Bhainghan Bhat

Baigan Bharta is my favorite Indian dish, and so I wrote a report on it that is made up primarily of made up quotations:


My Baighan Barta Report, by Peter Schranz

Baingan bharta was invented by noted medieval Indian chef Dharmakirti (fl. 7th century). His compendia on eggplant atomism was influential and convinced many subsequent students of culinary theory in India to adopt his view that the momentary states of eggplant are all that can be said to exist.

Eighth century chef Shantaraksita and his pupil Kamalasila went to great lengths to expound upon Dharmakirti's fertile intellectual grounds, grounds which were metaphorically ready to be sown with eggplant. Shantaraksita's distinction between "conventional eggplant" and "ultimate eggplant" pointed out very early on, among other things, the fact that images of eggplants found on ancient kitchen walls and the eggplants that are the primary ingredient in bhaingan bhurtha and which grow from seed are not the same.

Shantaraksita's most compendious work, "Bhaigansangraha" is a large cookbook which compiles a great many of the culinary theories, both eggplant and non-eggplant, that were current in medieval India, and Kamalasila's commentary on the recipes is rich in great ideas for adding that special pep to any Indian dish. Foremost among Santaraksita's theories was his "Doctrine of Eggplant Flux," which aimed to prove the impossibility of a permanent eggplant seed and by extension the impossibility of a permanent dish of bhaigan bhart. Here is an ample quotation from the text:

"If we understand the eggplant seed to be a cause of the dish, the cause--in the shape of the seed, and the effect, in the shape of the tasty dish--they can bear one of two relationships to one another. For succession and simultanaeity are contradictory: as the affirmation of the one demands the denial of the other: for only the blabberers can affirm that two events occur both one after the other and one and the other at once. Either the eggplant seed and the dish do not exist at the same moment (in which case the relationship would be successive, and not simultaneous) or the eggplant seed and the dish do exist at the same moment (in which case the relationship would be simultaneous, and not successive.)

"The objection might be urged: 'I find eggplant seed in my bhaigan all the time: hence, here you have argued that the effect, in the shape of the dish, precedes the cause, in the shape of the seed: this is an absurdity, and so your doctrine is absurd.'

"But this cannot be right: for we do not say of the woman with egg that she springs from such egg, but from an egg which preceded her, and we do not say of the man with seed that he springs from such seed, but from seed which preceded him: hence it is not at all clear what compels us to admit that the bhaigan must be the effect of its own seed. We do not admit it, just as you do not. Enough of this.

"An eggplant seed (and much else) must possess the capacity to cause to be said to exist: for what capacity has the 'sky-lotus' to cause, or the 'hare's horn?' Non-entities like these are only such as lack the capacity to cause, and hence for a permanent eggplant seed to exist it must have the capacity to cause. Is the relationship it has to that which it causes (in the shape of its effects) successive? But if an eggplant seed causes the eggplant to bloom, it cannot be said to exist anymore, for in its place we find the sprout. A seed which exists at one moment and does not exist at another moment cannot be said to be permanent unless we aim to fully divest the word permanent from its meaning. And so no successive cause in the shape of the seed and effect in the shape of the bhaigan can exist and be permanent without contradiction or destruction of the meaning of the term permanent.

"Hence if the eternal eggplant exists, it must possess a simultaneous relationship to its effects, in the shape of the spicy dish of bhainghan bhurth. This potential is easily tossed away, for what cause exists simultaneously with its effects? Does the seed exist simultaneously with the eggplant, or are those seeds not that which caused the eggplant? Or is it destroyed, its place taken by the sprout?

"The objection might be urged: the mother (cause) exists with the son (effect) in the shape of nursing etc., just as the eggplant exists with the bhaingan bhurt.

"But this cannot be right. For the mother who birthed the son is no longer there; in her place is a woman (who is not identical to the woman giving birth) who is called mother due to a chain of cause and effect which links her and her son to that birth-event. And just so, the eggplant which caused the bhaingan bhurta is no longer there; in its place is a mushed up spiced eggplant that is clearly non-idenical to (i.e. bearing a different identity than) the eggplant that takes its place as one of the many causes of the bhaingan bhaat.

"And so the notion that the seed exists at the same moment as the eggplant, or that they both exist at the same moment as the bhaingan, is swept aside due to absurdity."

"Hence an eternal eggplant, depending upon whether it relates to its effects successively or simultaneously, is either contradictory, leaves the term permanent without meaning, or is absurd. Those who are addicted to the doctrine of the eternal eggplant may take their pick between these choices."

End of examination on the veg-flux