Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 44, Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Chronicles of sam q

Chronicles of Sam Q

By Sam Q

Dearest Diary,
I know it has only been two months since Eid-ul-Fitr and Qurbani Eid is just around the corner, but I am still so traumatised that I am not looking forward to the oncoming festival at all, especially with the mayhem of anthrax and all.

You truly must be thinking that I have lost it, my marbles I mean. How can one be upset, scared or frightened by the two greatest Muslim festivals? (I actually had to consult my thesaurus for the last three adjectives). Well, I was. And I will explain why.

Firstly, how can we be celebrating Eid on two different days in Bangladesh? I just don't get it! It is ridiculous enough that with four hours of a time difference with Saudi Arabia, we think it is okay if they celebrate Eid a day before us, but, to see and accept that people of the same, small country having two '1st' days of Eid is simply absurd, ludicrous, preposterous, unusual...and no, funny is not the word I am looking for. I am giving quite an English lesson today.

Anyway, my very political-news-inclined-knowledgeable mum, who reads all her Bangla papers cover to cover, had a piece of information for me to put all my queries at bay. Apparently, all the shopkeepers (ahem!) persuade the moon sighting committee to declare Eid as late as possible, for their final bumper sale. So much for authenticity!

With Eid very near I decided to visit my favourite destination, Agora, my grocery shopping heaven. I realised that day it wasn't only my preferred place, it was every other Muslim's favoured place. I hadn't experienced that kind of deluge of human species ever before.

I surveyed the situation with my in-built radar and thought I would brave it out. Firstly, I think I stole one broken down, limp, shopping cart from a small child. Maybe he was holding it for his mum, but the moment he let go to peer over the ice-cream fridge, I swooped in with the precision of a bald, fat eagle, and before he could say 'caramel', I was long gone.

You had to be there Diary, to see the battlefield that day. Then you wouldn't have judged me. So after manoeuvring my limp, squeaky trolley through the stalls to get whatever little I could of my list, I was ready to pay. And then I saw and realised that every counter had a line that snaked literally to the back of the shop.

I looked over everywhere for the regular guys who always help me the other times I am there, but, that day, nope! Nobody in sight. But suddenly, like manna from heaven, a store assistant came and said to me that there was a fast-track queue, and asked whether I would like to go there. If hugging an unknown person was the norm of the day, I would have surely done it, but taking into account the heart attack he might suffer, I restrained myself.

So, twenty minutes (literally) down the line, watching and observing life, I was in two minds. Should I leave my trolley and just walk out or were those green Thai mangoes as good as they usually are?

Greed won that day. So I waited and saw the kaleidoscope of offerings fate had for me. I saw our homegrown actresses having such grand delusion about themselves. One was wearing a burkha, one was behaving diva-like (read: rude), one had a paint job done on her face with Leonardo as her makeup man, and one old man in an affected baritone voice explained to his grandson how some yesteryear personalities influenced his life.

Finally, I settled myself in the car and headed towards home to get ready for the next day, but even that was not smooth sailing. Traffic!

I thought Dhaka went a bit light at this time of the year? Anyway, as I closed my eyes to ward off my tiredness, a loud rap on my window rudely awakened me. I thought my driver must have done something wrong, so the traffic police was going to reprimand him and I would have to do the usual needful to take him off the hook. But, to my amazement it was a sprightly old man, with at least ten others like him surrounding my car for 'Eid-bakshish'. Right at that moment, I felt like one of the species of Mirpur Zoo, where I was the 'lookee' and they were the 'lookers'. The amount of name-calling I had to endure that day will last me a lifetime.

At last arrived home and settled myself down to watch some TV. I started to surf the Bangla channels to see what they had to offer. I stopped at some show where they were randomly asking people what they would specially do for their loved ones. One man said he would present a "gulaaf" to his girlfriend. Even the person interviewing the man had no idea what he meant. Eventually, it was figured out that he meant "golap", the flower, which in English, we call the rose. Needless to say, I changed the channel.

Now you tell me Diary, was this trauma or what? Remember the earthquake on the eve of last Eid ul Fitr? Soon after it happened I called my mum to see how she was doing. And calling her that day at that particular time was the best thing I could have done. She, of course felt it and was of course okay as everybody else was, but just before hanging up, she finished our conversation by saying, "Beta, an earthquake? Even in Gulshan?”

I laughed so loud that day that all my boredom and tiredness flew out of the window. I guess that is why God made mothers they are the best. But on this note I have to add that fathers are not to be left behind either. My Mohsin khalu, another extreme, thought the earthquake only happened on his premises, because he quickly urged his daughter, Minnat to find out if it happened anywhere else, and if so, how the rest of us were doing. Sweetest man ever. Between the two of them, what can I say, except...we love you. Parents are the best.

So Diary, let's hope we witness no such tremors this time around. Have a good day the Sam Q way!

Eid Muuuuuubarak!
Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Chicken grill/fry
500g chicken
2 onions
30g lemon grass
10g ginger
30g garlic
1 tbsp chilli paste
½ tsp coriander powder
3 tbsp powdered sugar or icing sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix onions, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to a fine paste. Mix the chilli paste, coriander powder and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Marinate chicken and keep it for an hour and grill or shallow fry. Serve hot.

P.S. The chilli paste I normally use is any brand that I get from Thailand. Tom Yum soup paste can also be used as substitutes. Chilli paste is sometimes also available at Agora, Nondon or Lavender.

Grilled fish
1kg fish fillet
50ml olive oil
75ml apple-cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 sliced oranges
Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, add olive oil, vinegar, orange juice and limejuice. Add oregano, salt and pepper.

Marinate the fish fillets in the marinade. Add sliced fruit, cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour.

Grill or shallow fry the fish. Now cook the leftover marinade for 5 minutes and pour over fish and serve.

Grilled pineapple
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch rings
¼ tsp honey
3 tbsp melted butter
A dash of hot sauce
Pinch of salt to taste

Place pineapple in a bowl, add honey, butter, sauce and salt.
Keep in fridge for an hour grill or shallow fry the pineapple rings to serve with your main dishes.

Red rice
1 tbsp of ghee (clarified butter)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
6 shallots, sliced thin

Heat ghee, add garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant but not coloured. Add tomato paste, the rice and stir to combine. Add water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover, simmer for 10 minutes until rice is tender.

Meanwhile heat oil, add shallots and cook till brown.
Season rice mixture with salt and pepper. Serve with fried shallots.

Milk-chocolate cookies
1 cup plain flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
8 ounces of milk chocolate cut into ¼ inch chunks
½ cup butter
2, Omega-3 enriched eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 325ºF, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Now add flour mixture. Fold in rest of the chocolate chunks. Drop dough on baking tray 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack. Cookies should be soft.
I have started using Omega 3 enriched eggs for their health benefits.

Photo: Zahedul I Khan



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