It was an absolute pleasure and amazing experience cooking Bengali food with my teacher Monju. Meeting someone completely new and being welcomed into their homes was fascinating, inspiring and eye-opening at the same time.
From the first moment Monju opened her door, she welcomed me with her arms wide open, a smile on her face and a big hug. I have to admit, I was slightly nervous at the beginning and didn’t really know what to expect. However, she made it very easy for me to settle in and calm down after a long and busy day at work.
Before our cooking session, we had some chai and I gave Monju a freshly baked sourdough bread to introduce her to some traditional, and one of my favourite, everyday German foods. I was so happy to see her loving the taste of the rich, dark bread and not wanting to stop eating it.
We had a look at some family photos, her art and some of her written books. Strangely, it felt really good to open up to someone I just met 5 minutes ago, just talking about our passions, interests and not overthinking everything too much. We quickly found some common interest.
As our stomachs started to growl we moved on to the kitchen and I think I was as excited about this as Monju was.
Being there with Monju reminded me of these things and how precious those moments are. Chopping up all the colourful vegetables brought me back to my early childhood days when my granny was peeling the freshly cooked, hot potatoes in the kitchen and my two-year-old self was trying to reach the bowl of fresh hot potatoes standing on the tips of my toes. Tasting each ingredient by itself, adding some lovely bright coloured Bengali spices to it, combining salty, sweet and acid tastes was a real experience.
One of the things I loved most about the evening was how we ate all these lovely curries with a side of sourdough bread. There really are no boundaries or right or wrongs when it comes to cooking. It’s all about experimenting and trying out new things.
Monju is such an inspiring character with so much life experience, valuable advice to give and a whole lot of jokes in her back pocket to always keep your laughs going.
I learnt so much from her. From Bengali culture, poems, ways of preparing food to combine flavours and colours to create a new dish every day. Well, she definitely smashed the phrase ‘ You eat with your eyes.’