A day at the grocer’s
For near forty years, Rebecca Haque has done groceries for Ramadan with meticulous care. Soon after Shab-e-Barat she sits with the house help and makes a note of things to buy for the coming month. Her family has changed over the last four decades, the middle-aged mother-in-law has turned elderly and there have been new members in her family, as she herself has become a grandmother.
Her ailing mother-in-law, Elachi Begum, is a devout Muslim. Every day she wakes up early in the morning for her morning prayers and recites the Qur’an till daybreak. But for the last few years, her attempts to fast have been unsuccessful. She grows weak at the end of the day and the doctors have suggested that she should not fast.
Rebecca must ensure that provisions are made for Elachi throughout Ramadan. This means breakfast, lunch and dinner. She has a taste for fish, and also likes vegetables, which means there will be some daily chores on Rebecca's part in order to put fresh food on the table for Elachi.
These are probably the only provisions, along with meat and poultry that need to be bought on a daily, or at best, weekly basis throughout the month. Rebecca prefers to buy meat from the superstores across the street near her house. Her options at the superstore are varied -- beef, mutton, dressed chicken, quail, pigeon and duck!
And there are variations in the beef itself -- beef eye round boneless, T-bone steak, minced beef and tehari boti. Also available are tongue, liver, ox tail, brain and heart. These however are not served on Rebecca's dinner table.
Chicken is staple at her household and she buys wings, minced chicken and skinless drumsticks. Prices for these are a bit on the higher side at the superstores, but Rebecca prefers to get everything under one roof during the tough days of Ramadan.
Apart from Elachi, Tahrin -- Rebecca's granddaughter, now eight -- will not be fasting either. Tahrin likes bread, jam and sausages but Rebecca as the head of the family must ensure that Tahrin gets nutritious food throughout the month. There will be days when Tahrin will be able to fast till dusk; and on those special occasions special food will have to be served. Her favourite pulao will be a must on those days at the iftar table.
Rebecca's family is no different from any other household across the city. Rebecca makes an entry for 20 kilograms of kataribhog in her shopping list, to be bought from the dealer at the kancha bazaar. She will also have to buy 5 kg of chinigura rice.
She gets a better price at the bazaar and as she is purchasing a considerable amount, will be able to save a few hundred takas.
As there are children and elderly in her family, she must also serve various foods on the table -- khichuri, payesh or jorda on a regular basis. For this she would also need sufficient stock of powdered milk, sugar, and condiments all of which are duly entered into her shopping list. Without fresh ghee it would be impossible for Rebecca to make these special dishes. So she picks up a pack of 250ml butter oil for Tk295 at the superstore.
Walking though the aisles of a chain superstore Rebecca picks jars of marmalade and cheese spread; not quite the usual provision for Ramadan but essential for a midnight snack . Shuprova, her daughter-in-law works late and often likes to have something to bite on.
Rebecca also picks up bottles of ketchup, a large family pack of instant noodles and also crackers, roasted cashew and assorted nuts. It is always wise to keep snacks handy!
Searching through the drinks section, she is faced with countless options but prefers to choose between Ribena, Tang and Rooh Afza -- the family favourites -- that way her options, while breaking the fast, are wide open.
At the bazaar, Rebecca and her aide Shumee is greeted by the storekeeper, Asad.
When they first met some 25 years ago, Asad was barely a child helping his mohajon Motiur. After exchanging pleasantries Rebecca hands over the list of items, neatly separated into groups. To Asad she instructs to fulfil her requirements for the month.
Lentils emerge as the quintessential item during Ramadan and are obviously number one in her shopping list. Who can think of Ramadan without chola or piyaju! Besides, it is also essential to make chatpoti, meatball, fishball and other fried tempura and khichuri -- choice iftar menu for many. Rebecca also keeps a note of picking up a few kilograms of moshur, mashkalai, moong.
Rebecca plans to stock the monthly requirement of lentils as the prices will fluctuate during the entire period of Ramadan. To keep a tag on her shopping spree, Rebecca notes the prices of her purchase- chola (45/kg), motor (28/kg), beshon (35-60/kg) and moshur (80-100/kg).
This year Ramadan falls within the season for fresh fruits and she must ensure that there is a wide assortment served on the iftar table. Over the years, salads have emerged as the family favourite and for her 'health conscious' members of the family she has a separate list -- cucumber, lettuce, lemon, carrot, tomato, onion and green chilli. She will have to improvise on the dressings!
Returning home after a day at the bazaar, Rebecca sips on a glass of chilled blackcurrant juice and checks her purchases, crossing out items bought from the list.
She is now geared and ready, for the coming month.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif and Mahtabi Zaman
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Running the household, especially during the month of Ramadan, is no mean task. For one, the members of your family will eagerly seek the best dishes on the table, while you go about the frantic task of managing time. Secondly there is the upward trend of price hikes of commodities.
Market analysts have predicted that at least as far as prices of commodities are concerned, there will be some stability in the prices. A grocer at city's Kawran Bazar even gave the glad tidings of a reduction of price on some essential Ramadan commodities.
To help you keep abreast of things, Star Lifestyle lists the prices of the indispensable ingredients for the month, without which it is not possible to have peyaju for iftar, or the cup of tea that we will long for all day:
Mushur Tk75-100 per kg
Motor: Tk90-95 per kg
Chola Tk55-60 per kg
Kheshari Tk45 per kg
Beshon Tk70 per kg
Onions Tk27 per kg
Garlic Tk180 per kg
Ginger Tk160 per kg
Green chillies Tk120 per kg
Aubergines Tk 25-30 per kg
Cucumbers Tk 20-25 per kg
Kataribhog Tk60 per kg
Nazirshail Tk48 per kg
Paijam Tk34-38 per kg
Tk65 per 2kg (refined)
Tk45 per 2kg (coarse)
Tk47-48 per kg.
Rooh Afza Tk140-150.
If past experiences are anything to go by, kitchen market prices are as irrational as that of the Dhaka Stock Exchange. But all we can do is listen to the experts and keep our fingers crossed! Happy shopping!