The taste of grief
July 12, 2017 12:20 PM   Subscribe

"From then on, she would eliminate onion and garlic, alliums thought to conjure sexual energy, from her diet. She would stop eating red lentils for the same reason—these were, apparently, edible pulses as potent as aphrodisiacs. She would stamp out meat and fish, staples of cooking in Paschim Dinajpur, and stick to a rigorously strict vegetarian diet. She would be restricted to one meal a day, mid-day. At night, she would have puffed rice, khoi, with milk. Following this odd, constricting decree was culturally expected of her and other Hindu, high-caste widows in Bengal."
posted by Lycaste (11 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
That's some bullshit.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:55 PM on July 12, 2017 [17 favorites]

A 19th century adage contends that one cannot taste Bengali vegetarian cooking’s full glory unless your own wife becomes a widow. It’s a florid, slightly fetishistic aphorism that centers the pleasure on the eater. The person who said this was, unsurprisingly, a man, and presents evidence of the blunt hypocrisy that has gone unchecked for years: These women suffered just so the rest of us could eat.
I don't think I'm grasping the full import of this adage -- could she have meant 'your own mother'?
posted by jamjam at 1:55 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

No, dude, it's like 'call no man happy until he is dead'. You can never taste the best cooking because the best cooking is the food your grieving wife makes after you're dead, flavored with her salty tears.
posted by bq at 1:58 PM on July 12, 2017 [15 favorites]

Ah patriarchy. The baser instinct is to wish your widow no happiness after you are gone and lo and behold there are many cultures that enshrine that in their mores.

I guess, ladies, we should be glad that it hasn't become the custom to immolate ourselves.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

The article implies that the Bengali widow diet replaced the sati after the practice was banned.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:28 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Water is a Deepa Mehta film about an 8 year old Bengali widow.Bapsi Sidhwa wrote the novelization (and the book on which Mehta's Earth was based.)
posted by brujita at 6:32 PM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but not even the love of my life dying so terribly tragically could get me to quit garlic.

I mean, really. Life must go on...
posted by Samizdata at 7:58 PM on July 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

It must.
posted by flippant at 9:44 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I remember reading about widows in Varanasi and Vrindavan celebrating holi and Diwali, and thinking how sad it was that such small normal things should be done so tentatively. Meanwhile, despite some erratic progress, we still have people who long for the return of sati.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:57 PM on July 12, 2017

Might have to adopt this. I would become immortal, because there's no way I'd do anything that denied my SO garlic.
posted by pompomtom at 1:19 AM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Though the life of a bidhobha, a woman without a husband, wasn’t a reality she prepared herself for, my great-grandmother accepted this new lifestyle dutifully. Without the ingredients she once used routinely at her disposal, she cultivated her vegetarian cooking into an art of its own, full of sensory charge. My mother would go crazy for her mochar ghonto, a dry curry made with banana flower, or echorer tarkari, a gravy prepared with jackfruit.

Thanks for this... hungry and homesick at the same time.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:11 AM on July 13, 2017

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