The three cooling vegetables, patol, jhinge and lau, all belong to the gourd family and are indigenous to Bengal, having a pre-Aryan history. Marrow or courgette could be used as substitutes for them in the West, though the final product will fall far short of the real thing. The lau, or white gourd, is now becoming available in many Chinese vegetable shops. Its versatility is most apparent in its combination with evaporated milk, ghee and sugar to make a dessert, a speciality of East Bengal. But my own favourites are lau-chingri, with shrimp, and lau-ghanto, with coconut, green peas (or brown chick-peas) and crushed boris. The former is a Bengali classic. In one of many stories about Gopal Bhar, court jester to Maharaja Krishnachandra of Nabadwip, he slips some shrimp into his tight-fisted widowed aunt’s dish of lau and, threatening to tell the neighbours that she has been breaking the widows’ code of vegetarianism, manages to extract some money from her.