I have been desperately trying to avoid Iftar parties. People forget that the month of fasting is supposed to connect you to the hungry and needy people of the world. Instead, I am overwhelmed at the size of the food usually on offer. Bengali iftar parties can often feed the entire Canadian army for a week.
I have found that the best way is to take a very little bit of everything and stay out of sight of the aunt (henceforth referred to as the Aunty) who's throwing the party. Too much of any one thing will make you sick, and you MUST have enough space left for the sherbet (drink) which will help avoid strange gastronomic noises during the night prayers.
The first item will be dates that everyone claims is from Mecca. Now these are very sweet and tasty. After all you have been fasting the whole day so anything will taste good. Do not get suckered in. Eat just one or two. You need space for other foods.
For sure drink the mango lassi (drink) now, for if you go to Maghrib prayer thinking you will have it later, you will find that the little kids have finished it.
Then, after the obligatory Maghrib prayers, comes the main food. This is where you will run into the Aunty who is the hostess - and she will not take Naa (no) for an answer. "No" means you are shy. If she offers you that extra piece of kebab , dripping with a delectable jhol (gravy), never say "No". For if you do she will now give you two of the 90%-oil-10%-meat serving as a reward for your modesty. If that happens, wait. When everyone's attention is reverently focused on her 90-year-old elderly parent who has just entered the room, put the kebab back into the serving dish.
Beware your cousin. If he tastes something awful, he will turn to you and always ask [very loudly] 'hey did you taste this, this is good'. Always in the presence of the Aunty.
Many Bangladeshis prefer to wait until they have finished eating COMPLETELY before going for the spicy drink (yes, spicy drink) called Burhani that's as refreshing to me as two-day old bathroom water. It seems to be a favourite of our elders. We Bangladeshis do not usually drink during the meals - hands are too full of korma to hold the glass, you know. And if you leave halfway through the meal to quench your thirst you will find that in usual Bengali efficiency the next person in line is now sitting at your chair and at your place.
Bangladesh TV has a tradition of producing special natoks (TV shows) during Ramadan. Some of them can be mildly interesting. If you are invited to one such family's house for iftar, where one lady will undoubtedly mention the latest natok that her son's friend's mother's brother has got from Dhaka. Pretend to know everything about it. The plot is usually the same - the daughter (Kulsum) loves this hard working engineer (Altaf) who has come from the village but made it in the big city but her father has planned her marriage to his friend's son (Rana) who is also classically handsome but residing in America. After 12 episodes, the father comes around to her point of view, her boyfriend succeeds in wooing the family with his good Muslim/Bengali values while Rana of America is a dweeb womanizer. Or the Rana from America actually turns out to be super rich and super cool and super good so the poor engineer fiancee Altaf is left in the lurch. Either way the girl wins. Who says women are not empowered in Bangladesh. I miss Kothao Keu Nei.
Finally the sweets. We are famous for our gulab jamuns, rosgollas, faloodas and so on. After a dinner where you have effectively thrown out the Atkins diet for the 'see-food' diet (you know, see food, will eat), this can be the final torture.
No wonder I try to avoid certain Iftar parties.
"Have some meat. Oh, you are vegetarian? All right, have some lamb then!"
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding.