Saturday, 19 March 2011



One half kilogram of beef rib, freshly cut, at my local Kajitula market.


One kilogram of tomatoes, One kilogram of carrots, one kilogram of onions, one kilogram of flat beans, one half kilogram of potatoes, 2 bunches of coriander, 20 chilli peppers, 2 unknown to me variety of cucumberesque vegetables.

150 Taka is the total cost of the contents of both photographs.

This is about 2 American dollars or 1.50 British pounds. It might seem pretty cheap, but in a country where a labourer makes 150 taka a day and a child labourer makes 100 taka a’s pretty steep.

The same 150 taka will get you 2 kilograms of rice and 1 kilogram of lentils.

So many choices for us, so few for many others. We have the option to actually follow what often seem to be crazy food guidelines in the U.S. or U.K. Just look at these two pictures and we see a Eat well plate, Food pagoda, Food pyramid or whatever pictorial device your country uses to show proportions of food.

I am not being scientific here, simply realistic. We need to decrease our animal protein intake dramatically in order to become healthier, save money, and decrease environmental degradation due to the present system of animal protein production.

A bit of red meat aint gonna kill anyone, a big ole pile of cooked vegetables and salads will help you out alot nutritionally and focusing your meals around cheap and healthy whole grains and fibre rich vegetable proteins such as lentils and beans will not only add to your health, but keep lots more money in your pocket.

I love my breakfasts of hard boiled egg, a bit of cheese, tea, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers that can be quickly assembled for an on the go breakfast here in Sylhet and sometimes I simply crave a bit of roti and tea at the end of the day. We all need to eat a bit more like one elder lunch lady from East London said while she was participating in public sector cookery training “... like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for supper...”

In the end, we don’t simply buy dinner at the market, we are paying for our family’s health and well being...and as the adage goes....You get what you pay for!!!!

THE WORLD IS A VERY SMALL PLACE...especially in terms of childrens food choices

Spending these winter months living in Sylhet, Bangladesh continues to be an eye opener. Sometimes its as simple as reminding me that the world is the same all over...

Ice cream and fried treats for sale outside the school gates

The Maggi “chef” visits a Sylhet town primary school to teach children how to "cook" their “healthy” instant noodles!!!!

The school tuck shop selling processed foods with long enough ingredient lists that they could teach a spelling lesson through label reading!!!!

How much different is this from the U.S. with school pouring rights issues, sponsored TV shows at school, and low fat but high sugar items created for the public sector market at every turn...And U.K. schools with their dozens of fried chicken and chips shops surrounding every school...

Our world is getting smaller, and with the ability to communicate, share ideas, and get to know one another this makes me very happy...but our tasteless processed foods are becoming more prevalent the globe over....

Seeing fields of rice, pineapple, tea, limes, and bananas less than ten minutes from town refreshes me but then I am stupefied when I then see processed bagged food products being marketed to children in and around schools that seem to be made of nothing but wheat or soy flours, soy or corn oil, and some form of sugar derivative.... I think we all can be a bit more imaginative with our food, caring to our kids, and helpful to our health....


In a town like Sylhet in Northern Bangladesh, it’s quite easy to eat locally.

I have my pick of locally grown and processed rice’s at every shop in Sylhet...whether I want highly polished basmati, baby basmati, short grain aram, or my favourite hand milled “almost” brown boro!!!

I adjusted the menus of all my restaurants to the seasonal bounty of the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York. I work with schools and social enterprises in London to hit their price points by purchasing local meats and vegetables from their own community. In Sylhet, we cook rice for our main meal most days, eat local eggs, chickens, and river fish, use mustard oil and have learned local sweet desserts made from rice, carrots, and sweet potato.

I say this not to gloat. Of course I should be able to come up with great dishes to eat...I am a professional chef. That is not the point. It’s actually irrelevant for great cooking. Let the market write your home food menu, as I did with my restaurants. This is the secret trick of simple great food.

We have seen in the last few weeks laal saag (a bit like red swiss chard) overflow in the markets, which pushed us to make lots of greens and beans or saag paneer when the paneer cheese man walks by our house. Now spinach is coming to town and this will be the centre piece along with baby eggplant for pasta that we will roll out this week as we have dinner parties for local friends before we return to London and then Washington...

Let the market (not the supermarket or tv advertisements) write your menu.

It may sometimes seem like a bit of a hunt to get your food supplies...and yes it will be very rare that every item on your plate is from the local market place, but every meal can have some item from the local food shed. And in time you will find many a wonderfully tasty surprise...and maybe just maybe as it takes a bit longer to find these wonderful items, we may learn again to appreciate food and those who toil to grow it for us.