Fasting (and eating) during Ramadan
It’s early June, and we find ourselves right in the middle of the month of Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar, which, this year, started on May 26 and ends on June 24th. Ramadan is the Muslim holiday that celebrates the Angel Gabriel’s revelation of the Quran (the holy book of Islam) to the prophet Mohammed.
Throughout the month, in observance of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sun-up to sundown, a practice which is considered to be one of the “Five Pillars of Islam” and is meant as a way to abstain from earthly pleasures and bring the observant closer to God. On the longest and hottest days of the year, healthy adult Muslims are permitted to neither eat nor drink (children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and the elderly and infirm are allowed to eat). During Ramadan, prayer, gratitude, kindness, and charity are emphasized. The spiritual dimensions of self-reflection and self-restraint are intensified by the challenge of fasting. The thirty day fast, which is the longest religious observance of its kind, culminates in the feast known as Eid al Fitr, which is marked with celebration and the giving of gifts.
So, if fasting is part of this holiday, you’re probably asking yourself, why am I reading about it on this blog about food heritage? Because during Ramadan, Muslims begin the day with prayer and a pre-dawn meal called Suhoor to get them through the day. And, of course, all fasts must be broken, and a bigger meal, often enjoyed with friends and family, is served at dusk. The evening meal is called Iftar, and many begin it traditionally with water, a quick way to rehydrate, and a date, a shot of sugar to reenergize after a day with no food.
American Muslims are not a homogenous group; they hail from all over the Muslim world, from the Middle East to Asia to Africa. Ramadan recipes and traditions, therefore, are as diverse as the families who enjoy them. So this week, I thought I’d try something a little different and share a few links with you of some enticing recipes and stories of Ramadan, food from the Muslim world, and family memories:
- Namoura Syrup Soaked Semolina Cake from The New York Times and a story about home cooks during Ramadan.
- A recipe from Daniel Pastry Chef, Ghaya Oliveira, and a memory about her Tunisian grandmother.
- A video and a lovely story From the La Times: Muslim and Latino Groups unite during Ramadan, breaking fast with tacos at mosques.
- Another memory of grandma's cooking and a recipe for a delicate summertime favorite: Zingy Herby Iranian Chicken.