Sunday lunch is special in most cultures. But, none can possibly beat the traditional Bengali fare in terms of sheer elaborateness.The best catch of a myriad types of fish — small and big — would flood the market on Sundays though prices would soar. However, the high-point of the lunch used to be the #Mutton (Goat-Meat) Curry and Rice — or Mangsho-Bhaat as Bongs call it. In our childhood — there were long queues outside Mutton Shops on Sundays. Those days refrigerators were still not common in middle-class homes — so the mutton had to be bought fresh in the morning. Besides, frozen mutton was prone to rigour mortis and remain tough after cooking (pressure cookers too were not yet in vogue). The aroma of garam masala from the meat Meat cooked over open “chullahs” would permeate the entire house -whetting appetite. In large families — there would always be a run for marrow bone.
Like all good things in life — over time this too has changed. For one — Mutton has become frightfully expensive (selling close to Rs 500 a kilo) beyond the reach of the common man. In comparison — with large scale commercial poultry farming Chicken is much more reasonable to buy. So, households have made the reluctant switch from billy to bird.
So the Sunday morning “line” at Mutton shops have all but vanished. But, instead new queues are visible — outside the many ethnic Bengali restaurants that have sprouted around the city. With house-help difficult to come by — many unitary families prefer to eat out on Sundays. Even some of the tony clubs in the city now have a special Sunday Bengali spread. But, that is targeted at a different set — mostly the senior citizens whose children have flown the coop to greener pastures overseas or chasing better careers opportunities in other cities.
For the next generation of Bengalis — Mansho Bhaat may just be another item in Mom’s ‘hand-me-down’ recipe book.