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Ramadan in the 1960s.

Summary: "Mom! How did you cook during Ramadan before, without such a great invention like the food processor?" I asked as I pressed the off button of the said appliance and started to take out the chopped onions during a mom-daughter moment in the kitchen.


"I mean cooking a huge quantity of food for a large family without help must definitely have been quite tough, yeah?"

"Let me tell you how life was in Ramadan back in the 1960s," answered Mom, taking a deep breath before continuing.

"At around 11.30 p.m., all the shops of our small village start to close minutes before the Dhuhr call for prayer. Women, after prayer, start going to their kitchens. Usually the grandmother of the house would go to the kitchen to both guide and supervise her daughters-in-law while they cook."

"Cook what, Mom?" I asked.

"Well, different kinds of delicious food like harees, saloona, sago, thareed, aseed, lugaymat and many others," she replied.

"While cooking, you can smell the freshly grinded spices and the fried onions miles away. You can hear the pots cracking, women laughing with joy despite the lack of air conditioning that could make it too difficult to cook because of steam coming from the pots. We did not feel the need to use food processors as we were all together."

"Strong women indeed!" I said admiringly.

"Half an hour before the Maghrib prayer, small covered dishes containing what the women cooked for that day would be shared with the neighbors," Mom continued.

"After the Maghrib call for prayer, the whole family breaks their fast with some dates and milk or water. They then go to pray, men in mosques and women at home. The women, while waiting for men to come back from prayer, start serving food in two separate rooms, one for men and the other for women. After they finish eating, all start their social visits to their families and neighbors to congratulate them on the holy month of Ramadan."

"But how long would this last?" I asked.

"Until Eid. They visit to pass on their congratulations and either read or listen to recitations of the Qu'ran at homes," Mom replied.

"When they come back home, they all sleep and wake up by or before Imsak time."

"But how could they wake up on time without alarm clocks?" I asked.

"People would shout loud enough to make sure all people are awake before the call for the Fajr prayer," she replied.

"For the suhur, they get up to eat some dates and milk, or what was left from the iftar. After they pray, men leave for their work and women go back to sleep, only to wake up before midday to prepare the iftar for that day. And that's how life would go on in those old beautiful days."

"Old beautiful days!" I echoed. "What makes them beautiful, they are boring!"

"Boring! Then you tell me what is interesting about nowadays?"

"Well, at least we have food processors!" I laughingly replied.

"No, seriously, you know what Mom? We have many things in common, like we get up before Dhuhr prayer, and spend most of the day in the kitchen. We do cook old traditional kinds of food, though almost only during Ramadan! People nowadays are starting to be more international, making dishes like pizza, tiramisu, risotto, cannelloni and blah blah blah. Not to mention the different kinds of salads, soups and drinks. Indeed, now the whole world has become like one small village, you can find everything everywhere you go."

"I'd say though that these kinds of food are why people put on weight after Ramadan, especially if people sleep after iftar," commented Mom.

"Yes indeed, they should exercise more. So back to our subject, after finishing iftar, we'd make social visits, just like you did."

"Visit so you can eat more!" said Mom jokingly.

"Well mom, our ghabgas (get-togethers) always give a good appetite," I replied, carrying on quickly before the subject got changed.

"Then after we come back we recite the Qu'ran, just like you did, though separately in most cases. If we think about it, almost all the good things of the past have remained. It is only that we now have more options to choose from, unlike before when you have to do something simply because you had no alternative. For example, now one can choose to go from reading the Qu'ran, watching TV or attending Ramadan tents all night, to visiting or contacting people by (social networking sites) Facebook, MSN Spaces or by phone. There's nothing typical, it all goes with one's own choice, with his perspective in life."

"Yes Aristotle, I can't argue with that, now let's finish cooking before it's late," replied Mom.

Copyright: Arab News 2009 All rights reserved.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 3, 2010
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