Thursday, August 30, 2012


The music of Barbados is similar to that of other islands in the Caribbean. A lot of its music is mainly influenced by Trinidad and Tobago (like calypso) but also Jamaica, ultimately stemming from various African styles. Like Antigua and Barbuda, British music also has its influences in its music and dance.

Tuk bands consist of double-headed bass drum, flute, triangle, and a snare drum, and sometimes a pennywhistle or fiddle. Tuk bands have their basis in the colonial British military bands. However, the musicians borrow from African traditions and perform dressed in costumes based on different characters.

Spouge (also spelled as spooge) is a type of music that is like a cross between ska (one of my absolute favorite genres of music!) and calypso. Dalton Bishop (performing as Jackie Opel) created the genre in the 1960s. It got really popular really quickly, and has been thought of as Barbados' version of Jamaican ska. However, Bishop died at the age of 32.

Folk music, heavily influenced by both traditional British music as well as African music, is also the music of many folk dances as well. Latin, jazz, and East Indian rhythms and influences also can be heard in various folk songs.

Dancing has been a part of Barbadian culture since the beginning. Many of these dances are performed at festivals which include Crop Over or at Landship (more of an informal performance organization, specializing in cultural arts). The Jean and Johnnie dance, an important dance in Barbados' history, was actually a fertility dance, where men and women could show off to each other. However, it was banned in the 19th century for what the British associated with "non-Christian African traditions."

Most Barbadian music is centered around percussion. It's like the center piece on the table. And at the head and foot of the table are string instruments and wind instrument. Many of these instruments are made from natural materials, like shells, wood, etc.

If there is one popular singer whose name keeps coming up over and over and over again when I did practically every search about Barbados, it would be international superstar Rihanna. Now while I wouldn't say I'm a HUGE fan of hers, I do like a lot of her songs (like the song "Disturbia." For some reason, I'm just not tired of that song. Yet.). I do admire her many hairstyles, many of which I could never get away with. She made huge headlines a few years ago, not for her many awards, but for her tumultuous relationship with Chris Brown, for which she was also recently criticized for her still-palpitating feelings for Brown. However, she's so popular in her native Barbados that a few years ago, they gave her her own day (which fell on her birthday.)

Another musician with ties to Barbados is Grandmaster Funk, who was born in in Bridgetown but grew up in the South Bronx in New York. He's been credited with the invention of the crossfade, basically a switch from one turntable to another. My husband, my local expert on all things hip/hop and house music, doubts that, but thinks maybe he was just one of the ones who exclusively used it first. He was, however, inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 as the first hip-hop/rap artist.

Up next: the food!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


As with much of the Caribbean, art in Barbados is filled with color and the spirit of its people. Its art is an expression of the soul of the island, portraying its struggles as well as the happiness of its people.

Barbadian art covers many different types of mediums, including painting, mural art, sculpture, jewelry making, shell art, carved coconut art, as well as ceramics.

One famous artist is Fielding Babb. He's a painter who utilizes a layering method of paint to give it more or less a three-dimensional aspect to his paintings. His subject matter is mostly of historical buildings and portraying typical Barbadian scenes. Although now he's able to paint and teach art, he didn't start out that way. He had to work at it and didn't get paid very much for his work at all in the beginning. Kind of a typical artists' story. He says, "Do not work for a lot of money - work for love and the money will follow. Get into the true essence of painting and only then will you get recognition." Sometimes I feel like that about this blog or my music compositions, or even my husband's auto airbrush work.

Shell art, in the form of what was known as sailor's valentines, was actually created in the 19th century by the women of the island in order to sell to the sailors as something to take home to their families. It's not just unique to Barbados; other Caribbean ports created similar art. Some of it is really intricate, very detailed work. Definitely impressive to say the least. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is open to the public to see the beautifully hand-crafted shell art of the Barbados.

Barbados has certainly made its contributions to the world of Caribbean literature. One of the most prolific writers is Kamau Brathwaite. He was one of the co-founders of the Caribbean Artists Movement (that actually includes artists, writers, actors and musicians) and has received numerous awards and accolades. He's traveled and taught across Britain, Africa, and the Caribbean/Americas, writing several plays and a plethora of poetry.

