A writer, poet and musician, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was a diehard food lover
MANY are familiar with Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s literary works and songs, but ever thought of tasting the Gurudev’s favourite dishes? Now Kolkata can boast of a cafeteria-cum-restaurant, Caf`E9 Th`E9, where people can get a taste of Tagore’s culinary indulgences.
"This is the first caf`E9-cum-restaurant in India that is exclusively dedicated to Tagore cuisine," says Ratikanta Basu, promoter of Broadcast Worldwide Pvt Ltd in Kolkata and who conceived the project. The restaurant, which opened in January this year, is located on Ho Chi Min Sarani in south Kolkata.
Tagore would encourage the thakurs (cooks) in his ancestral palace in the northern part of the city to introduce variations in the platter, by including desi versions of continental and Peshawari cuisine. Thus, the crossover culture ensconced silently in the kitchens of Thakurbari was launched, much before the clamour for cross-cultural traditions actually started.
The poet’s innate wanderlust had taken him to places like Italy, Spain, England, Turkey and he imbibed the food traditions of respective countries. Since he was very much exposed to both oriental and occidental cuisines, a penchant to blend the two forms came naturally. The Thakurbari kitchen underwent a culinary revolution with the cooks toiling hard to recreate the magic of the food, which lingered in Tagore’s tastebuds.
"There are not many documents to support that Tagore was a diehard food lover. But he actually was one, and whenever he attended a lunch or dinner abroad, he used to collect and bring back the menu cards. These menus were even tried at the Tagore family kitchen here, along with Bengali delicacies," Basu says.
"I got some people in Santiniketan to look for the kind of food Tagore liked. There weren’t many references to food in his work, but in the Viswa Bharati archives, we found some menus he collected from international events he had attended," he adds.
British chef Shaun Kenworthy has made sure that the dishes served at the caf`E9 are made with the same ingredients and spices that were used during Tagore’s times.
Even the tea served at the caf`E9 will be the one that Tagore used to drink.
A part of the menu card will be a facsimile of the menu laid out for the dinner party hosted by India Society, London, on July 10, 1912 to felicitate Tagore on the occasion of the publication of Gitanjali, a collection of his poems.
The main highlights of the menu are vichyssoise, prawn cocktail, eggs florentine, quiche Lorraine, chicken a la Kiev, shepherd’s pie, fondue, fish veronique, ratatouille, black forest roulade and apple strudel. The restaurant is quite affordable, with a thali of five-seven dishes priced at around Rs 100.
Even the decor of the
caf`E9 has been designed to suit the ambience, with large portraits of
Tagore at various lunch and dinner parties across the world, his
framed write-ups on food, and of course softly played Tagore songs,
says Reshmi Roy, who helped Basu with the project. — IANS