabetes”. This book, written by a team of experts appointed by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) provides an invaluable guide to the Indians living in America to make some sense of their diet in terms of healthiness. The best part of this book is that it contains chapters pertaining to the regional foods of India. For example, in its chapter on Bengali and Oriya cuisine, the author provides a table (no pun intended) showing a typical Bengali diet and how it can be modified to make it healthier.
I’d like to welcome you all to download this book by clicking on this link. AAPI is distributing this book for free. I thank AAPI for providing this valuable resource.