They were called Nyam-nyams. They came in little conical packages. They were finger-length stick-shaped biscuits that came with melted chocolate to dip in. They were delicious. My personal method of eating was to eat only the tiniest bit of chocolate until there was only one stick left, then to use that stick to eat all the chocolate in one go. This was the time before you could get anything in Bangladesh like you can now; a time when a tasty imported product was cause for much excitement. They weren’t for everyone, of course. Nyam-nyams were for an elite upper class. Me. My parents moved my brother and I from the peaceful suburb of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, to the rural small town of Sylhet, Bangladesh, when I was six. The boxes of books and fruit roll ups and Disney VHS movies that were brought along to ease this traumatic transition didn’t last long. So I was a very pampered little girl. If there was an imported product that was new and exciting, particularly if it was food (getting me to eat was always a challenge), it was immediately mine. They were purchased in bulk at our house, stacks and stacks of them sitting in our kitchen. Nyam-nyams.
They went in my lunch box to school. Or tiffin box, as they were called there. I would get peanut butter sandwiches (creamy), carefully wrapped in imported saran wrap, an apple carefully sliced and peeled, and a Nyam-nyam. All placed in a fancy pink tiffin box that had a built-in spoon and fork section and a girl panda bear on the front.
The other kids would bring rice or cooked Maggi noodles with egg and onion. A solid piece of curried chicken if you were very lucky. Usually, and most unfortunately of all, you would end up with vegetables slathered onto a piece of bread. Vegetables overcooked in watery turmeric, in a box sitting in a hot classroom for half the day, the liquid seeping into the bread and turning it greasy yellow. Color and smell.
Arif was a boy in my grade. Vegetables slathered onto a piece of bread. He was one of the few boys in my grade who wasn’t mean to me all the time. He would help me open the plastic cover of the Nyam Nyam sometimes if it was particularly tight. On these occasions I would allow him to take one stick and dip it into the chocolate. I would hold the package as he did this. I winced when he dipped.
He never asked for more than one stick. And I never offered.
New York City