If you're looking for the quintessential guide to traditional Bengali cuisine, then Penguin's The Calcutta Cookbook is not it. The subtitle - A Treasury of Recipes from Pavement to Palace warns the reader of just that.
The book is divided into chapters - each representing a different community and in turn cuisine found in
the city of Calcutta. The book is an ode to the myriad of communities that have made Calcutta their home, and the introduction to each chapter reflects that - giving the reader an insight into the history of each community and the influence their food has had on the culture of Calcutta. As an avid reader, I found these passages interesting.
However, when it came to cooking the dishes, I found the collection very scattered. I do understand that the authors came from a place where they wanted to give the readers little insights into all these pockets within Calcutta and their food. As a cookbook, I can’t say that I would plan a menu based on the dishes featured. I suppose this is one of those cookbooks where you go back to it for that ONE dish you did enjoy making.
The Cookbook Meet based around this cookbook wasn’t something I would write home about. Individually, I enjoyed most of the dishes, but they did not work as cohesive menu. I suppose in part, it was our fault for not working together to create a menu that had a flow to it. But honestly, I do not feel the cookbook has enough enticing dishes within each section to do that - create a cohesive menu.
I went out of the box and made potol stuffed with cooked and flaked fish. I thought it would be different and a little challenging to stuff the potols. Again, not a dish I would try again. I suppose with ‘The Calcutta Cookbook’, the way to go about it is either create a menu that may feel a bit disjointed, or just go back each time for singular dishes. Overall, I expected more.