Another key writer was George Lamming. A person of mixed African
and English heritage, similar to my kids, he did relocate to England for a while. He later left to travel and study in several different countries, making a name for himself as a novelist along the way. He also worked as a lecturer and has won several awards for him writings and work.

Up next: Music and Dance

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Skipping Ahead: Native American fry bread

I decided to skip ahead a little. Last month, a friend of mine travelled out to the western US states for a couple of weeks. I, myself, had never been out there. The closest I had gotten was flying over it on my way to Japan (with a brief weekend stop at Stanford University for an orientation). From what I could tell, the state of Utah is merely a crumpled up piece of sandpaper.

My friend had brought back a package of Native American fry bread. To be honest, I had never heard of this. But being from the Midwest, I'm no stranger to fried foods. Therefore, my curiosity was piqued.

Apparently, this company decided to take this traditional bread and sell it so you too can make it at home. Actually, it's great that they're doing this. It's not like we're inundated with Native American restaurants. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever heard of any. To try it at home is a unique opportunity that few have. Much like most of this blog.

The bread started out with pouring the mix into a bowl and adding some warm water to it and letting it rest for 30-40 minutes. It was sticky, but I stuck to the recipe and resisted the urge to add flour to it. Afterwards, I flattened the dough out and cut it into 3-inch squares and fried it. (Of course, and this goes without saying for me, no bout of frying goes without burns. This time, it's the tip of my finger. That'll make work fun, considering I type all day.) The package recommended several toppings to try, including honey, butter, or powdered sugar (I went with the powdered sugar). It also said that the fry bread is traditionally served with corn soup, hominy, and meat gravy.

I may have to search for an actual recipe for fry bread. I though this was from the Lakota tribe, but upon reading the back, it may be tied closer to the Osage traditions. I liked it; the sweetness of the powdered sugar mixed with the oil from frying reminded me of something of my childhood. Still less sweet than a funnel cake, but equally good. I should've tried a couple with honey, and a couple with butter (and jam!) to get the right combination.

Overall, I really could've eaten the entire batch myself. But my kids were staring at me with puppy-dog eyes, and I caved. Good food should always be shared. So, thanks to my friend for sharing the gift of something most people never get the opportunity to try.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Holidays in Barbados are a combination of days in honor of important people and events to its past and Christian holidays that were introduced by the British.

New Years Day. January 1. New Years in Barbados is considered one of the biggest celebrations of the year, and for many it's the biggest party of the year. Horse racing is huge in Barbados, as with many other former British colonies, and New Years is the beginning of the horse-racing season. Many Catholics may attend a midnight mass. Some Barbadians celebrate what's called "first footing," which is done by Santa Claus. It's said that he leaves gifts of bread, meats, coal, and/or whiskey. And to me, that's awesome. I'll take it all, even the coal. And of course, no New Years celebration is complete without fireworks.

Errol Barrow Day. January 21. Errol Barrow was a former prime minister who was instrumental in leading Barbados in its fight for independence from Britain. The day chosen is his birthday. Most businesses are closed on this day.

Good Friday. Varies. Since many Barbadians are Christian, many people will attend church services throughout the day. Some people choose to wear dark-colored clothing, as if they were in mourning. It had been an unspoken rule in the past to avoid going to the beaches on Good Friday, but in recent years, that rule has been relaxed some. Another tradition is that many people will only eat fish and no other meat on Good Friday. I could be ok with that. For a day at least.

Easter. Varies. Many church services are offered on Easter Sunday. People will wear their best and brightest outfits, and spend the day with friends and family. Lavish meals are shares by everyone.

Easter Monday. Varies. Most businesses are closed on Easter Monday, and people usually spend this day to relax and rest up from the festivities of the days before. I wish we had Easter Monday off, because it's ALWAYS needed. Kite flying is popular around Easter, so it's common to see people flying kites on beaches and other open spaces.

National Heroes Day. April 28. This is a day in honor of ten national heroes in Barbadian history. Statues were enacted in their honor in Heroes Square in Bridgetown. Each of these heroes are given the title "The Right Excellent," a moniker worthy of Bill and Ted.

Labour Day. May 1. Labour Day in Barbados is celebrated on the same day Britain and many other countries do. There are programs designed for labor organizations and work developments.

