When I was in primary school, we used to host Christmas Picnic every year on our roof-top with neighbors. Don’t know whether your roof-top feast can fall under the category of ‘picnic’ or not (in strict dictionary term) but I would like to believe that it was our annual picnic.
Over the years, the ritual of Christmas feast died down and I am no longer the fan of open-air cooking in a congested space. But the memories of the foods? They were stuff dreams are made of- at least in my boisterous Bengali palate.
Though the modern days fusion menus have ruined the charm of classic, middle-class Christmas picnic quite a bit, still if you are willing to arrange a proper Bengali-infused Christmas feast menu (its pocket friendly and so much) keep note of the followings-
Have an orange-y breakfast
Breakfast in Christmas picnic used to consist of luchi, aloor dom, sondesh (fried flat bread a la Bengali style, thick potato gravy, the mythical Bengali sweet respectively) and one orange per head. Though right now I don’t think that eating spicy aloo dom and orange in a single meal is healthy, but picnic is the time to let your hair down.
Ensure you have umpteen cups of coffee
We didn’t have the permission to sip into that blissful cuppa till we promoted to standard 9. But Christmas day was the exceptional case. My sister and I could have steaming cups of coffee as many as we liked. Even the parents were benevolent. So for a Bengalicized Christmas, constant stream of coffee throughout the day is a must.
Say no to chilli chicken and yes to gorom mangsho
I love chilli chicken but simply not on special occasions like wedding reception or Christmas picnic. The Indian version of chilli chicken has been so much bastardized (sorry for the language) that it feels a mere feeler when you don’t have any other option.
This Christmas give your nod to goromm mangsho-bhat (steaming hot chicken/mutton curry with rice). If they have turkey, we have our goat/chicken to relish. If you are veg, then paneer has to be your sole ray of hope in this merry lunch. But why not going the all Bengali way? Replace paneer with good,ol’ chhanar dalna (cottage cheese ball gravy). It will definitely feel like Christmas comfort food.
Short on dessert? Tomato chutney is there to salvage
Back then we invariably failed to gather enough fund to have 2-3 items in dessert. It was tomato chutney with dates, raisins, cashew that saved us every Christmas picnic. If anything else that can go by with this delicacy, it has to be nolen gurer rosogolla( date palm jaggery flavored rasgulla).
Eat pressure-cooker cake with afternoon tea
We didn’t have fancy oven back then. My mother along with other para tuto kakimas (neighborhood aunties) used to bake vanilla/chocolate cakes in pressure cooker 2-3 days prior to Christmas Eve. We had mandatory 2 slices in Christmas evening along with tea.
In most of the Christmas picnics I have partaken, people ended up with the lunch close to 4.00 PM. In a strict rule book, there shouldn’t be any provision for afternoon tea post-that. But on Xmas, an afternoon tea is must. If you want to conclude the authentic Bengalicized Christmas picnic on a sweet note, then have milk tea with pressure-cooker cakes in afternoon. This year I am going to pester my sister to bake a pressure cooker cake for me during Christmas, just for the sake of nostalgia. Maybe I am getting old.