by Kholood Eid
Editor's note: Aspiring photojournalist and Gut Check contributor Kholood Eid is chronicling her Ramadan fast in diary form. Click for all Ramadan Diary entries to date.
Every year my non-Muslim friends groan, "Not that again! Already?"
Yes, it's here -- again. Ramadan.
For 30 days Muslims around the world fast from just before sunrise to sunset. This means no eating or drinking anything (including water) during the day. Ramadan is a time meant to feel true appreciation for all that we're blessed with. It's a time for empathizing with those less fortunate than we are.
As disgruntled as I may become by the end of a day without food or water, I find myself appreciating those first sips and bites as the sun dips into the night just as much as -- if not more than -- anything I've ever appreciated in my life. There's nothing like the first sip of cold water after a long, unbearably hot St. Louis summer day.
People sometimes ask the question, "If you were on Death Row, what would be your last meal?" And while I'm obviously not on Death Row, I -- and many Muslims I know -- approach each day of Ramadan with a similar enthusiasm toward that one meal. Some of us (ahem) may spend our entire day envisioning what our one meal will consist of. Nobody wants to live with the regret of a mediocre meal after starving oneself all day, but mostly it's pretty hard not to think about food when fasting.
I know it's not exactly in the spirit of Ramadan to be thinking of a meal as "mediocre." After all, it's about not taking anything for granted. Still, I won't pretend to be something I'm not. Food is a key element to my happiness. (And maybe that's part of the point!)
Wednesday was my first day fasting.
I worked all day, including a night shift serving at a pizza joint. Though I had figured I'd start off with a pizza, by the end of my shift I found myself craving something lighter. I decided on a salad.
If you're someone who fasts, you quickly learn that certain foods are a guaranteed win. As far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with a good salad. For me, a salad -- and not one that's just some romaine lettuce and crappy store-bought dressing that tastes like mayo -- makes for an ideal meal if done right.
So for Wednesday night's iftur (that's the Arabic term for "breakfast," which, if you think about it, is precisely what this meal is), I ordered a Greek salad: field greens and romaine with red onions, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, feta cheese and pine nuts, tossed in a mildly tangy balsamic vinaigrette.
Next time I do this salad, I may add chicken to make for a more rounded meal. This time I went for that "meal" effect by adding pizza sauce and extra feta cheese on the side, along with large seasoned croutons baked in olive oil.
The meal was delicious. So much so that I woke up for ishoor (pronounced "is-hoor") -- think of it as last call for eating and drinking before sunrise -- and finished off what was left of the salad. I followed that up with a MoMo, a small rolled length of brioche dough baked with cinnamon and sugar, from Companion Bakery.