Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ramadan is Coming!

Welp, Ramadan is a month away now. Occasionally I hear other expats talking about Ramadan and how they want to go home because, "it isn't the same here."

Obviously. Then I hear other expats (non Muslims) talking about how people eat like they are starving to death, when in fact people have missed one meal. I gained 3 kilos myself last year, so I can say the struggle is real.

I have no experience with Ramadan outside Salalah. I am from Maine, and haven't yet participated in any of the Ramadan activities there. And you know what? They have them. The University of Orono has an Eid gathering for local Muslims that I hear is quite fun. For much of Ramadan, I am here. And I like it. I like it just fine. I don't have any emotional baggage tying me to a homeland in order to appreciate this religious observance, and why we have it . I reserve that longing for Christmas.

A friend at work asked me why Muslims have Ramadan. Like, what's the point? I don't think this person was looking for a history lesson, but for a quick wiki. Good thing, cause I don't wanna get into it THAT much. I'd have to read stuff to pull it off.

During Ramadan, you are supposed to fast with your entire self. You are supposed to refrain from gossip and backbiting. As for your eyes, don't look at things that are inappropriate or unlawful. Keep your hands to yourself and don't take things that don't belong to you. Stop cussing and don't listen to rude music. And keep your feet out of bad places. The word "sawm" means to refrain, and we refrain from food and drink too, from sunup to sundown. Refraining from being a jerk for a month increases the likelihood you will stop for good.

Before I became a Muslim, a friend told me fasting helps us empathize with the poor. Of all the reasons to fast, I like this one the most. If you are hungry for a time, compassion for the those who are hungry every day of their lives increases, and thus charity towards them. For this reason, I admit I look at people who sleep through fasting  with a little "judgeyness." We are SUPPOSED to feel uncomfortable.

So shouldn't we all do this all year long? Yeah. People are people, though, so I think it's great to have a month where people try just a bit harder to be good. Do people fail in this endeavor during Ramadan? Obviously. Conquering the flesh is no easy proposition, as any religious can tell you.

This year, I am here for the first two weeks, then I go back to America for a month. I plan to enjoy it. The air will be cool, the desert will turn green, and Salalah braces for the onslaught of tourists arriving during Eid al Fitr. Snack places open outside restaurants only for Ramadan. Yummy. The government sponsors tents in Saada and New Salalah for local ladies to sell their home cooking (yes, there are poor Omanis). More yummy. When I cook dinner, people arrive on time. Always a bonus.

As for hunger, lately I am always hungry. I PAID MONEY for the priviledge. After all that ranting about diets, I joined Smart Diet. If hunger were the point of Ramadan, I'd be a spiritual giant right now. But Smart Diet, and my whiny suffering, is a post for another day.

Ramazan with the Poor by Azim Azimzade, 1938

As for cake, I meant to make Apple Cheesecake Bars. Know what I forgot? The cheesecake middle. The part of the "cake" that made it good for posting here. Why? I blame the 700 calorie a day diet. So what came out of the oven was a slightly burned apple crisp. I remembered the cheesecake element when I saw my husband slather Philly cream cheese in a sandwich. Dang!

This is the original picture:

Yeah. Didn't happen. This is what happened.

It isn't awful.

My daughter is right. I do not have the patience to be a great baker. She is a great baker. Her cakes are divine, and look it. Like this one:

I think it's sweet that she believes I am capable but impatient. That I just can't be arsed. It's like a compliment!

In any case, here is a decent recipe for apple crisp. It's quite nice on vanilla ice cream and super easy to make. 

Apple Crisp

4 peeled apples, cut into small chunks (Granny Smiths are nice)
1 small box of digestive bisquits, or one packet of graham crackers.
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground ginger

Grind the bisquits in a food processor to coarse flour consistency. Add 5 tsps of cold butter while grinding, in teaspoon size bits.

Press into the bottom of an 8x8 pan. 

Cover with the chunked apples. Sprinke spices over the apples.

Mix 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cut in another 6 t. of cold butter until thoroughly mixed. I used a food processor, and I think that was a mistake. A crisp should have a bit of a country feeling to it, and the oats don't stand out this way. 

Spoon over the apples and bake for 25 minutes at 180/350

Mine burned a bit, I think because we just changed the dang gas tank and the oven ran hot. 

I made a caramel syrup but I think you should eliminate that. Too sweet. That is also the matte look you see on the crisp, rendering it distinctly uncrispy. 

So, all in all, a moderate fail last night. But there's always another day. 


Felicia El Aid