C U L T U R E
Every year in our country, the meal prepared for Iftaar is taken very seriously and the platter of all the exciting snacks becomes the most exciting part of Ramadan. To break the day’s fast, our country has a wide range of food options for this meal. For this list, I’ve taken some of the common Iftaar items from Bangladeshi cuisine and compared it to a book. I’ve selected Western books to go with our local food items, to make the list as unique as possible. Comparing food with books has always been a fun exercise, so if you’re a Bangladeshi bibliophile, this list will hit right home. Here it goes:
Sherbet as When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Sherbet is that one refreshing element which lifts up our hungry spirit after fasting the whole day. Hence, it goes well alongside a book that has a heart-warming story which will make you feel cosy. I’d like to put When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. This is an adorable and delightful story that starts off with a very not-so-cute meet-up for our main characters.
Dimple is determined to be a strong independent woman and she doesn’t want a man for that. But gradually what she learns is that she doesn’t necessarily need to sacrifice herself to find love. Then comes Rishi, who is a hopeless romantic. With these two characters, the story begins to create a very warm and fuzzy mood, just like a cold Sherbet does after a hot day of Ramadan.
Bundiya as The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
Bundiya is a dessert made from sweetened and fried chickpea flour. It is taken in a spoonful of bite sized pieces and leaves a very sweet taste. So, this dessert will go really well with The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde. Just like Bundiya, this book comes with a charming collection of bite sized short stories written by Oscar Wilde between 1887 and 1891. The stories are fantastical, magical, and sparkling with Wilde’s unique wit and personality. Beautifully illustrated, this collection is also a great gift for friends and family.
Piyaju as The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Red lentil fritter or Piyaju is a trendy Iftaar item in Bangladesh. It is usually served really hot while it’s really crispy. The filling is often quite spicy, too. Hence, this food reminds me of a book with two badass and cutthroat protagonists — Vienne and Isabelle. Set during World War II, The Nightingale tells a story of these two sisters who are trying to survive in a war-torn France. Both strong-willed and resolute, the two sisters find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum on most matters, especially the war. A story of war, loss, passion, sisterhood, and the strength of women, this novel will leave you speechless.
Haleem as Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Haleem is a type of stew quite popular in the Iftaar menu of our country, as it comes with a lot of elements (beef, lentils, varieties of spices, wheat, barley, etc.). Hence, it’s only right if I compare it to Invisible Cities as it is framed by brief prose poems describing 55 fictitious cities that are narrated by Polo. The cities are divided into eleven thematic groups of five each: Cities & Memory; Cities & Desire; Cities & Signs; Thin Cities; Trading Cities; Cities & Eyes; Cities & Names; Cities & the Dead; Cities & the Sky; Continuous Cities; Hidden Cities.
Dim Chop as The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Dim chop is a Bangladeshi version of devilled eggs and it is very much enjoyed during Iftaar time. Because of its surprising structure where it appears as a ball of flour from the outside, but as you dig deeper you will find half of an egg inside; I can picture it as any book that follows the Iceberg theory wherein the deeper meaning of a story should not be evident on the surface, but should shine through implicitly. The Sun also Rises is a perfect example because through the casual interactions between characters, we can discover a much greater meaning — the trauma of WWI among the characters.
Jilapi as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Jilapi is another sweet snack popular all over Bangladesh because of its crispy sweet taste and pretzel-like structure. However, for this comparison, I will have to go with its shape and recommend a thriller by Agatha Christie that comes with jaw dropping twists. In this classic Christie murder mystery, a man is murdered following the death of his troubled wife’s overdose. Who’s to blame and why? I don’t want to say much more as it is something you have to experience with every bite, just like you do with a Jilapi. FYI, I had to read the ending two times to actually believe it.
Rooh Afza as Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Rooh Afza is a concentrated squash that is a target of many people’s disliking. It is often trolled over the internet, yet it finds it place in many people’s Iftaar table. This drink goes perfectly with Rupi Kaur’s debut book Milk and Honey. Given the parodies and negative feedbacks it has received, this book still managed to find its place in the The New York Times Best Seller list for 165 weeks straight as it was sold over three million times. Think about thriving amidst hate, nothing can do better than Rupi Kaur’s books and Rooh Afza.
Bangladeshi cuisine is very wholesome when it comes to Iftaar and I am pretty sure every house comes with their own special food menu alongside the listed common ones. So, tell me, what books does your Iftaar menu at your house remind you of?
Tasnia is a proud Slytherin who loves binging on poetry and graphic novels in her free time.