Lebu Aachar – Urban twist to a recipe from Malda

I’ve been trying to learn / comprehend Bengali. The first phrase I mugged up, and the one that will stay with me, is “Kemon Ache?” meaning ‘How are you?’

It went this way – someone comes home and asks you how are you, you usually say I am fine and you usually offer lemon water to the guest. So Lemon and Kemon, though Kemon does not rhyme with Lemon, the pronunciation is different.

And then the universe conspired and home came Deepali, a chirpy lady from Malda, to work as our Nanny. Of course I have expanded her responsibilities to include Bangla lessons for the children and me.

But what excites me is her knowledge of traditional recipes. While experimenting with food is therapeutic for me, it is natural to her. And so that has become the basis of our bond.

She has been eyeing my collection of pickles and watching me devour them like a hungry hostel boy and so, late last night, she offered to make the one missing pickle in my collection – Lemon or Lebu!

All I told her was no oil and no extra spices. And she adapted this recipe from her place to suit my taste buds.

– 250 grams of fresh lemons into 8 small pieces each
– Few green chillies slit lengthwise
– Salt to taste and a bit extra
– 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds (khus khus / posto)

Put everything in a glass bowl or jar, mix it well and that is it!

There are many ingredients that can go into this pickle, but I like the simplicity of this!

And now the glass bowl sits proudly on my kitchen platform, soaking in a bit of sunlight and will continue to do so for a fortnight.

If stored well, this pickle can last years. In your house. In mine, I am not sure how I am going to stop myself from eating it in the coming fortnight! Since morning, I have stirred it 6 times and inhaled the intoxicating citrus odour like it were going to evaporate if it gets too sunny outside! She has threatened to give it away if I keep at it. And now, she has taken it from the kitchen and from my prying eyes to the roof to soak sunlight!

So the next time you come home, our conversation has to pan out this way:

You: “Kemon Ache?”Me: “Ami Bhalo Achi”

And we will get straight to the point – no lemon water please.

Me: “Apni Lebu Aachar Khaben, Toh Ami Pathabo.”
You: “Pathi Do, Ami Khabo.”

Typing Roman Bengali is a skill too, especially when there is a huge difference between her pronunciations and my hearing and comprehension.

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