Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mah-e-Ramazaan ka pakwaan at Chez Gori

I try to produce healthy and hearty meals during Ramazan. We break our fast with 3-4 dried dates, milk, and water. Often, we have a cup of wholesome soup. We pray, then shortly after, we have a normal meal. I make sure that this meal is well balanced, including a veggie, meat, and carb. We then have a snack of fruit at around 10 pm, before we sleep. I occasionally go on a mad gulab jamun consumption spree and pack back 6 or more of the little suckers. Ramazan blood sugar fluctuations throw my self control out of the window. But I usually attempt to limit the sweets. For breakfast, I have cereal and a banana. My husband has cereal, but occasionally he makes himself a fried egg and eats this with toast or a roghni roti or paratha. He dines on this breakfast more often during the end of Ramazan.

This is the healthy way. This is the way to eat during Ramazan when you want to maintain your stamina and focus on ibaadat and not on the food.

But culturally, Ramazan IS all about the food in many ways.

Ramazan is a time for a breakfast or sehri that is as big as a dinner. Sehri might be parathas and eggs, and also include sweets. Doodh jalebi is a special one in my husband's house. Iftaar starts with a date washed down with rose syrup milk---Rooh Afzah is the syrup of choice to lift the Rooh, or the spirit! Then come the Unidentified Frying Objects: UFOs. Typical UFOs are samosas, pakoras, and kachoris...there might be some dahi bhalle or chaat, too. All these things all together all at once is okay. Why not? Eat as much as you can, then go pray on a stomach filled with greasy fried carbs. Try not to pass wind as you bend into sujood now!

The real meal will be later. Perhaps 9 or 10 pm, maybe later than that. Only crazy goras eat at 6 or 7 pm. Dinner could even be midnight. The closer to bedtime, the better. If you eat very late, you might get to skip sehri and just wake up for fajr namaz. This meal will be heavy and will be topped off with a sweet. Muzzafar, kheer, sevaiyan, shahi tukray...or any number of sweets...YUM! Since you have eaten so much fried stuff just a few hours before in the blood sugar spike fest called iftaar, you won't have too much room for the dinner, so be sure not to eat too much or you won't have space for the sweet.

All of this is fun, but it involves a lot of negatives: it is stressful on the person who has to cook it all at odd hours, it causes heart burn, gas, and smelly burps, and in terms of keeping you pumped up for ibaadat, you are running on the steam of fat and processed carbs, so you aren't getting a balanced diet even if there are some veggies hidden within that coat of pakora batter.

I know, I am such a killjoy!

What I do to honor my husband's Ramazan cultural traditions and foods is this: we have a UFO night at least twice during Ramazan. Our dinner is just pakoras and one other UFO, perhaps samosay or dahi bhallay. That way it is something special, something to relish. The rest of the time, we eat relatively healthfully. Our own family tradition is the Ramazan soup. Okay, soup isn't as fun as a pakora, I know. I know. Like I said, I am a killjoy.

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