The Paris Review

Cooking with Pather Panchali

In Valerie Stivers’s Eat Your Words series, she cooks up recipes drawn from the works of various writers.

The Bengali novel is best known in the West as a Satyajit Ray film but the 1929s classic is also one of the most popular titles from prolific Indian author Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay (1894–1950). It chronicles the lives of two poor children in rural India. The great animating spirit of this beloved book is that, despite their poverty, the children’s experience is one of abundance. Every path in the village is beloved to Durga, the elder sister, “she had known them all her life, so naturally and intimately that they had become a part of her…they were her own dear friends, her lifelong companions.” Though Durga and her brother Opu are often hungry, their lives are a paradise of guava and mangosteen and custard apple trees, simple but delicious dinners made by mummy, and festival treats and feasts. On a day when Durga makes a picnic of dal, rice and eggplant snuck from her mother’s stores, Opu reflects, “To think that they were out together sitting under a date-palm tree with leaves from a custard apple tree lying like a carpet all around them, and that it was real rice and real vegetables that they were eating! How wonderful it all was!” Every bite these two take seems to be bursting with flavor, and

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