Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 43, Tuesday, November 01, 2011



Carbs: It's complicated

By Karim Waheed

In Atkins' world, Carbs are the main villain. Why do carbs get this bad rap? Let's get one thing straight: carbs don't increase your weight. Excess calories do. And the way we usually eat carb-rich foods clearly result in taking in too many calories. And by choosing more processed, less filling carb-rich foods, it's quite easy to over consume them. I'm looking at white/refined rice, French fries [or as the local fast food joint puts it on the menu, “Friends fries”], cake, alu puri, soft drinks…anything with refined sugar…AKA what you'd call the “good stuff”/ “life's simple pleasures”.

Some carbs are better than others.
To understand which is which, let's delve into simple and complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates are glucose and fructose from fruits and some vegetables, lactose from milk, sucrose from cane sugar, highly processed white rice and white flour. Table sugar is pure sucrose.

Complex carbohydrates, which are chains of simple sugars, consist primarily of starches as well as the fibre that occurs in all plant foods. Starch is the storage form of carbohydrates in plants. Foods rich in complex carbs include grains and grain products, beans, potatoes, corn, and some other vegetables.

Are complex carbs preferable to sugars?
Usually, but not always. Many foods high in sugar (especially sucrose and other added sugars) supply “empty calories” -- that is, they have few nutrients but lots of calories. By contrast, the calories in foods rich in complex carbs usually bring many nutritional extras with them. It depends on the food. Dairy products and fruit contain sugars, but are important parts of a healthy diet because of the other nutrients they contain.

Some foods rich in complex carbs are better than others. Bread [made from white flour] and French fries contain complex carbs, for instance, but you can make better choices. Whole grains (such as oats, whole wheat, brown/red rice) are more nutritious than refined grains, since they retain the bran and the germ, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and beneficial phytochemicals. Whole grains are digested more slowly, and thus have a more modest effect on blood sugar than refined carbs or sugars. The same is true of vegetables and beans. The fibre in these foods has many health benefits. In particular, soluble fibre (found in oats, barley, and beans) may help lower LDL [“bad”] cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

Here's the deal: If you're not that active but would like to lose weight, cut back on white rice, white flour, refined sugar. This doesn't mean you have to divorce simple carbs altogether. Every now and then a scoop of ice-cream, a bag of chips is okay. You're not a zombie, and shouldn't live like one.

Ever noticed how lean and well-defined the men and women working at construction sites [namely any work that demands serious physical exertion] are? Have you seen what they eat? A generous helping of boiled rice [mostly], with maybe onions and green chillies. It's all about burning more calories than you consume.

Don't say no to carbs.

Model: Shaon
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Wardrobe: Freeland


Got a beef to pick

Men love cows. Their shy nature, docile temperament and innocent eyes mean absolutely nothing to us. It's their delicious interior that matters. It is no surprise then that we absolutely love Qurbani Eid, like no other festival, religious or otherwise. Although meat itself always tastes good, the whole process of selecting, dissecting and then finally consuming the precious meat is what makes Qurbani Eid so special.

Unlike other times, Qurbani Eid actually allows one to decide which piece of meat God wants us to have. And from which cow. Thus, the whole idea of bringing the cow from the 'haat' to the dinner table, makes the entire thing a lot more interesting.

The first step of the process is to buy a cow. The rules of economics in the cow markets are completely different. Prices are not a reflection of demand, in any way whatsoever. They are also not influenced by the supply. Quality isn't a factor as well.

Every cow in the market will always cost more than double your budget. You could place a set of horns on a chicken and still charge 35,000 taka as a starting price for it. That's a rule. So, those who go to the 'haat', usually go in groups. Bulk buying usually means discounted prices. The whole cow-buying experience is all about winning and losing. If you pay less for an amazing cow, depriving the cow seller of his fair share, then you win (jitso). If you buy a cow for more than it deserves and the seller cheats you, then you lose (harso).

The responsibility of the cow purchase rests on the men of the household. Men have egos. Therefore, the need to win means that some actually spend whole nights at cow-haats.

Cow sellers are coaxed, convinced and pleaded with to part with their cows for an amount that is deemed fair. But cow sellers always wait for the next best offer, even if one isn't coming. They also have a lot of sad stories. And almost everyone says their cow is like their son or daughter, so unfortunately, you need to pay more for them to give up their cows, although that's the reason they are at the 'haat' to begin with.