Whit Monday. Varies. Whit Monday is the day after the beginning of Pentecost. Barbados is one of the few countries that declared Whit Monday a public holiday where most businesses are closed for the day. Churches may have services held throughout the day.

Emancipation Day. August 1. This day is in commemoration of the end of slavery. A name that commonly pops up is that of Bussa (one of the ten heroes honored on Heroes Day), a slave who led an uprising that eventually resulted in emancipation. Programs, educational displays, and the Emancipation Day Walk takes place, along with eating African food and other delicacies shared with friends and family.

Kadooment Day. 1st Monday in August. Kadooment Day is the final day of the Crop Over festival. Originally, it was a festival with the idea in mind that at the end of the harvest, a certain amount of the crop was given to the gods. Their hopes of appeasing the gods who would in turn provide good luck and keep evil spirits away. This festival also entails costumes and dancing and music in the streets. Apparently in order to masquerade in the streets, you have to register in a "costume band" and pay to participate. If you aren't registered and dress up anyway, then you can be fined, jailed, or both. (I hope someone can verify this for me; that sounds tough). Now, you can always be a spectator for free. And I like free.

Independence Day. November 30. Barbados became independent of British rule in 1966. They celebrate it with parades and picnics, and in the evening there are fireworks displays. (However, fireworks displays must only be put on by licensed pyrotechnicians.) Flags and national symbols are displayed throughout cities and towns; homes, businesses, and people are decked out in blue and gold.

Christmas Day. December 25. Colorful lights are strung from buildings and decorate the streets and public areas. Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman also makes their appearances around the island (Santa, I understand, but Frosty surprised me, considering I doubt Barbados had ever seen snow.) There are parades that are sponsored where people drive trucks through the streets that are decorated, some with choirs singing carols and such. They do put out poinsettias around this time of year, much like we do in the US. And of course, it's also a time to spend with friends and family, gift-giving, and a lot of savory food.

Boxing Day. December 26. Britain and most of its former British colonies celebrate Boxing Day. (Minus the US. We are also, for some reason, one of the few former British colonies that never jumped on the cricket bandwagon.) Boxing Day is basically a coveted date with you and your credit card, madly grabbing at huge shopping sales like a Lucy in the chocolate factory. It's been likened to the insanity of Black Friday in the US (the day after Thanksgiving and official first day of the Christmas shopping season that I personally liken to French kissing the bubonic plague). For those who aren't insane, Boxing Day is also a popular sports-watching day, including the ever-popular International Triple Crown horseracing event.

Up next: Art and Literature

Friday, August 24, 2012


Located in the southern part of the Caribbean, the island nation of Barbados lies north of Trinidad and Tobago and east of the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The name itself is somewhat vague as to its origin: some attribute it to the Spanish word meaning "bearded," possibly in reference to low-hanging trees. Its reference is also related to the name of the island of Barbuda (as in Antigua and Barbuda).

While the Portuguese and the Spanish had actually visited the island originally, by the time the British arrived, it was unoccupied. Some historians think the Spanish may have taken what Indian tribes were there as slaves to another island. The British set up the capital as Bridgetown, and the island was used as a stop in the slave trade, mostly for cultivating tobacco, ginger, indigo, ginger, and sugar cane. During the 1830s, the British emancipated slavery, and many stayed. However, during the mid-1900s, many Afro-Barbadians left for Britain.

Because it was claimed as a British territory, English is the official language. Although, Bajan is used amongst the locals in casual situations. Bajan (rhymes with "cajun") is a local dialect that consists of various parts of English syntax and words mixed with some African words and used as a term to indicate not only the native dialect but also for anything Barbadian.

The vast majority of the people are of African origin, but there are small numbers of whites, East Indians and other East Asians. Christianity (of various denominations) is the dominant religion of Barbados as well, with of course a small smattering of Rastafarians, Hindus, and other religions.

Barbados is doing some really good things. First off, they enjoy national health care. Second of all, 100% of urban and rural areas have access to clean water and sanitation. Thirdly, they have some of the highest literacy rates: about 99.7%!

