Thursday, February 25, 2010

At least we're not in Zimbabwe...

Well, this came out about 2 weeks ago, but in case you all missed it, the big news item was that Dhaka was ranked second worst city in the world for livabilty. The only place less livable is Harare, Zimbabwe. While we aren't sure how much any of this means and don't realy like the very value-laden term "livability," it does reflect some of the challenges this city simply must address, such as the increasingly terrible pollution, out of conrol traffic congestion, irresponsible and unregulated building construction, massive wealth disparity, and inadequate basic social services to provide for the citizens - to name a few...

All in all, it isn't something we necessarily agree with for our personal circumstance - on many days we are happier living here than in many US cities we've lived in - but it is an interesting title Dhaka can add to the list. Now it is not only in not quite the most corrupt country in the world, it is not quite the least livable place in the world!

This is the Deccan Chronicle article on it from February 14, 2010:
"Dhaka Second Worst Livable City
Bangladesh's capital Dhaka has been ranked the second worst city in the world to live in after Harare in an annual survey of livability that assesses living conditions in 140 global cities.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey report published here today put the Bangladeshi capital just ahead of Zimbabwe's capital Harare.

Dhaka scored 38.7 per cent on a scale of 0-100 to jointly become the 138th city in the world with Algiers of Algeria.

The EIU, a business information arm of The Economist Group, survey found the city of 13 million people scoring below average marks in five broad categories that the citizens most care about: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Vancouver of Canada, which scored 98 per cent, retained its top position, with the city offering an excellent infrastructure and low crime levels as it hosts the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The lowest ranked city on the list is Zimbabwe's capital Harare with 37.5 per cent score."

Here is a link to the study itself too - it is interesting to see the data.
EIU Study

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The New Baby!!

Well here they are: the long-awaited photos of Taborok’s new baby!

His name Shoman and he was born January 30, but since we have all had variations of this head cold that we didn’t to spread to the little guy, we only just got over to Taborok’s house a couple of days ago to see the new addition to his family.

He is of course adorable. This was the first time we got to meet Taborok’s other son, Rahman, as well. Before he was living with Taborok’s parent’s in the village and going to school there, but now that Taborok’s got a better salary and some income stability he was able to move him to back home to Dhaka. This means their whole family is together again, and everyone is really happy about it. Rahman is a super sweet kid, and extremely outgoing and chatty, so it was especially fun to hang out with him as he hammed it up for the camera (notice he is leaning into almost every photo!). At some point, for reasons only he can understand, he decided he needed a photo of himself without his shirt on and struck a pose, so we obliged. Later, Jon remembered that he also has an awful lot of photos of himself around that age shirtless, so maybe it is a 10 year old boy thing, or maybe they are just kindred spirits!

We all had a nice time hanging out at Taborok’s house. We had brought a gift for the baby (a cuddly blanket and a one of those play things that hangs over a baby while he lays under it) and the box was huge and we had it wrapped at the store in bright shiny red paper, which got a lot of attention as we carried the present home from the store, then to pick Atticus up from school, and over to Taborok’s house. You can see the present in one of the pictures below. We also bought Snakes and Ladders (Chutes and Ladders in some parts of the world) for the older kids so they wouldn’t feel left out. Atticus was a little shy at first, but warmed up after a few minutes and had fun sharing some of this schoolwork.

It is nice to be around a family that is so clearly close (like our own) and the tiny little room in which they live illustrates (and perhaps necessitates) that closeness. It is such a strikingly a little space that they all live in crammed together, but it is full of so much happiness and love and we are glad to get to be a part of it.

So here are some pictures of the beautiful family.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Today, 21 February is celebrated around the world as International Mother Language Day and this is thanks to Bangladesh. The holiday today represents the right of people to speak their cultural language and recognizes language as a fundamental part of identity.

