Ramadan: Fasting and Feasts

Ann Arbor Food

Ann Arbor Food

It is Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. The practice in the Islamic tradition of fasting is intended to teach patience, humility, and spirituality. I talked with Waleed Baker, the President of the Washtenaw Muslim Student Association at WCC. He shared how he practices the holiday and the food traditions.

Starting at sunset on Aug 11, 2010 to September 9, 2010, Waleed and other practicing Muslims will refrain from eating or drinking during the hours between sunrise, and sunset. There is now a popular iphone app that allows Muslims to track when the days fast will start, and end, the times to take their five daily prayers, the complete text of the Koran, and even the direction of Mecca. Waleed says that he does not use the app, but his brother does. Young children, pregnant woman, or those with health conditions are not required to fast. ” I started fasting the full 30 days around seven or eight,” says Waleed. “There is no set age when you start.”

Waleed breaks his fast each day with a potluck meal held at his Mosque. About 200 people are in attendance for the these meals which he says are prepared by family’s who rotate cooking duties throughout the thirty days. We eat dates. The prophet used to eat them. We like to follow the prophet and he ate dates. Dates are always on the table. We have Lamb throughout the year, but it is really emphasized on Ramadan,” say Waleed. Waleed also mentions dishes like humus, grape leaves, various dips and relishes to go with pita bread like roasted tomatoes, and yogurt dipping sauces.

Deserts include baklava, and a phyllo dough wrapped baked cheese with sweet honey and sugar oil. Waleed also says that Halal meat is used for these dishes. Halal is a process in which a prayer is said before an animal is killed. “Anyone can say the prayer. It does not have to be an Imam, (an Islamic spiritual leader)” says Waleed. Waleed went to a local farm with his family last year during Ramadan and saw a goat processed in the halal tradition. Practicing Muslims refrain from eating pork, and consuming alcohol.

Waleed says that anyone is welcomed to attend the mosque for the nightly end of fast meal, and visitor should feel free to bring their own dish to share. The Aladdin Market located on Packard Street in Ann Arbor offers Halal meats, and other Middle Eastern staples.

Muslim in America are one of the most ethically diverse religious groups. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, thirty five percent of Muslims in America are African American, most which have converted. The diverse demographic of American Muslims can reflect a wide range of different food traditions other than Middle Eastern cuisine.

Eid ul-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast, marks the last day Ramadan. Waleed says that the meal is often celebrated with getting take out. “We take a break from cooking. Last year we went to Pita Pita. One year we went to Olive Garden.” says Waleed.

Recipes and photoes provided by Nadia Baker (Waleed’s Mom)

Humus

Ingredients

1 cup of dry chick peas
3 pieces of garlic
Olive oil
Lemon Juice
Parsley
Paprika
Tahini (Arabic sauce; can get it from the Middle Eastern Market
Salt

Boil 1 cup of chick peas in water(about half hour). Drain the water from the chick peas, and put a 4-5 chick peas to the side. Mix Chick peas with lemon juice, garlic, Tahini, a pinch of salt, and blend together. Now take the humus and spread it over a plate. Spread a couple of pinches of paprika, a couple pinches of parsley, and olive oil to the middle Also in the middle add the chick peas that were set aside earlier. Now dip it with the pita bread and Enjoy!

Grape Leaves (Arabic: Warik Duali)

Ingredients:

1 jar of grape leaves
1 cup of enriched (Egyptian) rice
1 pound of ground beef
Lemon pepper
Fresh tomatoes
Green Onion

Lemon
Oil
Black pepper

Boil grape leaves. Rinse one cup of rice, then mix it with the ground beef in a bowl. Add 1 green onion (diced) to the mix. Add 1 cup of oil to the mix, and a pinch of salt, lemon pepper, and black pepper.
Mix all the ingredients well. Drain the grape leaves. Take each grape leaf, open it, in the middle put a tea spoon of the mix in the middle. Fold each side of the grape leaf inside and then roll it (do this for each grape leaf). Now put the rolled grape leaves in a pot. Put 5 cut tomatoes on top of the grape leaves in the pot, and fill the pot with cold water. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper to the pot. Cover the pot and set it on the oven for 10min, put the oven on high (until it boils). Then put it on low after it boils, keep the oven on low for an 1hour and half. Then put the grape leaves in a serving platter, with some lemons next to it (just for decoration, also people like to add lemon) and serve.

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