The Fishy Traditions

At the risk of sounding old school, I admit that I like traditions. Especially those related to food. Well, who doesn’t enjoy a perfectly roasted turkey on Thanksgiving or a rich plum cake on Christmas? It is interesting that how good food has always been the driving factor behind celebrations (religious or not) across different cultures around the globe. Seems our tummies take precedence over everything and our ancestors understood that well while passing down those traditions and recipes.

The place where I come from (a state called West Bengal in eastern part of India), fish is an integral part of the staple diet. It is one thing to consume fish and rice everyday but it takes a certain level of madness to talk extensively about the best fish recipes or the surging prices of Rohu and Hilsa at family dinners.

The Bengalis love their fish so much that no tradition is complete without its auspicious presence. A six month old baby is decked up in traditional wear to be fed the first proper meal- fish and rice. At weddings, the groom’s family gifts a pair of fish (the larger, the merrier) to the bride’s family as a mark of love and respect (for food!). As hilarious as it might sound, the fishes are decorated as the bride and the groom – the bride fish draped in red finery, a nose ring tucked around its nostrils and vermillion smeared on its head. I guess that the pair of dead fish also serves as a warning to the couple that they might end up killing each other while staying together!

A bride is asked to hold a live fish with her bare hands when she enters the groom’s house for the first time. A wedding feast is obviously incomplete without fried, steamed and curried fish preparations. Fish is served even while celebrating a person’s life at a memorial service.

I’m sure that by now you have understood the importance of this vertebrate in the lives of my fellow community members. So, it is bound to raise a few eyebrows when I sheepishly confess that I prefer eggs and chicken over fish. “Are you even my kid?” my mother asks me whenever I refuse to take a second helping of the fish curry that she lovingly prepares (I can’t refuse it the first time or I would be disowned by her!). Struggling through a mouthful of fish and rice, I mumble, “Now, that is a fishy question.”

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Do you have any funny or weird food traditions in your family or community? Let me know in the comments section.