Here in Bangladesh, the day is called Ekush, which literally means just 21, (as in 21February) but is specifically referring to the day February 21, 1952 when student protesters of Dhaka University organized a massive protest for the right to speak Bangla and many were gunned down and killed. At the time, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan, and Pakistan was attempting to implement an Urdu-only language policy nationwide. The problem was that not only did most of East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) not speak Urdu, they felt a deep connection to bangla as a piece of their cultural heritage and identity as Bengalis. As a result, people – led largely by student activists, mobilized around the issue of adding bangla as a second language of Pakistan. The government resisted, and the fight became protracted and violent on the part of the government. The students killed on February 21 became known as the Language Martyrs, and the Bhasha Andolan, or Language Movement, gained new fire following their deaths. In 1956, bangla was added as a second national language for Pakistan.

There was a lot of very interesting aspects to the day. On the one hand, it was fun to go down to the Shahid Minar, the monument to the Language Martyrs (pictured above)and take part in the holiday festivities. The Shahid Minar is down next to Dhaka University where much of the organzing took place, so it is nice to be in the place and remember all the history that took place there. On the other hand, it was also fascinating how nationalist the event was- Sam has done (and is doing) some work on how the Language Movement has been incorporated into the national narrative of Bangladesh after the fact, and it was incredibly interesting to watch it play out on this day. While Sam, as a historian, can point out all sorts of re-writing and forgetting taking place in the national narrative, there is also a new understanding of Ekush that fuels a very young nationalism, and one which is not widely self-critical of the idea of nationalism and sometimes frustratingly okay with mindless patriotism – but then, what nationalism isn’t that way? Again, we could get into all sorts of interesting post-colonial discussions here, but we wont.

So we headed down to the events around Dhaka University and the memorial in the afternoon, because unlike every other school and institution in the country, Atticus’ school decided to stay open (major criticism of EFID- they seem oblivious to Bangladesh holidays and culture and often don’t close on MAJOR holidays such as this). We made it down in the evening and it was packed. We got out of our cng when the traffic became intolerable and walked around, but weren’t certain about where we were in relation to the monument – which was the destination. The whole Dhaka University area was like a giant festival though. Jon and Sam immediately got their faces painted (with Bangladesh flags- we just had to embrace the nationalism and figure we’ll sort it all out later!) but Atticus has developed a strangely strong aversion to face painting (also at the soccer tournament) and so he skipped it. Here are some shots of the early crowd are our beautiful faces!

We made our way around the area looking for the Shahid Minar and just trying to manage the really high level of attention we were getting. It probably didn’t help that we had ‘deshi flags painted on us to add to the spectacle. It had been a while since we have had to deal with the massive crowds forming around us and it was a little exhausting. We try to be cool about it, but honestly, the attention was a bit too much tonight. At several points there were probably thirty or forty people crowded around us taking photos. It can be a bit stressful. We kept a good attitude though and were friendly to everyone.

In our route toward the monument, we went through the Bangla Academy Boi mela. This is an annual book fair that has been going on forever, and it had some nice little stalls and fun stuff. Atticus bought a drum (what on earth was Sam thinking when agreed to let Atticus and Jon get a percussion instrument and bring it home??!!). It was funny too because even though it was all outside, at one point outside the boi mela there were metal detectors you had to go through. It was the most silly symbolic security measure seen to date- we are not sure if it beeped if anyone could even hear it. Again, it was symbolic though – much like security at all big events. Anyhow, here is the boi mela and Jon and Atticus being cleared through the “screening.”

