Monday, February 21, 2005

Eating Bangladesh

I have been here a few days, and have not been too good about blogging. The internet connectivity here is rather poor, which makes it frustrating at times. Since everyone is very interested in the food, I will talk a little about that.

Two days ago we went running around to the Chinese embassy to get my visa (which I had neglected to do in the States). I am not sure how exciting it was to see the lines of Bangladeshis applying for visas, and I know it was not fun to wait in the line as the A/C was not working, but Mahbub was very good to me, and even let me sit in the car with the air on reading Boswell's Life of Johnson while he waited in the pick-up line.

It was Ashura, and I had hoped to see some of the Shi'a flagelating themselves (I saw a tv program that claimed that the Penitentes in Spain (and thus the ones in New Mexico) acquired their custom from observing the Shi'a during the time that Spain was under Muslim rule) but we missed the start of the parade. It was fine though, we walked around old Dhaka, where there are now lots of Machine Shops, which I photographed.

There was also a traditional chutney vendor, who had several different kinds in plastic tubs that he served up on scraps of paper. As a white person I was quite the attraction once I started eating them. Some were very delicious, others I decided one taste was enough. There was such a crowd of people gathered around watching me eat, that the vendor did not even charge for the chutneys. Perhaps he made a bundle by selling "what the white guy had".

That night we went again to "Bistro" and had more fish and the excellent garlic nan and dal. There was another wedding party after, but I could have none of the food. I did try the milk drink they were serving, the one I have called "milk pickle" in the past, and again I did not like it. Milk and Pickle are two great tastes that do not taste great together. The party was very similar to the one of a few days before, except that the light was not as good, so I took fewer pictures. Did manage to find a few people who spoke English, and some who were trying hard even though they did not speak much.

Mahbub (my brother-in-law) took me to his ancestral village yesterday. It is near Comilla, and we stopped at the big restaurant there for lunch. We had rice, some curried pomfret that was really good, not extremely hot, but very tasty, some vegetable curry, and dal. We went to his farm and had some coconut water while soaking our feet in buckets of water. That was very pleasant. Apparently coconut water is a sort of natural rehydrating solution, and thus comes in very handy.

The power just went out, and came back, so I will post this now, to make sure it gets out.


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