One thing I read was that it's illegal in Barbados for civilians to wear camouflage; only military personnel are allowed and authorized to do so. So, sorry Destiny's Child "Survivor" video. Not gonna cut it.

Speaking of, one of Barbados' most famous residents is the internationally renowned singer Rihanna. In fact, a few years ago, the prime minister declared a Rihanna Day on her birthday, but it was just a one time affair. That's nothing: I get that treatment every year. (At least in my head anyhow.)

I'm looking forward to delving into Barbados this week. Ok, really, it's just that I've already got my recipes together, and I'm hungry. The spices, the fruits, it all looks good to me. It's this mix of British and Caribbean that makes Barbadian food and culture what it is. It always amazes me that a country that I had little fore-knowledge about always intrigues me to learn more. And Barbados is no exception.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


This meal seemed simple enough, yet each item was packed with flavor, and with the promise that I know I could make it even better if I did it again. That's the hard part about recipes and this blog -- you almost always have to add a little less of this, a little more of that, leave it in for longer than indicated, etc. It's hard to do some recipes once and call it done.

The bread I chose was called butter buns. It was similar to the braided bread ("choreg") that I made when I did Armenia. Except, instead of braiding the bread, I just twisted the two strands, and then used the other part to surround the twisted part. After it comes out of the oven and cools, you slice it open long-ways to spread a butter-powdered sugar whip inside. It was so good. Next time I make it, I might add a touch of cinnamon to the whipped butter mixture. This was definitely the best part of the meal.

I also chose another bread recipe to make called aloo parantha. It's basically making another basic dough of flour, water, and a pinch of salt, and spreading it out in small circles. Then you place a ball of mashed potatoes mixed with cumin, onions, green chiles, and other spices in the center of the ball and wrap the dough around the potatoes. Once your oil heats up, you carefully flatten these balls and fry them. The turned out really good; I just wish I used a tad more cumin in the mixture. My husband wanted to use two pieces of aloo paratha as buns and put a piece of breaded tenderloin in between. I had a hard time telling him that was too much, considering that I just tried my first Cuban sandwich yesterday.

Finally came the main entree: chirar polau, or fried flat rice. Well, first off, I never researched ahead of time what flat rice actually is, so I used jasmine rice. I'm not even sure if I could've found it anyway. (I did, however, learn later that flat rice is dehusked rice that is flattened and swells up when immersed in liquid. Popular in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.) It's more or less fried rice with egg, red bell pepper (that was called "capsicum" in my recipe, a term common in Australia, New Zealand, and in India), cauliflower, onion, sesame seed (only because I didn't have any poppy seed), black pepper, cardamom, salt, and I added green chiles. My only problem was that the rice was still crunchy, probably because I wasn't using flat rice. I had to throw some water in the skillet and let it absorb to soften the rice. Once that was done, it was really good.

One thing about food is that it can bring back memories. It is true that food and eating touches on all five senses: hearing, touching, sight, smell, and taste. And each of these senses are connected to the area of the brain that is associated with memory. And everyone has a certain food that makes a person remember a certain event or person or something. For me, foods that take me back to my childhood are Pop Rocks, wilted lettuce salad, beer nuts, and chocolate soda with chocolate ice cream. My husband's are sweet potato pie and banana pudding. I mention all this because the author of the blog I found all of these recipes from (Rownak's Bangla Recipes) ate the butter buns as a child, and the very last step in the directions read "Enjoy the Butter Buns with sweet childhood memories." I may not have butter buns as my childhood memories, but maybe my kids will.

Up next: Barbados

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Music traditions in Bangladesh usually fall under three different genres: classical, folk music, and modern/Western-influenced music.

Classical music in Bangladesh is based on ragas, similar to that in Indian classical music. Ragas are sets of five or more notes that a melody is developed on. But the notes chosen, the order they are in, the number of notes are very important. Different ragas are used at different times of the day, for emitting different emotions, for different ceremonies and purposes, etc.

There are several categories that are based on the lyrical stylings of a particular author. For instance, Rabindra sangeet pieces are based on the works of Rabindranath Tagore, who we mentioned earlier when we discussed Bengali literature. Another one is Nazrul Geeti, based on the works of Kazi Nazrul Islam (who we mentioned earlier as well).