It was also nice as the sun went down and some of the area statues were all lit up and fancified. There was a very cool art installation around the Amtolla on dhaka University. The Amtolla is a big tree that was used as a meeting place during the Language Movement and in various politcal organizing efforts afterward. The installation was statues of different historical figures all meeting under the tree - pretty cool, but hard to capture in photos. Here's the best we could get:

As we finally arrived at the Shahid Minar, it was massively crowded, as you can see in the photo at the top of the entry. There was a line of cops around it(the newspaper said over 8,000 police and security were used for the event!) and it was difficult to maneuver. We made our way over to the monument to place our flowers on the memorial (as is the tradition) but by that time apparantly that part of the deal was over. The flowers had been taken away and the remants of them were all over the ground, along with what seemed to be tons and tons of styrofoam. (And can you imagine how much styrofoam is in a ton?). We set our flowers down and headed for less crowded territory.
We walked for a while just to get out of the crowded area. It is always nice to walk around Dhaka at night- the lighting is just so cool with all the little carts that have lanterns and candles lighting them up. All in all, it was a fun time and definitely something we are happy to be able to see.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bicyles, Biriyani, and Boats

So while DP was in town he and Jon decided to ditch the old ball-and-chain for a day and head out on town with just da boyz. They headed down to Old Dhaka to see the sites, especially the Buriganga river, which is an essential place for any Dhaka toursit to see and get a picture taken on (see September blog posts for our earlier photos from the river). Jon also wanted to witness the black water of the river which he had heard about and seen pictures of, but not seen for himself. Apparently during the dry months the river gets so low and slow that it gets bogged down with pollution from the city and turns black and oily (who wouldn’t want to see that?).
Old Dhaka is always a fun and interesting place because there are a lot of Hindus in this part of the city (especially on Hindu street) so you can sort of experience a separate and distinct culture from the broader Muslim culture of Bangladesh. Jon had only been down to Old Dhaka once before during Durga Puja (a Hindu festival) so he thought it would be nice to see when there wasn’t a big festival going on. Apparently though there is always a festival going on there because when they got to the heart of Hindu street they stumbled upon some festival. While Jon was trying to get pics, which seemed to be hug-giving accompanied by music (what a great festival!) a young woman approached Jon (actually she seemed to be following him, but had now started talking to him) and began saying something in Bangla. Jon finally figured out that she was saying snake and realized that she must have been a snake charmer. It was interesting, because although Jon had been looking forward to seeing some snake charming while here when actually confronted with the opportunity he was quite nervous about it (this wasn’t helped by the fact that the woman kept pretending her hand was a snake and striking toward his face). He asked DP if he wanted to see a snake charmer and he said ‘no’ (thankfully) and they went to check out the festival some more.
As Jon and DP stood taking pics of the hugging, a man and a woman whose faces were painted, stepped up to Jon and started painting his face. At the same time the woman began painting DP’s face. Jon and DP soon realized that the face painters were expecting to be paid for the un-asked-for services and obliged. DP gave more taka to the woman than Jon so he got a pretty extravagant series of dots and lines. Pics of the face painters are below. Sorry no pics of Jon since his pic is on DP’s camera back in the US.

Jon and DP decided to move on, partially out of concern that if they stuck around their faces would be completely covered in paint. They continued to wander around the narrow streets of Old Dhaka while people pointed and laughed at their painted faces. They decided they needed to get the paint of and looked around for a faucet or something. Then they realized that it rubbed right of without water just as they wandered upon a communal faucet. Across from the faucet was a jewelry store so DP bought some fancy carved bracelets made of conch shell and then they headed for Bicycle street to buy some rickshaw art.

