Eating Authors: Indrapramit Das

No Comments » Written on January 29th, 2018 by
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Indrapramit Das

On the one hand, as the first month of the year winds down, I’ve finished a new short story and a collaborative novella (the first of three). On the other hand, I’m way behind on a couple of other projects and most of the past five days have been sacrificed to the flu (despite getting a shot this year).

But on the gripping hand, EATING AUTHORS doesn’t care about any of that, and so I bring you this week’s guest, Indrapramit Das. You probably know him for his short fiction which has been in a wide range of venues, but his debut novel, The Devourers, was nominated for both the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Tata Live! Literature First Book Award in his native India, as well as being short-listed for the Crawford Award. Oh, and it won the Lambda Award

Indra himself is an Octavia E. Butler Scholar and a graduate of the Clarion West. Keep an eye on him.

LMS: Welcome, Indra. Tell me about your most memorable meal.

ID: Late afternoon lunch years and years ago with my (late) maternal grandparents at our extended family’s house (Ballygunge Place, Calcutta), where I would go after school sometimes because my parents were at work. Somewhere in my early teens, tired and hungry after a hot summer day at school.

The Devourers

On my plate, the Bengali delicacy of hilsa (a most revered fish around the Gangetic delta) and chunks of hilsa eggs fried in mustard oil with dried red chillies, eaten with steamed rice (you crush the fried whole chillies into the rice, which sops up the oil that the cuts of fish were fried in) and a pinch of salt. My grandmother told me how to eat the bony piece, cut out of the fish’s midsection, watching me eat the pale, bone-prickled flesh (golden and slightly crisp on the outside, white on the inside, except the skin, which is dark, silvery black like the sea, and tastes like it too) so an arrowhead-shaped piece of skin, fat and bone remains like a riverine wishbone (a segment of the spine, with ribs arching out from it) at the end of the meal. Using the bony morsel on her own plate, she showed me with her greased fingers how to splay this ‘wishbone’ by bending the miniature ribs, so you can then pop that sharp bit in your mouth and suck out the thick layer of fat and oil clinging under the stretched bow of de-scaled fish-skin and slick bone.

My grandparents are now dead, but since that lunch, with them both watching proudly as I drained the skeletal remains of that hilsa of omega-rich fatty oils, I have never once forgotten to dismantle a piece of hilsa so I can drain that little reservoir of fishy bacon grease from under the arch of its needle-sharp spine.

Thanks, Indra. I’ve never had hilsa, and now I’m afraid to try it for fear of eating it wrong. Hmmm, I wonder if there are instructional videos available online…

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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