Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has fun filled ‘adda’ over coconut crusted prawns

The art of cooking transcends boundaries of class, nationality and professions. How does a fun filled “adda session” with two food bloggers, one a Nobel laureate and another an illustrator, pan out?

Saptarshi and Insiya, the couple behind the popular food channel ‘Bong Eats’, spent a day in their kitchen with Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee and French illustrator Cheyenne Olivier. What followed was a conversation about “food, environmentalism and sustainability in an increasingly polarised world”. Take a look:

Economist Abhijit Banerjee won the Nobel Prize along with his spouse Esther Duflo and Micheal Kremer. A food enthusiast and cook, Banerjee has recently written a book titled ‘Cooking To Save Your Life‘, showcasing some of his best and favourite recipes. The book has been illustrated by Olivier.

Saptarshi and Insiya are household names for probashi Bangalis across the world, yearning for a taste of home. They research and share detailed recipes of traditional Bengali food such as Chitol Maach’er Muittha or Shukto, with easy-to-follow instructions and notes. The couple is well-known for videos with a distinct ASMR quality, from chopping, sizzling and assembly sounds to vibrant displays of colour.

The food items that were prepared during the session was a cold Persian yoghurt soup, Thai pomelo salad, “Pomelo is batabi lebu“, Insiya explains, coconut crusted prawns, caramel custard. The Nobel Laureate asks Insiya to call him “Abhijit or Abhijit Da“, a common term of endearment among Bengalis.

Explaining how Olivier came to work on a cookbook with Banerjee, he said, “Cheyenne was an au pair for my family for three years, and we spent a lot of time cooking together. I definitely recognise her in the illustrations in the book.”

Banerjee let his guard down during the interaction and even shared tid-bits of his childhood memories. “When I was six, I had gone to Murshidabad during Durga Puja and there was an orchard of pomelo trees. A storm picked up, and I recall running through that field with pomelos raining on us!”

Speaking of his mother’s cooking, he said, “A lot of my hand gestures are based on my mother’s, the way I hold spices or add them. Her cooking was inspired by the English as she spent a lot of time in the UK. She used to love cooking roasts! Her food was an English appropriation of French food I would say.”

Banerjee prepared the coconut crusted shrimps himself. While cooking, he said, “The shrimps will need surface area to cook otherwise it won’t crust.” He continued in Bangla, “Ekta dhaka dao” or “Pass me a lid” to Insiya.

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