Folk music tends to come in several subgroups, generally tied with someone's profession or some other categories. The most popular one is Baul, which is inspired by Sufistic hermits. Other genres include Bhatiali (songs sung by boatmen and fisherman), Jaari (songs in a musical battle between two groups), Lalon (based on the works of Lalon Fokir of Kushtia), among several others.

Common instruments include the sitar, violins, flutes, and the esraj. The sitar is a long-necked stringed instrument whose name originally means "three string pairs" in Persian. The sitar was popularized and "introduced to the Western world" by famous Indian musician Ravi Shankar in the late 1950s/early 1960s, and several American bands used it in their songs, like The Kinks, the Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.

Sometimes called an Indian harp, the esraj is another stringed instrument that originated in Bangladesh and in northern India. While the sitar is plucked, the esraj is bowed.

When it comes to Western-influenced music, the rock genre wins out by a landslide. One of the most famous bands is L.R.B. (which stands for Love Runs Blind), headed by Ayub Bachchu. They have a nice blend of a little rock, a little blues, and a little Bangladeshi folk music. Not only do they use electric guitars and such, but they also incorporate traditional instruments as well. I really like the song "Bangladesh".

Another band I discovered that is a must-have for my collection is Arbovirus. (Although, I'm going to have to really search for it; initially, I didn't find it available on iTunes or Amazon). They are a little harder rock, somewhat in the style of Staind or Disturbed. What impressed me is the vocal lines follow an actual melody line, and sung decently too -- and not screamed. Not a big fan of screaming. Just ask my kids.

There are a number of Bangladeshis who have entered the hip-hop genre as well. One of the popular artists is a duo that goes by the name of Stoic Bliss. I liked some songs, others were ok. It wasn't enough to make me want to buy it. But I would definitely include it in a Spotify list.

While many dances are similar to and have derived from other dances in this area of the world, two dances that are from Bangladesh are the Monipuri and the Santal. Both males and females take part in dance, most often accompanied by jari and shari folk music styles.

Up next: The food! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Bangladesh is a mix of Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu philosophies and traditions, and you can see its influences on its cultures.

Temples, mosques, tombs, and other religious buildings each show different architectural features and subtle artistic details outline the buildings and areas.

Zainul Abedin is one of the key leaders in painting arts, especially in the modern era. He got his break-through in his Famine Series of paintings during the 1940s. Many consider him the father of Bengali art.

However, art in Bangladesh is so integrated into everyday life that it can be seen wherever you go. Housewives in the rural areas make fans, dolls, bedcovers, wall hangings, pillow cases and other domestic textiles for the home among other things. (Bangladesh incidentally also has a thriving textile industry.) In both rural and urban areas alike, Bangladeshis like color and lots of it.

Of course the British had their influence on their art as well. However, through an act of rebellion, several artists (like Abanindranath Tagore) created a new artform by combining their traditional styles with that of Chinese and Japanese traditions. It somewhat coincided with the surge of sentiments towards independence.

Literature in Bangladesh goes back centuries. One of the most important and well-known poets from the middle ages is Alaol. The end of the 19th century began a new modern era in Bengali literature. Among the most well-known writers are Rabindranath Tagore, whose vast canon of work includes plays, poems, novels, and short stories over a period of 60-some years. He also made a name for himself in the world of paintings as well.

Journalist Shamsur Rahman is considered one of the greatest poets if the modern era, having over 60 collections of poetry under his belt.

One of the more influential poets is known as the Rebel Poet: Kazi Nazrul Islam. His poems about religious and social issues gained him popularity at a time when people from all over Bangladesh were gathering together with the goal of independence in mind. He not only is proficient at poetry but also as a song writer: having written over 3000 songs! I've got a lot of catching up to do; I'm only at 46 or 47.

Up next: Music and Dance

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Holidays in Bangladesh fall under three different calendars: the Islamic calendar, Gregorian calendar, and the Bengali calendar. I've put which calendar each holiday is based on in parentheses after each date. The dates used are for 2012.

Eid-e-Miladun-Nabi. February 5. (Islamic). This is the celebration of the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. He was born on this day in 570 AD, and he also died on the same day in 632 AD. There are programs and special newspaper articles that are printed.