Bicycle street is actually an area more than a street where you can pretty much by anything associated with bicycles, tricycles, motorcycle or scooters and as was eventually discovered fabric shops (which originally seemed out of place) that sell rickshaw art. After getting some rickshaw art it was finally time to head down to the river. On the way down to the river DP was distracted by a biriyani (fried rice with meat) restaurant, and since he seemed to be on a quest to find the perfect biriyani while here he had to order some. It was fun because Jon had never actually been to one of these Bangladeshi style restaurants where they rush you in, sit you down and throw a plate of food in front of you (because they only serve one thing). They also brought some drinks out and said it was like Sprite so Jon gave it try (He obviously wasn’t having any biriyani). Sprite, he thought, how refreshing, so he gave it a try – it is nothing like sprite. It was possibly one of the most disgusting thing he has ever ingested. So Jon, of course, told DP to give it a try – needless to say he did not like it either. Later internet research revealed that it was most likely Borhani. If you’re interested in making some for yourself here are the ingredients:
Plain Yogurt (white & sour) - 1/2 kg (1 kg = 2.2 pound)
Mint Leaf (pudina leaf) paste- 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander Leaf (dhania leaf) pest- 1/2 teaspoon
Green chilly paste - 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1/2 teaspoon
White mustard seed powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Black pepper powder - 1/2 teaspoon
White pepper powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Sugar - 3 teaspoon
Tomato sauce- 1 teaspoon
Chat salt (not normal white salt, it’s called BIT NUN) - 1/2 tea spoon
Normal salt - 1/2 teaspoon (as per taste).

It is hard to imagine with such a delcious recipe, that it was so foul...
After that they headed to the river. Jon was excited to see and to show off the black water. The water was indeed black, and the smell was really something as well. It was really quite disturbing how different it was from only a few months prior. The boat had originally been hired for an hour, but DP had the idea of just having him drop us at the other side and then walking back across the bridge. Here are some pics from the boat ride:

The other side of the river was interesting. It is technically not Dhaka and the CNGs were a different color! Lots of people wanted to talk and it was fun being in a less-traveled area of town. After walking across the bridge Jon and DP wandered through the crowded maze-like streets of Old Dhaka, through sari-ville, suit-ville, hijab-town and finally back to biriyani-corner. It was a nice excursion that really would not have been possible with Atticus because of all the walking and the extremely crowded streets. And amazingly neither Jon nor DP got arrested, detained, or into any other trouble on the journey, which Sam was fairly confident was going to happen. Maybe on another journey…
After Old Dhaka Jon and DP met up with Sam and Atticus at Bashundhara City. That was also a fun contrast of Old and New Dhaka. Below are some more pics from the day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Fall of Les Faucons

So another fun thing recently was the Ecole Francaise Internationale de Dacca (EFID) annual futball (um, that’s soccer for our American readers) tournament. Atticus as you know attends the French school (EFID) and they hosted the event. It was a pretty big affair, with a whole bunch of international schools attending, and over 350 players (the newspaper said later.)

So, basically it was a bunch of elementary school children playing futbol and having a nice fun day outside- what is more adorable than this? Not much. Atticus played with his classmates on the team Les Faucons (The Falcons). Jon, Sam, and DP volunteered to help keep track of Les Faucons over the day and get them to the field when needed – as well as helping rotating players in an out of the game, and of course, jumping around and cheering a lot.

Les Faucons, well, what can we say. They had great spirit, but as we soon saw, lacked some basic elements necessary for tournament futbol- one of which was actually knowing how to play futbal. Also, while most of the other teams spent the pre-game periods stretching or practicing, Les Faucons were generally to be found buying crepes over at the concession table. (Yes, this is true, and yes, they were quite good crepes.)

The first game they played was against the NGO school for street children, which made for a somewhat awkward cheering situation for Les Faucons’ fans. We just opted to cheer for everyone, because you just can’t really cheer against homeless children. Les Faucons (somehow) won this game, and the next game they played was against the Australian School. This was an easier cheering situation morally, but the Australian school kids were a rough bunch and they blew Les Faucons away. In another match, Les Faucons beat the Canadian School and got to advance to the semi-finals.

Unfortunately though, despite the day’s earlier successes, the semi-finals were a bloodbath. The first round was against Bangladesh International Tutorial (BIT). Not only did these guys seem a little bigger, they also seemed to have played soccer before and understood things like which direction to run, how to pass the ball, etc… so it was a pretty one sided affair. As one of Atticus’ friends’ dad put it “Boy, our guys just don’t what the bloody hell they’re doing out there, do they?”

