08 February 2013

8 February - Jules Verne; Sarson Bhara Kekda


What a coincidence!  Today is the birthday of the science fiction writer, Jules Gabriel Verne, born in 1828 to Pierre and Sophie (Allote del la Fuÿe) Verne in Nantes (France) where his father was an attorney.  He was an imaginative child and enjoyed making up travel stories, something he continued doing when he was supposed to be studying law in Paris [Verne père cut off the tuition, leaving Jules to do what many fine artists do – work at a paying job in order to fund their art].   

Among other things, he wrote novels of travel and exploration that rivaled anything produced for the gullible by 16th century authors, making full use of authentic geographical details and the latest scientific discoveries to create believable tales of adventure.  You probably know these from film adaptations:

Five Weeks in a Balloon
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
From the Earth to the Moon
In Search of the Castaways
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Mysterious Island

Several of his books are available on Google Books, at the Jules Verne Virtual Library, and of course, at your own local library. 

Read more about Jules Verne at Wikipedia, and on the North American Jules Verne Society website (including links to other societies, and warnings against the very bad early English translations of his works).

And the coincidence?  The winter storm named ‘Nemo’ is bearing down on us in the Smallest State like its namesake bore down on the USS Abraham Lincoln.  Captain Nemo, of course, is the mysterious lead character of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

"This, which you believe to be meat, Professor, is nothing else than fillet of turtle.  Here are also some dolphins' livers, which you take to be ragout of pork.  My cook is a clever fellow, who excels in dressing these various products of the ocean.  Taste all these dishes.  Here is a preserve of sea-cucumber, which a Malay would declare to be unrivalled in the world; here is a cream, of which the milk has been furnished by the cetacea, and the sugar by the great fucus of the North Sea; and lastly, permit me to offer you some preserve of anemones, which is equal to that of the most delicious fruits."  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Professor Aronnax’s first meal with Captain Nemo is not all that far-fetched.  Turtle has been a favorite dish for centuries; recipes for seaweed abound, as do those for sea-anemones.  I am not quite that adventuresome, and I much prefer that my milk come from Bossy at the local dairy, rather than the whale at the local aquarium.

Nemo, of course, ate nothing that was not wholly produced by his underwater kingdom.  Maybe his clever cook was able to make SARSON BHARA KEKDA (Shrimps with Mustard) taste just like Mom used to make, without the spices Mom used. (This is an Indian recipe; Captain Nemo was originally an Indian prince who rebelled against the British in 1857.)

Peel and de-vein 1½ pounds of shrimp.

Grate 1 onion.

Mince 1 hot green chili pepper to equal 1 teaspoon.

Mix together 2 tablespoons of ground mustard and 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric with a little water to make a paste.

In a saucepan, mix together ¼ cup of cooking oil (the recipe calls for mustard oil), 1 teaspoon of salt, the paste, onion, and chili pepper.  Add the shrimp, cover and cook on low heat at a simmer until the shrimps are pink, about 5 – 10 minutes. Stir to coat shrimp with sauce and serve with rice and… seaweed salad?

Guaranteed to warm your cockles.