Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fulbright Blog
Date: November 23, 2006
Place: Dhaka

Steve Micetic, one of the other Fulbrighters, threw a Thanksgiving party. Everyone brought a traditional Thanksgiving dish - I volunteered for the squash. I thought this would be something that even a non-chef like me could prepare. I couldn't explain to my boua in Bangla exactly what I was looking for vegetable-wise, so I went to the market with her. I felt like I travelled back in time. There was nothing in the market to indicate what year it was. The road in the market is made of dirt and very uneven. There were stands were people could buy live chickens, goats, and even cows! All of the stores were just open stands with rudimentary coverings - no electricity. The vegetables were all laid out and the weight was measured with a hand-held scale.

I didn't recognize many of the vegetables there, so I picked up several that looked squash-like in shape, shook them, smelled them, asked what they were (as if their Bangla name might reveal their identities to me...) I found one that looked like a small, green pumpkin, so I bought that. I found another really large looking thing (maybe 15-18 inches long) that was shaped like an eggplant. It wasn't an eggplant though as Bangla eggplants are very small and green. The name was "law" in Bangla which I think means "gourd" so I bought that one too. Then I saw these small little things that looked like cucumbers. They weren't cucumbers though, because those were on a different table... So after I selected my vegetables, Fatima haggled for the price (because she knows what things should really cost). We then went to buy some large tupperware containers to put cooked squash in for transport and this time I bargained because I thought I could get a better price (and I did!)

When we got home, I was resolved to cook the squash myself, because squash Bengali style is saturated with spices and I wanted to bring the more bland squash-tasting American style. Fatima was clearly a bit concerned with me being in "her" kitchen, but she humored me none the less. I boiled some filtered water and started to chop the vegetables. Me chopping my own vegetables was apparently too much for Fatima, so she jumped in and started doing it for me.

After the water boiled, I put in the vegetables, some salt, and some white pepper. I also found another spice in our kitchen that smelled good. (I don't know its name because none of the jars are labeled - or if they are they say "peanut butter" or "yogurt"; we recycle our containers...) Fatima was a bit concerned that I wouldn't add more spices, but I assured her this was "American-style shobji". Finally, we strained the vegetables and put it in the tupperware. It tasted quite good if I do say so myself! Fatima also now cooks my vegetables "American style" much to my delight. (Although she still puts a bit too much pepper and mystery spice in it!)

Anyway, the blockade was still on so I didn't know how I was going to get all the way across town to Steve's house. Finally I asked Fatima if her husband could take me on his rickshaw and then come back at 10:30pm to pick me up. It is quite a long rickshaw ride (about an hour) but thankfully he agreed.

Everyone brought such yummy treats and we had a real traditional Thanksgiving feast complete with cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie. We even had a turkey (albeit a very small one) due to the ingenuity of Nabil (another Fulbrighter), Steve, and Tim (a BRAC intern). Apparently the guys were walking one day a few weeks ago and they saw a farmer with a turkey. They went up to the guy and negotiated a price. Just before Thanksgiving they picked up their turkey and slaughtered and cooked it themselves! Here is a picture of the three muskateers with their prize:

They named the turkey "Hasina" after the head of the Awami League party. (If you recall from previous blogs, the Awami League is the one holding the blockade...) This is a picture of Steve carving up Hasina. Sadly, because she was such a small turkey, there was not much meat on her (and the meat she had was a bit tough...) Thankfully, Nabil also brought a chicken with him!

Photo of Erin (another Fulbrighter) with her now world-famous stuffing...

There were many Americans in attendance as well as a few Bangladeshis, Brits, and even a Japanese woman! All in all, it was a lovely Thanksgiving!

A Post Script!!
I just went back and looked at my previous blogs and if you look at the vegetable vendor in the November 13th blog, on the left side you can see one of the "squashes" that I purchased!



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