After the brutal loss against BIT there was one last game to go for third place or last place, and it was against – uh-oh, the Australian School, who had annihilated Les Faucons just hours before. Les Faucons had also lost a few teammates who hadn’t managed to make it back after lunch, and were feeling a bit under-confident. The lack of confidence was probably well placed. The kids were destroyed. As teammate after team mate was carried off the field in injury, and the one poor kid on the team that actually knew how to play (and was pretty good) struggled to keep the game together, it was really just a losing battle. Les Faucons fell to defeat.

They did all still get medals for participating though, and had a fun time overall. Possibly more fun than even the winning teams, come to think of it- Les Faucons got to play futbol, but eat their cake too!
Here are a few pics from the day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lockpicking, Arrests, and Undercovers

Well we went M.I.A. for a while because last week our very good friend DP came to visit us. It was so fun to have him here, and since he was only here for 6 days, we were pretty busy trying to get as much as we could in. There was plenty we did not get a chance to do, but all in all we had an awesome week with one of our favorite people in the world.

The week was not without our usual misadventures, though. Atticus (who is attached at the hip to DP if he is anywhere nearby) began the week by changing the combination on DPs brand new briefcase while we were all asleep one morning. He, of course, then promptly forgot what he changed it to. Here’s the thing- it is a three digit combo, so there were 1000 possible combinations, which while a lot, is a manageable number to get through systematically (we’re glad it wasn’t 4 digits or it would’ve become 10,000 combinations!). The problem is that if you are too systematic it apparently doesn’t work. Sam went through every number from 000 to 999 by increasing by 1 digit every time, but we guess that since she didn’t reset the lock every time (by moving all the numbers instead of just increasing it by one on the single dial she changed) it never let the lock open. We tried looking up methods on the internet, and playing lockpick, but finally decided that the most reasonable thing was just to take it back and tell them it was broken- we technically didn’t lie, because we said that DP set the combo to a new combo, and it worked in the store but not today. So we omitted information, but didn’t falsify… Anyhow, Atticus felt bad and learned a lesson. DP hopefully also learned a lesson: don’t teach a 7 year old how to change your combination. Here we are trying to work things out. We’ve blurred DPs face due to his somewhat public official-ness.

We also took a super quick trip up to Srimangal, which was fun, but the REAL excitement was on the train back! Going up we got first class seats (advice for future travelers: the non-AC seats are way better than the AC seats. We had our own little compartment and unlike the AC compartments, the window opens, so you can get some good shots as you roll along the way. You are also able to buy things from the vendors outside the train through the open window, which is pretty awesome. Here are Jon and Atticus enjoying the breeze.

We couldn’t get our own train compartment for the trip coming back since it was for a train the next day and first class was sold out. Bangladesh Rails has an absurd system where you can’t buy a round trip ticket; you have to buy your ticket from wherever you will board, so we had to wait until we were in Srimangal before we could get our ticket back. This is ridiculously inconvenient and one of the many many ways that Bangladesh Rail misses the mark on what could be a tourist goldmine of train travel here. Another major improvement would be announcing which station you are at when you stop. That would be extremely convenient. Just sayin’.
Anyway, we got some pretty pics going up. Here are a few:

And the excitement? Well, as we said, we didn’t have a compartment so we were just in the regular seating area with the riff-raff (or hoi polloi, if you prefer) . The seating is much like every train or bus: two seats- the walking aisle-two seats. Atticus and DP were on the row slightly diagonally behind Sam and Jon, just across the aisle. In some wyas, the regular class is more fun- there is more food available and more interaction with fellow travelers. (Although this can also be tiresome depending on your mood- sometimes the constant barrage of questions about your origins and opinions becomes exhausting, but other times it is fun. It is always, in our experience, the result of genuine friendliness on the part of Bangladeshis though, and we try to keep a good attitude about it even when we aren’t really in the mood.)