The haggling can get pretty tiresome. It is a repetition of the same words basically. '55,000 taka!', 'I will give 20,000', 'No. 55,000 taka', '20,000?' And on and on it goes.

Once a cow has been selected and carefully examined, the purchase can finally be made. Some would rather buy them off the street than from the 'haat' because of the 'haasil' payment, which isn't all that much. Afterwards, the cow is paraded throughout and everyone wants to know the price. 'Bhai, koto?', 'Bhalo Kinsen', 'Goru naki chhagol eita?'

Questions are tossed at you from all directions. And you feel proud of repeating the answer. In fact, the price and respect are inversely proportional here. The lesser the price you state, the more respect that you get. Although, lying kind of kills the whole spirit of things.

Then comes the first time your cow comes home. Your family is pleased. You feed the cow and bathe it the next morning and although you grow attached to it, you know the opportunity cost of making him your friend is a bowl of sizzling, delicious, fresh 'nehari'.

So, really, that's a price a bit too high for friendship now, isn't it? The utility of friendship doesn't exceed that of 'nehari'.

The cow's sacrifice, however, doesn't end Qurbani. Rather, it begins it. There will be beef everyday for the next month. Every. Single. Day. Yes, men love cows.

By Osama Rahman
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


A cut apart

For Wasim Shiraji, there is more to Qurbani than buying a cow and slaughtering. It has deeper meanings to him; he feels a need to get emotionally attached to the cow he chooses and the process starts right from the selection.

"I always look for a cow that's an eye-candy. It does not necessarily have to be the best breed of the cattle field, but something about it must appeal to me," he says. Shiraji also checks if the cow is in right order, without any disease or physical flaws. "When all seems okay, the purchase is made."

However, Shiraji also checks if the cow is an ox, young, muscular and beefy. "These," he says, "are signs of tasty meat."

Dr S M Mosaddiqur Rahman, a seasoned veterinarian shares a similar thought. "A cow that looks good at first glance is probably the best buy. A healthy cow is active, its fur smooth and stands on ends when touched," he said.

As for gastronomy, "Local breeds are the tastiest", and goes further to state, "but may not be the most appealing."

"Deshi cows are smaller in size, have small humps and small legs. It is very difficult to explain the look of a deshi breed to a layman; but those who know how to tell the difference can recognise it instantly.

"These local variants however have been cross-bred into extinction, in the lure for bigger size and higher productivity," said Dr Rahman. "We are taking measures to preserve our regional breeds such as the Red Chittagong and others."

The reason for better taste possibly lies in the climatic conditions that prevail in this region. Their eating habits being pasture grazed, and reared specifically for the purpose of Qurbani attributes a special flavour in the meat of local breeds. There is a fan following for the cows of Mirkadim, where rigorous measures are taken to produce possibly the finest of Bangladeshi meat -- our answer to Kobe Beef.

However, there has been a recent trend of rearing cows with artificial hormones and often urea molasses. "Chemicals such as urea and artificial chemicals leave their trace in the meat and when passed on to humans may cause liver damage. Consumption of bovine liver may be especially harmful in these cases," believes Dr Rahman.

Shiraji says, "It is almost impossible to separate the grass fed cows from the chemically treated ones. They look the same but taste a lot different. But by then it is already a bit too late," he chuckles.

However, many like Shiraji have one trick up their sleeves. They feel there is no alternative to employing profession butchers on Eid day. "It is important to buy a good cow, but more important to preserve the best pieces."

It is not common knowledge that beef parts taste different depending on the musculature and the fat content. "I just enjoy beef. As long as it is of bovine origin, any meat is fine," opined Goffur, a journalist by profession. However, Shiraji prefers to have his ribs separated from the sirloins, the shank isolated from the flank. "Butchers can separate the pieces for you as per your requirement. The whole cow can, through this, serve your taste buds better."

Having said all that, Qurbani is not just about eating meat. The spirit also embraces the act of sacrifice and sharing with kins. But the gustatory aspect cannot be ignored. There is something about Qurbani, something about eating meat; definitely a cut apart.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2011 The Daily Star