One word that associated with Ramadan on the various scales is FOOD. Muslims do fast for 30 days- a month from sunrise to sunset in Ramadan where this holy month is meant to make us feel the hunger of the low facilized community of the society and make us more grateful for what we have in our life. Ramadan is a blessed month which also brings colors and festive moods in the Muslim community. What else it brings on you ask – I say food, a heap of foods.
Now, I have lived a quarter of my life and throughout this, I have already experienced the change on the Iftar menu. There are some must-haves on everyday menu. You will not enjoy Tom if there is no Jerry; and like so you will not feel your fast completed if you do not have oily food to please your stomach after a long fast. So, in Bangladesh, oily foods like fritters, cutlets are very much essential and they will be presented on the table every day. They are the mandatory courses and then you would have your elective courses to major on Ramadan platter with occasional Halim, Paratha, shikhs, or others.
In my childhood, I have seen my elders running to the kitchen an hour or two before iftar to make all those unhealthy snacks. But Unhealthy is the new healthy in Ramadan. The math they have learned in schools paid its value by providing them a good calculation of timing on when to prepare those snacks so that everybody could have a hot meal. We, the young fellows were not allowed to roam in the kitchen in case we might break our fast devouring a Hot Piyaju (lentil fritters) before time or any accident happened with the boiling oil. I will not dissect the history or reason to place all those oily food on the table, but they were delish I must say. Piyaju, Beguni, Alur Chop (Potato Cutlet), Chola, and Muri (puffed rice) and dates are the must-haves. The occasional special dish was Halim, Jilapi, Naan- grill, Biriyani, Paratha, and others.
Recently, I take notice that the items of Iftar did get changed over time. People get busy, women are becoming more outgoing jobholders, cultural assembling are happening and our iftar and suhoor menu is getting influenced by these things. The internet has given us a chance to visit other’s homes and kitchen every day and we do pick new recipes for our taste buds. The health freak community is getting stronger and new easy food recipes are evolving for them. Now I see people eating oats, fruits, heavy smoothies in suhoor. Keto-friendly foods are there to accompany oily mouth-watering snacks on Iftar for the carb maintaining tongues. Biriyani or Roast/ Grilled chicken replaced Chola Muri occasionally where they were given place as a special guest with the regular menu before. Pizza & Swarma Rolls are sitting on a plate to rescue a lazy cook like me for the past two years.
This pandemic has brought a nice turn in the kitchen. Though it takes me hours to stomach the abomination of straight and very unstructured Jilapis, still it shows how the art of cooking is taking care of the mental health of these confined people. When the virus is giving us a hard time restricting so many basic things do, we are also fighting back and giving a middle finger by bringing the street food culture home.
To eat or not to eat – was never a question! How we are using food to be evolved and express ourselves or to represent our culture – that is a nice thing to have a discussion on!