So, anyhow, as we are rolling along about three hours into the train ride, we notice a bunch of cops/military dudes coming into the area and asking everyone about their bags. They were pretty heavily armed, which is not unusual for the police here, but still noticeable. The cops asked everybody if the bags above them belonged to them and DP mistakenly told them that the one above him was Jon’s bag, which it wasn’t. Luckily there was no contraband in the bag and so Jon was not arrested, but another person was not so lucky. As the cops walked through the train asking which bag belonged to which person, they all seemed to focus their attention on one particular bag towards the front of the car. As they investigated further they began to question a man seated up front near the bag. We were too far to hear the conversation, but we could see that something was going down. There were probably five or six cops surrounding the guy and talking to him.

Meanwhile Jon noticed that while he was trying to get a look at what was going on, a sort of suspiciously calm fellow was now standing near him. The guy seemed awfully cool and confident and he calmly and very politely (which is somewhat unusual here) kept telling people to sit down as they moved forward to try and see the action. He was just wearing regular clothes, but he just had a certain vibe about him that set off some Spidey senses. He just seemed to cool for the situation. At this point Jon started to pay more attention to this guy than the hubbub up front. He pointed it out to Sam and her impressions matched Jon’s – this guy was definitely not a random stranger that was just coincidentally now standing in the aisle next to us for no real apparent reason. Eventually the cops took the guy being questioned up front and his bag off the car. Shortly thereafter the training came to an abrupt stop and lurched around a little (who knows what that means for the guy in custody?) – again the guy near us seemed unfazed. Jon started to think that this guy was definitely an undercover cop of some sort.

Finally after we got moving again and things got back to normal, and Sam had switched seats to sit with DP for a while, a couple of guys struck up a conversation with her and DP. Mr. Cool was still around, but the train had a lot more aisle-people now –we don’t know why. It was mostly people only going a stop or two, so maybe there is a no-seat option… Anyway, the young guys chatting with Sam and DP asked if we were coming from Sylhet and DP said yes, which is kind of right and kind of not (Sylhet is the district we were in, but most likely the guy meant Sylhet city, where the train originated and what most people mean when they say Sylhet…). Mr. Cool, who was just listening to the conversation, kind of accidentally, it seemed, chimed in 'Srimangal,' to correct DP. Sam looked at Mr. Cool, made eye contact, and it was out in the open that he knew where we had gotten on the train somehow. This more or less confirmed the whole undercover cop thing, and once she had it confirmed in her mind, and once Mr. Cool knew we knew (not that it was necessarily a secret from us, there was just no private way to explain the situation) there was a bit less tension on our part.

When the station arrived we had to get ready, because the train only stops for a couple minutes, literally. Sam was asking some guys to move as we approached the station, and Mr. Cool pulled his federal agent badge out of his pocket and said in his extremely cool-as-a-cucumber manner, “It’s ok” and he then nicely got everyone out of the way and escorted us off the train. Sam asked if it was his job to see us safely off the train because of the arrest, and he said yes, the arrest had been political so it was his job to make sure we made it off the train and out of the station. He was actually a really nice guy (and as Sam will point out, quite attractive) and we said goodbye and thanked him and went on our way.

Later we read that this was probably part of this big campaign to deal with some political violence going on and one of a few hundred arrests made in a week long blitz.

So, what’s interesting here? A few things:

1. We are happy to report that our undercover cop/narc radar still works, and apparently has global application

2. We met again our white privilege- nobody else had a special babysitter to make sure they got off the train safely

3. Sometimes the trade-off for the privacy of first class means you miss out on drama- and drama is fun!

More to come on the adventures of JSAC and DP later!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Food Matters

aka Terrific Turmeric!
We’ve been wanting to write an entry about our food habits here for a while because we think we’ve made some interesting observations here that confirm some of our previous food understandings and some that have spun many notions of “healthy” eating into new directions. One thing that has fundamentally been confirmed is that the American way of processing, making, cooking, and eating food is not only incredibly toxic and unhealthy, it is also not delicious. This is something Sam and Jon have ranted about for years, but when you live in the US it is very difficult to step very far outside of the industrial food machine (unless you are a combination of at least middle income and have a lot of spare time…). This doesn’t mean that all Americans eat unhealthy food - nor does it mean that it can’t be done in the US cheaply; in fact, it can be done for less than one might think, but it takes a lot of work to even see past the machine in the first place.