Language Martyrs' Day. February 21. (Gregorian). This is a day that commemorates the Bangla Language Movement. Back in 1952, the government of West Pakistan decided that only Urdu will be the official language (a language that only a small group of upper class Pakistanis spoke). The middle class in East Bengal (or East Pakistan) revolted, and five people were killed before they decided to add Bengali as a secondary language.

Father of the nations birth anniversary. March 17. (Gregorian). In honor of the birthday of its founding father and liberator, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Independence Day. March 26. (Gregorian). Celebrates the declaration of independence from Pakistan, and subsequently the beginning of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Generally, the days starts with a 31-gun salute, flags decorate the streets and businesses, political speeches abound, friends and family get together to spend the day.

Bangla New Year's Day. April 14. (Bengali). This day marks the beginning of the Bengali New Year. Also called Pôhela Boishakh, it's tied strongly to the rural areas. Both the home is scrubbed and everyone is bathed and wear their best traditional clothes. Communities have street fairs with lots of different food, music, plays, puppet shows and merry-go-rounds.

May Day. May 1. (Gregorian). This day is spent much like other countries, celebrating the worker and labor efforts. Labor organizations usually give speeches, and people spend the day with friends and family.

Buddha Purnima. June 4. (Bengali) This is the day that celebrates Buddha's birthday. People will put out national and religious flags and listen to sermons and talks based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha. Many people will read or chant passages from the Tripitaka. People cleanse themselves and visit nearby monasteries for prayers, bringing fruit, flowers, or incense in homage to Buddha. The non-vegetarians will often eat vegetarian for the day.

Krishna Janmashtami. August 9. (Bengali). This is the birthday of Krishna in the Hindu religion. It's celebrated in Bangladesh as well as eastern India. It's believed that Vishnu reincarnated into Lord Krishna on this day. People go to the temples at might and say prayers. A small version of Krishna is placed in a cradle and swung from side to side. Some people fast the entire day.

National Mourning Day. August 15. (Gregorian) This is a day to commemorate the assassination of national leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his entire family by a group of junior Army officers. Flags on government buildings are lowered to half-mast, and prayers are said at temples and mosques.

Jumu'ah-tul-Wida. August 17. (Islamic). This day marks the final Friday of Ramadan, the month of fasting practiced by Muslims. Also known as Friday of Farewell.

Eid ul-Fitr. August 19-21. (Islamic). This is the celebration surrounding the end of Ramadan. This is one of the largest Muslim holidays. There is generally a feast of savory foods to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Durga Puja. October 24. (Bengali). This marks the day where Durga conquers the evil powers of Mahishasura, as well as the departure of Durga from the planet Earth for a year. This is the largest Hindu festival in Bangladesh. People construct temporary temples all over, from small ones to large ones that are semi-permanent. Some are quite elaborate.

Eid ul-Adha. October 26-28. (Islamic). This holiday celebrates the Muslim festival of sacrifice. It's mandatory to have an animal sacrificed, and the health of the animal, as well as the age of it are very important.

Victory Day. December 16. (Gregorian). This is a day surrounding the surrender of the Pakistani army to the Mukti Bahini. It is a day that commemorates the millions of Bangladeshis who have died as martyrs for their country under the unfair rule under the Pakistanis. The national flag is flown all over the country on this day.

Christmas Day. December 25. (Gregorian). This day celebrates the birth of Jesus in the Christian religion. It's also widely known as Bara Din in Bangladesh (which means "big day"). The churches will have people garher for carols and some are open for feasts to people in the community. People still string up lights and put up Christmas trees. Christmas Eve is spent with family, in the midst of good food and kids opening gifts.

Up next: Art and Literature

Friday, August 10, 2012


Bangladesh, to me as a child of the 80s and 90s, conjured up images of natural disasters and extreme poverty. And while those things do and have happened, the country certainly has more depth to it.

For one, Bangladesh is the home of some influential people. Nobel peace prizer winner Muhammad Yunus is also the founder of Grameen Bank. Jawed Karim is one of the co-founders of YouTube and also developed the anti-fraud system that's used by PayPal. Fazlur Rahman Khan is the father of the "tubular design" and the architect who designed the Sears Tower (I refuse to call it Willis Tower--it will ALWAYS be Sears Tower to me) and the John Hancock Center, both in Chicago, IL. Both Afshan Azad and Shefali Chowdhury were actresses who played in the Harry Potter films. Irene Khan is the current secretary general of Amnesty International (the first women, first Asian, and first Muslim to hold that position).

