Is it time to break fast yet?

Saturday marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, a month of daytime fasting for Muslims around the world. From sunrise to sunset Muslims abstain from eating or drinking, including chewing gum or cigarettes. It’s a month of self-control and self-reflection as well as a month of ‘being extra nice’ and staying away from all things haraam. But the nicest thing I remember from the month of Ramadan, is of course, the food.

It’s customary to break the fast together at sundown with a meal called iftaar. Tables are laden with dates, fruits, nuts; the hosts prepare their most elaborate dishes, such as biryani, homemade couscous or a leg of lamb…

My mother would vie to be one of the first to host the Saturday iftaar. She would say that there is great blessing in feeding a person who is fasting. She would toil singlehandedly in our kitchen for days to prepare a meal that would feed at least 100 people. For women like my mother, an immigrant from India, a potluck was unthinkable, counter to everything she had been taught about hospitality.

Most of the people from our center were from Hyderabad, India, and the weekly meals were remarkably similar. First, we would break our fast with appetizers: samosas, channa daal, dahi bades, fruit chaat, rosewater milk, and of course the requisite date (with pits). After the sunset prayer and with a sated stomach, we would dive into the biryani, curries and kebabs. We’d top off our meal with kheer, a rice pudding-like dish, and chai.[link]

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p>Growing up in my parents house we had a similar spread with an additional spattering of pakoras, muri, juices, and fried eggplant. When we lived in Saudi Arabia, a country of scheduled nap times and stores open from 6pm to 4am during Ramadan, the food spread was even more spectacular at iftaar time — the small shacks would fill the streets with aromas of fresh bread, sharmas and other savories. But now, since living on my own, making an iftar feast for myself always seemed rather pointless. Not to mention that I can’t really cook. Iftar this week has been dates, water, and whatever cereal is in the cupboard.

Last night while grumpily eating my cereal, I vowed to break fast with at least one ‘traditional’ item for the rest of Ramadan — I have even toyed with the idea of having an iftaar potluck for my friends. Luckily there are plenty of websites out there to help me out with recipes: Iranian Iftar, Arab Iftar, and of course, Desi Iftar. Drooling yet? I am and I’m heading to the kitchen with these recipes in hand for tonight’s iftar. To all that are fasting, Ramadan Mubarak!

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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

76 thoughts on “Is it time to break fast yet?

  1. My mother likes to mix milk and Coke

    Dude .. “dudh coke” is SO GOOD! My mom drinks it all the time on hot summer afternoons. I made fun of her for a while until I tasted it. As long as you get the right combination of the two, it’s so yummy. I haven’t had it in so long. Aww, I miss my mommy.

  2. Whats up with the ‘d’ in ramzan! Its another attack on our ‘z’ pronouncing ‘South Asian’ identity ;) Happy Ramzan!

  3. Personally, I always look forward to the Eid prayers at the end of Ramzan. Particularly at the mosque in London, where I attend for the sole purpose of checking out the hot guys in tight Euro-pants. Seriously, I almost never feel closer to the divine as when there’s a whole horde of hot men surrounding me and…well, I’ll stop there ;)

    Mmm. Biryani. I know what I’m making for dinner tonight.

  4. Ramadan is the way to pronounce it in Arabic; the Z-version is in Urdu. That difference occurs in a couple of places, including Ramadan/Ramzan and wudu/wuzu.

    I’m sure it occurs in more, but I don’t speak Arabic. :( (I want to learn really badly though!)

  5. Ramadan Mubarak Taz and all Mutineers.

    Ramadan was always a special time for a kid growing up in Dubai – school finished early and parts of the city like Karama or Bur Dubai would buzz, like one giant block party, until well past midnight every evening.

    The best Ramadan story I ever heard was of two friends in India – one of whom was a Muslim and the other Hindu. The Muslim fellow was diabetic and was unable to fast and so every year, his Hindu friend would keep the fast for him.

    [Hey... I can hear you singing Kumbaya in the back there somewhere - don't make me come over there and smack you ;) ]

  6. man i love this time of the year. They have the best food during Ramzan or Roze as my friends call it. Back in high school, one of my friend’s mom used to make bangin Sevvayiaan. drooling all over my desk, i can never forget that taste

  7. It’s a month of self-control and self-reflection as well as a month of ‘being extra nice‘ “

    Maybe the Berlin opera should have scheduled their opening during Ramzan, which, btw, used to be my favourite time of the year, growing up in kashmir.

  8. The best Ramadan story I ever heard was of two friends in India – one of whom was a Muslim and the other Hindu. The Muslim fellow was diabetic and was unable to fast and so every year, his Hindu friend would keep the fast for him.

    That made me tear up. I’m so glad you shared that story with us. I heart India.

  9. Ramadan mubarak to everyone. Can someone invite me to iftar too :)

    Last night I met this guy and his girl friend. He was from Bangladesh and she is non-muslim from Ethiopia. She was fuming mad when this guy would lit up a cig – and was quite cute when she said, I am mad at him, but its ok, as long as he doesnt smoke during day :)

  10. Ummmmm biryani Ummmm haleem Ummmmm falooda…I need a adoptive family today!! I could shamelessly visit some of my friend’s mom’s houses. Do you think they’ll notice if I showed up at dinnertime? :-)

    In fact, I challenge the whole mutiny to partake in one day of fasting with me this Ramadan! It really is quite cool.

