|Cheese and eggs at Smokehouse Deli
On the love of eggs that unite Parsis and Bengali
I tried the eggs and cheese scrambled egg at Bandra’s Smoke House Deli recently and immediately thought of how much my mother in law would like this creamy, cheesy, eggy dish.
A few days later I went to Smokehouse with her and K and ordered these eggs and sure enough my mom in law loved them.
|At Smoke House with my Bawi girls
The Parsi love for eggs
The thing about Parsis is that they are besotted with eggs. They add eggs to every possible dish. Their pulaos should have boiled eggs. Egg and chutney pattice (egg croquettes) are their favourite snacks. Their favourites desserts, the laganu and caramel custards, have eggs in them. The only way to get them to eat vegetables is to break an egg on the greens. So you have tomato per eendu (eggs on tomato), bhaji per eendu (eggs on spinach) and bheenda per eendu (eggs on ladies fingers). Even indulgences like potato chips are embellished with eggs. You guessed it right, wafers per eendu.
In case you didn’t get it by now, eendu means eggs in Parsi Gujarati.
|Bhaji per eendu. Our cook Banu had made spinach so my mom in law made her add an egg to i
Incidentally Parsis will have none of this egg white business.
My mom in law often makes me poras when she visits us on weekends. Pora is a garam masala and chilli powder specked spicy Parsi styled omelette.
She makes it with egg whites for me as per my request based on doctor’s orders.
One day I saw my mom in law making an omelette for herself after she made mine.
With the egg yolks that remained from my omelette!
Which reminded me of tales K would tell me of having grown up on eggs fried in butter or even ghee which would shock me since I have grown up in a house where my mother would be most parsimonious about using oil, let alone butter and ghee.
My mom in law has turned vegetarian after my father in law passed away. She has not given up on eggs though.
I feel that my late father in law would approve of her sticking on to eggs. Towards the end of his life he had lot of food restrictions on health counts. He was a very obedient patient and would listen to his doctors.
The one exception that he made was eggs and he would continue to eat eggs even though he stayed largely away from meats and fish.
, my wife’s later maternal grandmother, would have runny scrambled eggs even when she had the appetite for nothing else towards her final years.
Mama, as we call her son, would make her the eggs even though he is a rare Parsi vegetarian. A ‘real’ one, in this case who does not even eat eggs.
Our uncle J, occasionally decides to tell us lessons he has learnt from life. Top of the list for this octogenarian Parsi is ‘eggs are very good for your health’.
‘Eggs are oxygen to Parsis’, says uncle J.
The only Parsi dish K has ever made for me is salli per eendu
or eggs fried over salli (potato straws).
The Bengali chapter
As I began writing this post on the love for eggs that the Parsi half of my family has I realised that eggs were pretty important to the Bengali side of my life too.
In fact the only memory I have of my late paternal grandmother’s cooking revolves around eggs. This is when we had just moved into Kolkata. My thakurma, as paternal grandma is called in Bengali, made me a deemer ‘poach’ which is what we Bengalis call fried eggs.
I was a picky eater in those days and this was the first time that I tried a fried egg or my grandmother’s cooking.
I must have been seven years old then and would fuss and not eat Indian dishes those days. My mom used to cook specially for me and would make me chicken and chips, fried rice, spaghetti and a mince meat stuffed omelette that she called Spanish omelette.
I would normally not eat my thakurma’s cooking as she would make Indian dishes.
Her ‘poached’/ fried egg turned out to be an exception.
I liked it so much that I asked her to make me two or three more after I had the first one and even told my mother to learn how to make it from my thakurma.
My grandmother then told me about how finances were tight when she brought up her children and how my father and all his siblings would share one poach while I was lucky enough to get repeats.
If I do the math right I think that would be one egg between six children!
It is only recently that I realised that real poached eggs are very different from the Bengali deemer poach and are not fried.
In my growing up days in Kolkata I remember people frying up an omelette when I would go to visit them and there were no sweets at home to offer.
Every evening after school I would go to the corner roll shop and buy an egg roll before going out to play with the money my mother left for me. (I remember buying egg rolls at Rs 1.50 in the mid ’80s in Kolkata)
There would be a non-veg element to all our meals at home in Kolkata. My mom stayed off red meat as she had heard it was not good for the heart. So there would be chicken on Sundays. And fish every other day.
On rare days when there was no fish my mom would add eggs to our meal. Usually deemer jhol or egg curry. This was made with hard boiled eggs. The white of the egg would be scored with four slits so that the masala of the gravy would go in. Like the fish in Bengali curries, the egg too would be first fried in spices (koshano) before added to the curry. When she was too tired to make a curry mom would make an omelette. And occasionally she cooked what she called ‘Jolly’s curry’. This was named after a Bengali lady whom she knew in England who taught her the dish. This consisted of a curry which was similar to the chicken curry that mom would normally make. When the curry began to bubble in the pan my mom would crack and drop in the eggs making it a sort of egg drop curry. Saves the time spent in boiling and frying eggs my mom would explain.
I had just begun to cook before I left Kolkata for Mumbai. I remember making omelettes with elaborate stuffings with even liver occasionally for my mom and brother on weekends.
Given the Parsi and Bengali egg fixation it is no surprise that on the day of our marriage K requested me to make her an omelette when we came home from the registrar before heading out for dinner.
It was fitting that the first dish cooked by a Bengali husband for his Parsi wife was an egg one.
Talking of eggs and Parsi do check out this e book on eggs put together by Perzen the Bawi Bride, and Rhea, a Bengali married to a Parsi.
In case you are wondering why my mother doesn’t blog anymore here, it is because she her own blog now. This is her latest post on how her blogging came into being thanks to a computer operator named Raju.