The routine of preparing meals in Bangladesh is a demanding and time-consuming task. Lack of refrigeration, small kitchens, and the high cost of packaged goods are challenges that must be overcome on a daily basis.
The first step in preparing a meal is to obtain fuel for the stove. The majority of the fuel for cooking is wood. However, a lower cost alternative is cow manure that is conveniently molded on long wooden sticks. Very few cook with gas or kerosene.
Among the ever-present flies and people wandering about, customers purchase the meat that is needed for the day. The man selling beef displays the cow head and hooves to verify the meat’s origin. Obviously, without refrigeration or ice, it is important that the cow be killed, cut up, and sold the same day. A pound of meat costs about $1 – the daily wage of a common man.
Fish costs less and is used in meals more often than beef. The catch of the day is purchased early in the morning and options include carp, catfish, shrimp, and other varieties. If the family can afford it, they will eat fish three times a day.
Vegetables may also be purchased in the markets. Those grown in nearby fields include cabbage, eggplant, kohlrabi, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, pumpkin, onions, garlic, tomatoes, white radishes, and various kinds of greens. The price and availability depends on the area and the season.
Duck and chicken eggs, as well as a few packaged goods, can be obtained at some of the vendors Fresh from the family cow, milk is obtained twice a day. Some choose to pasteurize the milk by boiling.
A typical kitchen setup includes a wood or possibly kerosene stove, a curved knife, a bucket, two serving spoons, two to four plates, two to four glasses, two bowls, a cooking pan, and two pieces of stone for grinding spices. A setup would cost about $20 – nearly a month’s wages.
The most common stove is molded by hand out of clay. This stove is usually placed on the porch or in a small building. The tribals in the Chittagong Hill Tracts put the stove in their houses. Considering the bamboo and thatch construction of the house, this indeed creates a serious fire hazard.
The knife is used to chop greens, peel potatoes and cut up the vegetables. Onions, garlic, pepper and other spices are all freshly ground daily to enhance the taste of the hot, spicy curry.
Women work hard at preparing meals and make use of throwaway items like the Clorox jug and oatmeal container for their canisters. The cook does her kitchen work in a squatting position.
Rice is their mainstay. It must be cleaned by winnowing before it is put in this pot for cooking. A meal without rice is considered incomplete. Close seconds to the rice dish are potatoes or lentils.
The entire meal is cooked on the one burner stove. Each item is cooked in sequence with rice the last to be put on the stove. While the rice simmers on the fire, the cook goes for a bath in the local river or pond. Upon returning, she first serves the meal to the males of the family, … after which, … the females can eat.
Bakeries and fast food restaurants are available for those who can afford them. Yogurt, rice pudding, doughnut-like jalopies, and bite sized sugar-milk-rice flour balls are popular.
Restaurants along the streets are common. However, during Ramadan, the month of fasting, a cloth is draped around the eating-place concealing the customers from those passing by. To a devout Muslim, it is offensive to see people eating during the sacred time of fasting.
Sugar cane juice is a favorite in season drink. It is freshly squeezed and filtered right on the spot.
The Bangladeshis faithfully brush their teeth, not just after the meal, but just about anytime.
Come and visit us and enjoy some of our good food.
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