photo by llanos_ortizmontero
excerpts from Chitrita Banerji, “A Shared Plate” Gourmet November 2005
reprinted in The Viand Zine, Issue 2, 12 May 2007
…My conflicted parents shared one enthusiasm – food. She was a fabulous cook, a true artist, and he had a rare and subtle palate. He also enjoyed shopping for the season’s best produce, fish, and meats. ..
Not having the maturity to sense the complex emotions that underlay my parents endless conflict, I blamed the Indian system of arranged marriages that allowed families to match incompatible duos for life. ..The erupting arguments and conflicts made me ponder the nature of the marital bond that held them together. But with older eyes, I could see the deep attachment below the surface. How had it developed when they seemed to have disappointed each other right from the beginning?
One evening I found them bickering viciously over a particularly insignificant matter, I lost my usual restraint. “Why didn’t you get a divorce years ago?”…Guiltily I fled upstairs, But my mother followed me…
“You didn’t care for our rituals,” she smiled sadly,…You know the ceremony requires the couple to feed the fire, and then feed each other. Food is life, and by eating together, the pair bonds for life. We did that. How can you talk to us about getting a divorce?
…I thought back to the long years of conflict, but also to the deep, shared passion for the art of cooking, eating, and offering hospitality…and my mother’s words ring vividly in my ears: “Marriage is a lifelong undertaking to eat together.”