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Can We Have Tabouli Instead of Mashed Potatoes This Year?

My Thanksgiving gob-stuffing started a little early this year, but in a rather unusual way.

You see, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended early this week, ushering in the celebratory three-day feast known as ‘Eid al-Fitr’. The celebration is all the sweeter for practicing Muslims, because Ramadan is a month of fasting, when they are forbidden from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset each day.

I learned most of this yesterday. I knew a bit about Ramadan, and the fasting, but had honestly never given it a lot of thought. As it turns out, though the building I work in has quite a few Muslims in residence, and they were more than happy to enlighten us, and — more tastily — share their feasty goodies, even with us unwashed infidels.

(Well, okay, I took a shower yesterday morning, so I suppose I’m technically a ‘washed infidel’. Still.)

Anyway, there was a truckload of food there, all home-prepared, and it was spec-freakin’-tacular. Hummus, baba ghanouj, couscous, and all sorts of other tasty crap that I don’t know how to spell. There was even some sweet dish, the name of which involves some sort of back-of-the-throat gargling noise. It had coconut, and almonds, and some sort of dough, and… well, let’s just say that if the other people there would have left the room, I’d have licked the tray it was in. It was that good. It sucks that I’ll never be able to order it, because I can’t remember the name.

(And even if I did, I’d have to have bronchitis to say it right. There’s a ‘cccggghhh‘ in there. Or a ‘gggghhhlll‘. Something like that.)

So, what was I saying? Oh, Ramadan, right.

So, the other thing about Ramadan is that it wiggles around all over the calendar. The beginning of fasting is dictated by when some particular full moon occurs. Or new moon, or when the swallows come back to Capistrano, or the camels return to Riyadh, or something.

(Look, I was eating, all right? I couldn’t pay attention to every fricking word they said.)

Anyway, the point is, the holiday moves around the calendar — sometimes it’s in winter, sometimes summer. So it’s just a coincidence that it ended this year just before Thanksgiving. And that’s probably good, at least for Muslims in America — I can’t imagine that it’s good to eat very little for a month, then feast for three days, and then follow that up with another funky food-fest a day or two later. Sure, that ‘feast-and-starve, feast-and-starve’ works for boa constrictors, but I’m pretty sure it wonks people’s insides up pretty badly. On the other hand, between those four days of stuffing your face, you could make up for a lot of missed meals over the course of a month. An extra slice of pumpkin pie, and you might be right back on schedule for the year. Nice.

Of course, it’s different in other years. And I’ve got to imagine that some seasons are easier for fasting than others. Summer would suck, if you can’t drink water all day. Especially because many Muslims traditionally live in pretty damned hot areas — man, talk about torturing yourself to make a point. I think I’d have made the rule that you couldn’t eat or drink after sunset or before sunrise. Hey, it’s about the same amount of time, right? Why not make things a little easier on yourself?

Ooh, and what happens if you live in Alaska, or Siberia, or down in the Falkland Islands? You’re so close to the poles there, the daylight can last an hour or twenty-three hours. If you get close enough, it might never get light — or dark — at all. That’s gotta be a friggin’ adventure every year. Sometimes, Ramadan’s a breeze — you can have a snack, watch the West Wing, and suddenly, it’s sunset. Woo hoo — get out the popcorn! Other years, it’d suck cold ass: ‘Um, dude, we’re gonna have six minutes to eat for the day — you wanna put everything in the blender to make it faster?

Or maybe that’s not the way they do it. Maybe it’s sunup-to-sunset at some certain spot — Mecca, or somewhere like that. Although, how the hell you’re supposed to know whether it’s dusk yet in Arabia when you’re freezing your ass off in an igloo somewhere is beyond me. But maybe they’ve got it all worked out; certainly, Muslims have had a while to work on little logistical details like these.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun — I learned something about another culture (though not quite enough, obviously), and got in some Thanksgiving practice. Now it’s time to put those skills to use on a big dead bird and all the other stuff we’re having. I’ll be back with more as soon as I’m able to stand up again. Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Permalink  |  2 Comments

2 Responses to “Can We Have Tabouli Instead of Mashed Potatoes This Year?”

  1. Amber says:

    Uh, how many of your Muslim co-workers have your blog address?

  2. liz says:

    one of my friends (who was not muslim) tried to observe ramadan one year to see what it was like. she lasted three days.

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