Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

Notes from Bangladesh: typhoon holiday

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

We got off-season rates at Cox’s Bazar on the Bay of Bengal. It was a wonderful time to be there. Every day we had stretches of sun parenthesized by downpours and impressive winds.

Boats in the Bay of Bengal

Sunken bridge

In the bay

Food ranged from the sublime to the grotesque. The grotesque included the high-carb ‘free’ breakfast at our hotel—flatbreads, Chinese noodles, curried vegetables, dals with beef or mutton, chicken curries, oatmeal, sweet rice puddings, omelettes, boiled eggs, croissants—where families and honeymooners fueled up for the day’s activities.

The sublime included the best grilled fish I’ve ever tasted at a hole-in-the-jungle eco-restaurant that we got to by hiring an electric baby-taxi to drive us up the coast past army teams repairing washed-out roads. The most exotic, and by far the least expensive, was a dining hall where families, labourers, businessmen, and ladies with their friends filled benches at tables on either side of a corridor that allowed waiters to whiz up and down delivering delicious fish curries, bhotas, vegetables, rice, pickles, and much else and where the three of us could eat splendidly and take home doggie bags for an equally splendid evening meal for just over $5.00.

The best grilled fish I’ve ever tasted

On a hotel-arranged tour of beauty spots, little boys with prehensile feet carried Isha up a gully to see a waterfall and across a channel over a decorative bridge.

Carrying Isha up a gully

Next week after a Vancouver visit, I’ll be heading back to drought-ravaged Ottawa, where Danjuma tells me he has plenty of peppers ready to garnish Italian sausage.

Notes from Bangladesh: Change of season and culinary implications

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

My father is back in Dhaka, the cricket pitches are wet, the goats amuse and the food is good.

*** *** ***

Dear Family and Friends,
 
It rained this morning in Lalmatia. The sky was dark and it was going to rain when the marketers (Beli and Lippy) set out for the bazaar in a rickshaw. Everyone was laughing. We are now at the beginning of Asharh, the first month of the two month “monsoon season.” Isha and I were watching cricket from the rooftop when the first large droplets began to fall and the boys scattered. Rain was shooting in through open windows when we got back to our flat.
 
Within an hour, the big boys were carrying pallets of sand onto the field to fill the puddles. The smaller boys were swimming in larger puddles beyond the cricket-playing areas; or they were building canals, dams, and drainage systems to the ditches around the park. The windows in our flat were open again. Isha and I were following a goat around on the cricket pitch, watching it eat the seed-tops off the grass. The marketers were buying vegetables and fish that hadn’t looked so fresh for months. There is nothing subtle or gradual about this change of seasons, and it feels good to everyone.
 
Fish

The pictures speak for themselves. Some shrimp was curried for lunch and two of the fish were fried. Most of the fish will be prepared and frozen for use over the next week or two. The second tiniest fish will be individually cleaned with the heads reserved for a bhota (a paste for kneading into your rice), one of the three or four or five dishes served up at every meal.
 
Water lily stems

The water lily is at the top of a rolled up two or three metre stalk, which is the part we eat. There are at least three types of, including sweet potato leaves, greens in the big white bag; several varieties of cucumbers for cooking or eating fresh; tendrils that hang down from lattices supporting gourds, cooked as a vegetable; and an impressive pile of what is sold in Canada as ‘bitter melon.’ There is a bag of achi (roasted and coarsely ground red rice) and a bag of attah (the wheat flour used for making roti, fresh flat bread, for breakfast). And there are guavas, three varieties of mangoes, and a large clutch of lychees. There was going to be a jack fruit, but the load was too heavy for an additional fruit about half the size of Isha. That will have to come tomorrow.
 
Seasonal best wishes!
P

Summer Sauce for Pasta

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

I’m hung over this morning, I think. It’s been about thirty years since the last time so I’m not sure, but I had a lovely time last night eating and drinking in the garden talking about current affairs and unions and now I’m kind of fuzzy-headed.

Picture me now, lying in my hammock as I copy out the recipe for what we ate from the New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. I would be happy to eat this every warm day all summer long.

Summer Sauce for Pasta
Serves 4

On those hot, lazy, sultry summer days, when, like a character in a Tennessee Williams play, you haven’t got the energy to do much more than lie around the house in an old tattered slip, try this quick, uncooked sauce. It’s fragrant, refreshing, and light.

6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms (8 ounces) [500 g]
6 to 8 ounces [200 g] mozzarella cheese, grated or cut into thin strips
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound [500 g] spaghetti or linguini

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce) [30 g]

Mix all the sauce ingredients together and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so, for the flavors to mingle.

Cook and drain the pasta. While the pasta is piping hot, serve it in well-warmed bowls, topped with a ladleful of sauce and garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Of course I don’t make it exactly like that. I use fewer mushrooms, less olive oil, more garlic (which I crush instead of mincing) and I hate Parmesan so I use Romano instead. But you won’t make it exactly like that either.

Enjoy!

Excitement!

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Mark got his Canadian citizenship February 6th. It was very sweet and simple and bureaucratic and communal all at once. 375 candidates from 72 countries and their friends crowded into a college auditorium. The candidates were assigned seats in the front, friends and family at the back, tables of bureaucrats in between. The entire swearing-in took about two hours, most of which was taken up with candidates finalising their paperwork.

The citizenship judge was Croatian-born and gave a moving speech about how difficult emigration and the process of building a new life in a new country is, and warmly wishing all the candidates well in their common but individually difficult endeavours.

Mark, in front with the candidates, and I, behind with the well-wishers, each wept a little, moved.

For his citizenship present, Mark and I are taking the train two-thirds of the way across the country, east to west. We’re leaving Tuesday March 10. It’s a four-day trip, and we’re getting off to stretch our legs for an extra two days in Jasper. Then we spend two weeks in the Vancouver area and fly back.

Normally transportation for this trip would be on the order of $4,000 to $5,000. But I have a bunch of travel points from travelling for work and Mark is an excellent shopper, so we’re doing it for less than $800.

They say it’s spring on Vancouver Island: the cherry trees are budding, crocuses and daffodils are blooming.

I can’t think of anything else.

Spring! (or, Why Cats are Bad)

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Yesterday my father and I were enjoying the springs in our respective cities. Yes, at -6C it was coldish (normal for March 1 is -1C) but it was sunny and the birds were singing.

That my father was enjoying the spring weather is remarkable because he just arrived back from West Africa: you might think that the hot and muggy weather of Monrovia and Accra might set him up to interpret an Ottawa March 1 as winter. But no, the birds are singing: it’s spring!