While the Sadhya is an integral aspect of Onam celebrations, The Soul Company hopes to give a new spin to the age-old traditional feast. The experiential dining company has collaborated with Delhi-based food historian writer Pritha Sen and Prima Kurien’s Traditional Kerala Cuisine to curate an Onam Sadhya with a Bengali twist.
"This whole project began as a conversation we were having with Pritha ma’am about doing a pop-up in Delhi around Bengali food, and she mentioned she had already been talking to Prima about a possible medley of Bengali and Keralite flavours," says Somanna Muthanna of The Soul Company, adding, "We have already curated a few experimental cuisine experiences for home delivery in Bengaluru and Delhi during the lockdown, and since Onam is around the corner, we decided to go with this."
Despite their the distance between West Bengal and Kerala , the two states share a certain similarity in ingredients and cooking techniques, and it is this homogeneity that the two gourmands are hoping to bring to - gether this Sunday, for lunch.
Over 70 people (each order serves two people) will be enjoying this marriage between the two cuisines, after the initial plan of 30 orders were increased due to the unexpected demand. Sen, who lived in the South in the 1980’s, saw the “commonality of flavours and treatment of ingredients, and even a similarity in the aesthetics” between her native Bengal and Kerala.
"Food should bring people together, instead of dividing them, as has been happening in our country of late. I’ve curated these celebrations of cuisines for 5-stars and the like before, but they always celebrate the individuality of a community’s food. This idea, of showing the similarities between two different cuisines, is something I have wanted to do for a long time and The Soul Company was the perfect platform for it, while Prima is the finest cook of Malayali food this side of the Vindhyas," he adds.
Former art curator turned culinarian Prima Kurien says that, while she and Sen had been discussing the idea for a month, it took three weeks to fine tune the exact menu. "It’s one thing to plan a menu in your head and another to see how the two different cuisines go together. However, apart from the staples, meaning the dishes without which a sadhya would not be a Sadhya, the proportion of the dishes from Bengal and Kerala are the same," he says.
Indeed, prior to the pandemic, The Soul Company would collaborate with various chefs in different Indian cities, as a pop-up supper club over the weekend, with 20 or so diners at different venues.
Post COVID, the format has changed to home delivery. "We were going to keep the Bengali elements of the Sadhya as a surprise, but then didn’t want the Malayalis to get confused about what they’d find in their festive feeds. So we let the cat out of the bag, and were still surprised at how many orders we got," concludes Muthanna.