While normally the lunch would be the main family meal, during the Holy month, the main meal shifts to early evening at sunset. My most vivid memories of Ramadan include that moment before the Maghrib prayer was called out and our evening breakfast started. Usually, that is a very tranquil time of the day, with my mum putting the final touches on the plated foods, garnishing with toasted pine nuts, herbs and we would be carrying the plates over to the dining table – one of us would be pouring the soup into the individual soup plates. The best thing about Ramadan table is the variety of food, not necessarily in huge quantities, but always the plethora of options to cater to each one’s preferences and tastes. We’d all sit at the table, mostly quiet at that time. Once the Athan was heard, we’d start eating and chatting – we would be talking about our day, what had been good and significant that day. My parents loved listening to us and would give advise – since we wouldn’t be going anywhere and were seated for the meal, we would most likely listen to what they had to say! I must say that the Ramadan table was a great opportunity for making family connection and that did not only transpire to just us, and in fact, extended to the visitors as well. At a Ramadan table, people are more eager to share, to connect and to converse and somehow it felt like people listened more.
My fondest and my favourite memory and of Ramadan however, is that everyday about one and a half hour before Iftar, my dad would take us in the car and we would go to the market to buy fresh bread, fresh atayef disks and a fresh bowl of hummus and falafel. If you have been fasting, the last few hours are the hardest – you are tired, hungry and could use any distraction from those feelings that you get. And I just loved that daily trip to the market – we talked, and somehow because you are fasting, your sense of smell becomes so sharp, you actually smell the freshness of the bread. The aromas of food every where, from the orange blossom in the atayef batter, to the toasted flour on the bread to the smell of the frying oil in which the fresh falafels are being dipped, one by one, to be fried… It is such a sensory experience that is sharpened by fasting. By the time we got home, mum would have finished all the cooking and it was only a matter of minutes finishing up with the setting of the table and then savouring the much-awaited meal.
Ramadan is about connection. Be it one’s connection with the creator, or that with the self or family and friends and that to me is the most unforgettable memory of this Holy Month. And this is why I still appreciate this very special month to date, and aspire to pass this experience to my kids.