    OK you are on. I’ll do it with you tomorrow. Too late today. Can we keep this thread going till tomorrow because I will need some support right around 3:00 pm when I know it will hit me.

    But my mom this weekend made this rosewater drink and put these slimy seeds in it, seeds that looked like mini little nemo eggs. I didn’t drink it.

    Girl that’s sajba/takmari and I love it. When I was a kid the game was to suck it thru a straw and not have it go all they way in the nose! :-) Enjoy it. I’m jealous.

    The most incredible Ramadan I ever saw was in Bahrain when my mom lived there. The streets would be empty during the day and if you were out and about you couldn’t even chew gum or drink any water to draw attention to it even if you weren’t Muslim.

    But at night boy they busted out some party. We’d go from house to house and people would have their entire family rooms filled with food. And the party went on non stop everyday well into the middle of the night. People would go to malls and shop till 3:00 am. It was wild. I loved it.

  11. In fact, I challenge the whole mutiny to partake in one day of fasting with me this Ramadan! It really is quite cool.

    Taz – I’m in too for tomorrow!

  12. Not all Muslims are so pleasant to deal with during Ramzan. Some of them walk around in their self righteous rage of superior piety. Constant references to their sacrifice for the most magnificent/benevolent/merciful gets tiresome after the first few days and frankly by Shab-e-Qadr (Laylat-Qadr) a lot of them are just a pain to be around. By late afternoon the mouth of the doesnÂ’t smell too good (charitably speaking)!

  13. Taz – Ramadan Mubarak! and ‘I have even toyed with the idea of having an iftaar potluck for my friends.’ – sounds like a great idea for the next meetup. I can also cook and am totally down for it.

  14. Some staunch Brahmins fast for the entire day (not just from sunrise to sunset) twice a month (on Ekadashi) every month.

  15. some of us fast for Shivaratri too– and we have to stay up all day/night with no fun feast in sight!! but it’s all good. i still love it cause it’s a powerful holiday. i always look forward to my 7am bowl of ceremonial honey-nut cheerios.

    i’m down for a one day mutineer fast. who is going to set it up??

    happy navarathri and happy ramadan

    on a random note– bay area mutineers should have some serious deepavali party with fireworks and the like in october…

  16. i’m down for a one day mutineer fast. who is going to set it up?? happy navarathri and happy ramadan on a random note– bay area mutineers should have some serious deepavali party with fireworks and the like in october…

    Let it be heard here first: Big-Bellied Brownz Without Bread. How hard is it to set up? Send me an email, I’ll put you on a big ol’ BCC list so you can feel like you’re part of a community that periodically does not eat well. Or “does not eat”…well. :-)

  17. I suppose i can eat someting in about 15 min. thought i’d share my experience. this wasnt a religious thing for me. i think fasting is a good form of penance.

    • around 7 i had two slices of melon, two slices of farmer’s bread, a large bowl of steel cut oats and a cup of green tea.

    • around 8 i kept the cup around and found myself sipping from the tea (now cold). I said toba toba and promptly poured out the tea into the sink.

    • around 2 i was getting sluggish. did some pushups.

    • around 6 i thought, hmmm i need a diversion so plonked in and dropped a note on enis’ post.

    • now… i dont think i can go run, but i will enjoy a nice wlak in the park and put something in the oven to start dinner off.

    On the whole a very good day. I know I waste time through the day thinking about, selecting, leaving for food or drink or clean ups. so i was glad this wasnt even an option. I feel very productive.

    tonight i will have grilled shiitake and potatoes with red lentils . yum.

  18. For any NYers living near jackson heights and not wanting to cook for the break fast, you can get a kind of take – out iftar container that has a little bit of everything from dates, samosas, pakoras, chana etc and it’s about $8.

  19. Ramadhan Mubarak!

    the best iftars were the ones I attended at my Ismaili neighbours house,

    ohhh and the ones at my dad’s Bohra friends house…There’s nothing like Biriyani that’s been slow cooked ALL DAY on a jiko….mmmmmmmmmmm

  20. I was thinking about this post yesterday at sundown. I had to do an errand at a store run by West African Muslims and I arrived just as the personnel were sitting down to break the fast. One guy hadn’t started eating yet so he was able to help me, but I still felt like a jerk. Anyway, there was some serious red rice with meat and fish about to go down. On 116th St. in Harlem you can really feel the presence of Ramadan as most of the shops and the folks on the street are Senegalese, Malian, Guinean etc. As the sun was coming down there were vendors setting up outside the masjids with “nyamankoudji” (a sort of ginger brew) and “bissap” (a purpleish drink from a kind of leaf) and little balls of sweets. It was lovely.

  21. can someone please tell me why all terrorists are muslim ?? Not all muslims are terrorits, but the other way is true ???