Parboti Rani Singh from Netrokona
Since ancient times when women invented agriculture based civilization they also produced, preserved and made food for us. They are still continuing that legacy by using their indigenous knowledge and their experience. By doing these things women created a harmony and deep relationship between nature, society, culture and family. This relationship is so complex and deep that if one of them falls apart, the whole system would be gravely affected. That’s why women have always tried to sustain this relationship and to make it even stronger. Mainly they have sustained this system by producing and preserving food though the modern industrialized food system hampered their effort a little bit. Despite of all the hazards the rural women still preserve and make their food day after day with their valuable indigenous knowledge and experience.
Preservation of meat
Rural life is still not used to modern easier lifestyle. That’s why rural people still preserve leftover or excess meat without using refrigerator in various ways. They can preserve meat for short or long time period. Short time means 2-3 days and long time means 5-6 months. For short period of time they preserve the meat by reheating over and over again after cooking. On the other hand, for long period of time they first cut the meat in small pieces then they sew the meat in rows with pieces of ropes. Then they dry those meat ropes in sunlight for 10-12 days. In the rainy season they dry it on the oven. They keep them in tightly sealed jars so that no air can pass through them. These meats can be eaten for 6 months. To prepare them, they boil it in water and smash them. Then they cook the meat for eating.
Preservation of fish
In the rainy season women collect fish from the surrounding lakes, rivers and swamps. They reserve the excess fish for future by using their knowledge and experience. First they cut it and dry it in sunlight for 4-6 days. They use bamboo sieve for small fishes. For bigger fishes they cut it and tie it with rope and hang it in the sun. The fish is then kept in sealed jar. Dry fish can be preserved for 6-7 months. Especially Shrimp, Taki, cikara, putim, sola, eel, Chanda, smear, baicha, khailasa, rui, Mrigal, katala these fishes are preserved this way. They wash it with mildly hot water before cooking it.
Today the modern people cannot think life without refrigerator. But our rural people, who live without electricity, use their own knowledge to preserve vegetables like lemon. The preservation process starts with digging 5-7 inch in the soil. They bury the lemon under the soil. This process is applied when the temperature is too hot and large number of lemon to be used for some purpose.
Despite of our habit of eating packet and processed food from multinational companies, some of us still go out to have fresh food from village. After the new rice is ripped soai, cata, papara, sirijna, papara, patty, trellis papara, leaves papara these patty/cakes are made and dried in the sun for 2-3 days. Then they preserve it in jars. Some are reserved by frying in the oil. After frying they are dried in the sun one more day. And to serve, they fry it again in oil. These cakes can be preserved for 6 months. They serve it to the guests and it is also a safe food for children.
To serve guests and for children the rural women make the delicious coconut chira. In this process they first cut long stripes of coconuts. Then they cut it in small little pieces shaped like chira (dried and pressed rice). They mildly dry it in the sun. Then they fry the coconut chira in an empty mud pan. They mix it with rice and heat them on the oven. When it dries up a little, they rest it and then serve it.
After the modern food industry has arrived, the skills of the rural women got hidden under the multinational company’s packets. To save this creative ways we have to consciously preserve our culture. Or else we will lose our own existence. Let’s embrace the legacy of the rural women and share it with all.
Translated by Hasnain Al Morshed