SOOOO… while we’ve just written a horribly lengthy indictment of the ails of high fructose corn syrup, processed factory foods, and the impending doom of future generations if eating habits don’t change, we have DELETED it. That’s right- for a few reasons: A) if you know us personally, most of you have heard this all ad nauseam B) other people have made this case better than we can (see, for example, the excellent food/ecology writer Michael Pollan – ) and C) this blog is supposed to be about Bangladesh, not the US. Thus, we have spared you.

Instead, we would like to focus on‘deshi specific observations we’ve made, and share the different perspective we’ve gained here. The fact is, since we’ve been here we eat differently, and we’ve been really healthy - remarkably so, in fact. We’ve also all lost weight without trying at all (ok, not Atticus, but that’s good) and generally felt better all around, mentally and physically – despite the urban stresses of Dhaka. Of course, a lot of this has to do with the major reduction in pre-prepared and restaurant prepared food we have had since here. We don’t eat out very often at all and we usually get veggies only days after they were still on the vine, or bush, or root or whatever and cook them fresh. (In what seems to be perfectly normal when you think about it- fresh produce is the cheapest thing you can buy here. Despite this, in the US fresh produce is among the most expensive things in the store- a clear indication of a problem - ok ok ok - back to the 'desh. )

Since we seem to have a lot to say and since food is often one of the first things people seem to want to know about when we talk to them about living in Bangladesh, here it is. In Part 1 of a 5000 part series, we present:


Yes, turmeric. It’s yellow (in fact, in bangla the word for turmeric and the word for yellow are the same: holud); It’s tasty (sometimes pasty) and it might be the cure for whatever ails you. The health benefits of turmeric are astounding, and while we don’t always buy into the logic of “nutritional science,” the list of benefits for turmeric are pretty overwhelming. Here is a pretty remarkable sampling of the various benefits attributed to turmeric:

1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.
2. When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.
3. Prevented breast cancer from spreading to the lungs in mice.
4. May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide.
5. Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.
6. Is a natural liver detoxifier.
7. May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
8. May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.
9. It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.
10. Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice.
11. Is a natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor.
12. May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.
13. Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.
14. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
15. Boosts the effects of chemo drug paclitaxel and reduces its side effects.
16. Promising studies are underway on the effects of turmeric on pancreatic cancer.
17. Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple myeloma.
18. Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
19. Speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.
20. May help in the treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.

Turmeric is in almost all of South Asian food- it gives it color, it serves as a preservative (since most people don’t have refrigerators) and it is just necessary to get the right flavor- which is the flavor of delicious!! We always eat it in dahl (lentils made 'deshi style), which we eat about 3-4 times or more a week, and in our shobji (mixed veggies in delicious curry-ish sauce), and in every other thing Sam can add it to. It’s delicious as part of a spice palate and sadly incredibly under-used in American cooking. Here it is also a staple spice, which makes it super cheap (as all spices are) and we buy it in big ol’ bags and store it in used empty jars (usually olive jars, which accumulate quickly).

Apparently (our internet research tells us) turmeric is available in pill form- which is stupid. Just cook with it (the same goes for garlic pills by the way – just cook with it; its delicious! But that’s another part in the series…) Maybe over the next few months we’ll post some suggested recipes with all our super-foods, but in the meantime if you are making any kind of curry or lentils or egg or potato dishes, you can add turmeric and it will be prettier and healthier.

So there’s part one. Turmeric is good food and we think it is part of why we feel great here. Maybe it will make you feel great too!