One of the key symbols of Bangladesh is the Bengal tiger, which delighted my 6-year-old daughter to no end. It's the most numerous of tiger subspecies, even though in 2010, it was placed on the endangered species list.

Located on the Bay of Bengal, the country itself, minus a small border with Myanmar, is almost completely surrounded by the country of India.

Originally, the British included Bangladesh as part of British India, but in 1947, things had changed. The Muslim areas of West Pakistan and East Bengal separated from primarily Hindu India. By 1955, East Bengal became known as East Pakistan. The arrangement wasn't that great since East and West Pakistan were physically separated by India, and eventually East Pakistan gained independence in 1971 and renamed itself Bangladesh.

The official language is Bangla (also known as Bengali), but English is also used. Bengali is not only the official language of Bangladesh, but also the nearby areas in India as well.

The majority of people in Bangladesh are Bengali, and most people practice Islam. While there are a lot of rural areas, the capital Dhaka has over 14 million people, and the second largest city, Chittagong, had around 4 million. (I have this mix track called "Chittagong Chill" that's been a favorite of mine for years. Now I'm gonna have to go listen to it again.)

If there is a list of countries that could use some help, Bangladesh should probably be on there. Having a median age in the early 20s, it's evident this is a result of inadequate sanitation, clean water, susceptibilities to numerous communicable diseases, a high maternal mortality rate, etc.

Much of Bangladesh's culture shares similarities with that of India, and of course it's been influenced by its history and geography as well. But it takes it all in with its own subtleties to make it its own and unites its people. And its this rich history that we're jumping into this week.

Up next: Holidays and Celebrations 

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I have to say, this meal impressed me, even if I didn't follow the directions to a T because I got distracted (and hungry). But nonetheless, my skeptical husband absolutely loved it.

The bread I made is called khubz, a type of flatbread. The ingredients were simple; it starts with mixing yeast and a little sugar in warm water and adding that to the flour. After letting the dough rest and more kneading, it's rolled into balls and flattened out. The key difference in this bread than the other breads I've made is that the oven is heated to 500 degrees! After the oven heats up, the baking sheet goes in for about 10 minutes. Then your transfer the dough pieces to the heated baking sheet and bake until it's a golden color (about 10 minutes or so). I read that it's supposed to have a pocket like a pita, but mine didn't. I may have used too much water when developing the dough. Regardless, it was a very good bread.

The main meal I made is called chicken machboos. It can also be made with fish, which I seriously contemplated doing. I was really happy that I had enough spices to make my own baharat spice mix to go on the chicken (comprised of black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, and paprika). After cooking the chicken in with the spices and some onions, garlic, and tomatoes, I added some water and let it slowly cook for an hour. (I left out the dried black limes, something I had to look up on Wikipedia.) Now, at this point is where I started to deviate from the recipe, more than I had anyway. It called to take the chicken out and grill it. (No grilling on my part. It was already so tender, I have no idea how it could be done.) After letting rice cook in the chicken broth, I forgot to add in the butter and lemon juice into the rice, and it was really salty. My husband, however, thought it was really good. This is where the khubz bread comes in to save the day.

This morning, I started my day off with Bahraini cardamom coffee. It called for gulf coffee, but I used a kona blend instead. I read that gulf coffee is generally a light to medium roast, so I thought the kona blend should suffice. It also called for some saffron added to the coffee and cardamom and boiling water. A strong coffee at first, but the cardamom and saffron flavors comes out in the aftertaste. Definitely good, definitely needed.

I have to admit, I wasn't as psyched for this meal going into it, just simply because I thought, "Oh, I just did a chicken and rice dish for the Bahamas." But it was completely different on many levels. The flavors were complex as it was when I did the food from Algeria, utilizing the sweet spices and savory spices together. It goes to show what this blog is all about: setting aside your initial feelings on a country and just experience it, let yourself take it in and be amazed at where it can take you.

Up next: Bangladesh