And most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath… William Shakespeare
One is certain that the prime minister of a neighbouring nation did not have the words of the Bard in mind when while thinking aloud in the National Capital about the absence of onions in her kitchen ever since the nation she was visiting banned the export of the vegetable which “true friends chop and cry together”.
But in doing so, she touched a familiar chord in the hearts of the citizens of this nation with whom the relations of her country despite the ban on onion export are on an even keel till date. As soon as onion is banished from the kitchen, pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends colour and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and dinner to despair. There are many on both sides of the border who will breathe sighs of despair at its disappearance as “onions can make even heirs and widows weep.”
Indeed, life is an onion – you peel it year by year and sometimes cry.” No longer, the second city of an empire where the sun never set, Kolkata, nonetheless retains the culinary taste of the Brits which is still alive and kicking long after they have left for their own shores. One can hazard a guess if chefs of the city have come across this gem from author and editor, Maggie Waldron who said “It’s probably illegal to make soups, stews and casseroles without plenty of onions.”
And onions are required in no small measure be it a curry or a soup or roast in a city that swears by Raj cuisine as well its own, which demands onions in plenty. An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.” There are two types of onions, the big white ones and little red one, the former has more food value and is therefore chosen to make soup for people who require fast recuperation.
Incidentally, a huge cache of hilsas reached Indian shores in the wake of visit of the dignitary who came calling. Her country abounds in this fish considered a delicacy the world over, be it babu tucking into his plate of ilish maach-bhat or a Brit savouring a dish of smoked hilsa while ruminating over the glories of an empire, the fact remains none of the vast varieties of hilsa dishes requires a single onion ring.
In the backdrop of a season when hilsas are in short supply along with the onions, let the seasoned diplomats read between the lines to decipher the message underlying this gift from across the border which seeks to ensure the bi-lateral relations never grow cold.