Monday, October 18, 2004

The Queen of Cultural Confusion

Those of you who know my family or read the girls' blogs know that in my home I am the lone Mormon surrounded by praying, fasting, beardie/hijabi wearing Islamic-types. I love 'em and they love me, but you know I'm an irrascable brat and the self proclaimed Queen of Cultural confusion. With that disclaimer out of the way, I now blog on.

Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting to commemorate the revealing of the Holy Quran. It is a time of self-evaluation, a celebration of the spiritual over the physical self. My family totally loves the fasting, and the sundown gatherings to read Quran and break the fast. It's their favorite holiday of the year.

But here's how I see Ramadan: Through the Eyes of an Infidel.

First of all, I miss eating in the daylight with my family. In order to not seem callous, I try to eat unseen. I've been reduced to sneak eating, a pack of snack crackers in the bedroom, a quickly munched cookie behind the closed kitchen door, a candy bar inhaled in the laundry room. Oops, wait a minute, I do this year-round! Now at least I have an excuse.

Fasting is a great way of becoming spiritually refined, but let's face it; fasting breath is a killer. I now have to remember to keep a "safe" distance from my loved ones. No daytime kissing is an extention of the no eating rule. But, hey with that killer breath, no problem.

Ramadan shopping is the pits. The shopkeepers are all bad-breathy and grouchy. The shops are all crowded with people buying all the trappings of the season: new clothes for Eid, special food treats for those "breakfast" meals. Prices are jacked up for the month. The tailors are mobbed and turn out substandard work in the rush. (Oops, wait a minute. My tailors do this all year. Now at least they have an excuse.) It's best to get all clothes shopping and tailoring done before the holiday rush.

Driving becomes more dangerous! If you've read my past few blogs, you must wonder "HOW can that be possible?" Sundown marks the end of each day's fast. Millions of men are rushing to get home before the sirens sound the all clear to eat signal. Yep, it's like, "I've been fasting all day, I'm tired and hungry, I want to break my fast at home with my loved ones and if you get in my way, I'm gonna have to cut you down!" So the usual reckless abandon of rules that is daily driving here increases exponentially just before sundown.

I become a Ramadan widow. Hubby attends the evening reading of the Quran in the mosque every evening for 1 1/2 hours. The Quran is divided into 30 parts and one part is read out loud every evening. When we were younger I really resented the fact that he worked 12 hours in the day and after break-fast went to mosque and then came home and fell asleep on the floor till bed time. That was the routine for the whole month. Over work, over eat, over sleep. BORING!!! Nowdays it's different. The restaurant is closed so he's home allll dddayyy lllonggg and driving me crazy, I'm glad he gets out of the house for a few hours. "Oh, Honey, back so soon?"

There are some GOOD things about the month that even this displaced Mormon can appreciate too.

Every sundown meal is like High Tea. There's a veritable buffet of tasty treats to tide you over till dinner. Any religious celebration involving food, count me in. There are many wonderful tradional foods: fried dumplings, fried vegetable fritters, fried sweets, fried savories, fried, fried, fried. We really have to restrict those fried goodies from daily use or we end up gaining weight in Ramadan as many people do. There is also a pink syrup drink that is mixed with milk, water or 7-up and smells like you're drinking Nestle's Strawberry Kwik spiked with Grandma's Rose Scented Toilette Water. Then there are the chaats. Fruit Chaat is made of sugared and peppered fruit bits. (Does the expression 'aquired taste' give you a hint?) The savory Chaat is based on chickpeas, and other items tossed together varying according to where you are from. Chaat is to Pakistan like Chilli is to America. Ever region takes the same basic ingredients and tweaks it differently. This Am-REE-kan makes a darn good Chaat based on the Americanization of the Hyderabadi style.

Ramadan at our house is very definitely a fusion of east and west since we are a culturally and religously blended family. A few years back Ramadan came in December. I adapted my usual holiday baking to a Ramadan theme. I'd be baking gingerbread while singing adultrated versions of Christmas songs like: "It's beginning to look a lot like Ramamdan." Our gingerbread men became gingerbread Punjabis with the men sporting big mustashes and wearing langas, the women with long braids and saris. Sundown "Breakfast" was like a Christmas party everyday. Abez, still thinks gingerbread is the perfect break-fast food and asks for it any time of the year when she is fasting. How can I refuse?

This year Halloween falls in Ramadan. I've recommemded a fusion event as follows: Just before sundown the fasters, wearing costumes and masks stand outdoors. When the sundown siren goes off they ring the door bell and yell, "Time to eat!" They then rush indoors, break their fasts with miniature candy bars, Hot Cider and popcorn balls. Later, when walking towards the mosque for the evening Quran reading, they ring doorbells, collecting candy and throwing tolet paper in the trees of people (chose one: they like, they hate or who have run out of candy).

Bodacious Ramadan to all and to all a Good Night