Easter, Pasquale, is the second biggest celebration for the Italians, after Christmas, and of course, there is special bread for the occasion. The Colomba, dove, is a bread that is shaped like a dove in flight (symbolizing the spirit in the holy trinity). It is a panettone baked in a four point shape. When I first saw the breads for the sale, I had no idea what it was supposed to resemble. I think it takes faith.
Eggs are big part of Easter because they were a part of the fertility goddess festival in honor of Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of sex and fertility. Easter was superimposed upon this festival. From that celebration, we get the bunnies and eggs related to Easter.
The Italians also eat lamb at Easter as that is a Christian ritual. The Italians also eat pasta, as they do all year round, but Easter is about the breads. Another bread is the Casatiello, a savory crown (crown of thorns) shaped bread decorated with eggs (rebirth) on the top and with ham inside. Also, at this time, bakeries make small milk based yeast buns, Valtellina, which are my favorite.
The chocolate eggs are given on Easter Monday. Or so I’m told, but I can’t imagine that children, of any age, can wait that long.
That said, I start with including photos of a “criollo” or “creole” soup of meat, noodles, and fried egg (can be had in lots of restaurants. The addition of a fried egg to a dish tends to make it “criollo”). Plus an uber modern dish of sushi made with raw tuna and foie gras (from Osaka restaurant). The photo doesn’t do it justice. You will just have to go there and try it. You may feel the earth move.
The “colmado” is a thing there in the Dominican Republic. It’s like a corner drugstore or a bodega… basically, what you need, or want, you can get at your local colmado. They deliver. The important thing is that they deliver beer. Really cold, icy, beer. “Bien fria” is the phrase for an icy cold beer. That’s easy Spanish. So, if you find yourself at an Airbnb or some other place here, get the number of your local colmado, and learn the phrase “bien fria” so that you can get your beers delivered. The colmado will deliver anything they have to your home. Even a single egg.
There are colmados on every street, which is hard to tell from my blurry photos out of the car…
For the Dominicans, this is their local pub, bar, local watering hole, hangout, a place where they go after work, on the weekends, to get a “bien fria” and chill. Maybe followed by some dancing. Not your stuffy organized “dahnce” but just the pop-up impromptu salsa that happens because your feel it in your feet, your arms, your soul. The music is in your DNA. And it wants to get down and express itself.
The Dominicans will turn any place into a party, from their local gas station, barber shop, corner store, and so on — into a place to chill with beer and dancing. Not just their colmado.
This may be a class thing… not sure, but I don’t think that the “upper” class hang out at their local colmado… but I could be wrong.
As I am no longer in Bangladesh, I cannot afford a personal chef, so I took a cooking class, which is the next best thing. There is nothing like cooking with a world class chef to remind you of how superb food should taste. Jan Van Haute of Haute Saison Catering is Belgian, but this particular cooking class was in Portuguese food. The cooking class was at a private residence of an expat/international type in DC which was fitting as Jan has a fancy curriculum vitae (he was the Belgium Ambassador’s chef, he cooked for the Belgium royal family, won prizes, worked in Michelin starred restaurants… Despite this, he’s extremely laid back and down to earth — and no, he did not pay me to endorse him!).
Our cooking class was a small group of five and it cost $60 per person. For that we got a lovely setting, three course menu, wine, and food to take home. The cooking class was not a regimented class with chopping exercises, and for those of us (ehem, me) who wanted to take photos and drink wine, no chopping was expected of us. Just my sort of class!
Here’s what we made:
“Pão de queijo” or Portuguese Brazilian cheese bread
“Salada de Bacalhau a Grao-de-bico” or salt cod, chickpea, and egg salad
Octopus rice stew
“Pastal de nata” or Portuguese egg custard tart
First we made cheese bread (actually, first we had a glass of wine), which reminded me of the Colombian “pandebono.” While these were in the oven, we made the salt cod chick pea salad. Then we sat down to eat these while the octopus cooked. Then we returned to the kitchen for to make the next two courses. Finally, we returned to the elegant table and chatted. It was much like a dinner party. The owner of the house had been to Bangladesh which I should have guessed as she had a “nakshi kantha,” or Bangladeshi embroidery, on her wall.
A few words about octopus: The octopus looks quite scary to many people. It is slimy. It is rubbery. But, not that night when cooked properly. The flesh was soft like conch meat. Seriously surprisingly tender and sublime.
The evening and the cooking class ended with us packing leftovers to eat the next day. As part of his philosophy of sharing good food, Jan offers these private cooking lessons. But, as they say in the bread business, “get it while it’s hot!” As his business grows (it just started a few months ago), he may not have time for these small classes. I really hope so because experiences like this are what life can be… plus, it was just so much fun. By the end of the class, I felt more like I was in the company of friends.
The food was revelatory and Jan made us feel totally capable, and at ease, which made for a stellar evening. Wonder what’s on the menu next time?
I have never considered how one weighs an egg. At the Lincoln restaurant in Washington, DC, they serve the deviled eggs on an egg scale. The deviled eggs were not delicious so it made the gimmick of the egg scale seem all show; and no substance. I was excited when I ordered the deviled eggs with “duck crackling” but was disappointed. The duck skin was served as miniscule frigid speck (yup, a pork fat pun) on top of the deviled egg. But, it was the yolk mix itself which did not taste great. I think there was too much mustard and not enough pickle flavor. It would have been better with a sweeter flavor. But, at least it looked good?
A toothbrush is a small sign of hope. But, at the Eglal’s ABC Charity School in Dhaka, the fact that the kids brush their teeth every day, get fed every day, and get an education every day — is a tiny sign of hope. The children at the ABC school all live in the slums of Dhaka. These children are lucky that they, once they get admitted to kindergarten, will receive a bilingual education, free health care, free lunch, daily showers, uniforms, toothbrushes, and mentoring through high school and, hopefully, beyond.
It only costs $250 to sponsor one kid for one year, and all the money goes to the school. The volunteer board, the volunteer teachers, and so on, do not take any of the money. There are a few staff who do get paid, but mostly the donations go directly to the education and welfare of the kids. While there are a plethora of charities to throw oneself into in Bangladesh. I chose this one. Visiting the school allowed me to see how little money it takes to provide a bit of protein and vegetables for a healthy mind. Food for thought.
Another thought is how well run this place is without the bureaucracy. When the school and board members realized that some of the children (many who are being raised by one a single parent) had to leave school to go work, the school put into place an incentive which when paid to the family, keeps the kid in school. So basically the kid’s job is to go to school. How nice is that?
The school goes through the eighth grade, after which the children are place in high schools. These graduates come back to teach at the school when they themselves are not in school. One young woman says that her hope is to go on to university after which she wants to return to run the ABC school.
The ABC school was started about ten years ago by a teacher at the American International School Dhaka. She has returned to the U.S. but her students now have “pen pal” skype sessions with the slum kids of the ABC school. How cool is that?
It is said that they more you give, the more you will receive. I hope that the kids at the ABC school get way more than I have given them.
The moment I put the first bite of the Sri Lankan egg hopper in my mouth, I understood with my heart why this was a dish that would make me severely homesick. The “hopper” is a simple crepe served with chutney and pickle… the egg hopper is made by cooking an egg in the base of the mini-wok hopper pan. The pickle or sauce is more like a salsa, chopped up coconut and herbs…