This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)
Right now Muslims across the world are celebrating Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. As part of the observance, they fast every day for 30 days. That means no eating or drinking while the sun is up.
"The worst thing is when you get the hunger pains," says Suzanne (above, with Dan outside her house), a Sporkful listener in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "They're coming early this year -- at 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning."
It’s intense -- especially this year, since Ramadan falls during some of the longest and hottest days of the year in the northern hemisphere.
But Ramadan is also a season of contemplation and a time for friends and families to gather. And when the sun finally sets, there is no shortage of good food for iftar (the meal that breaks the day-long fast).
"[Our iftars are] kind of like a pot luck," Suzanne says. "I’ll make [Tunisian] brika. My mom makes [Lebanese] tabouleh or fattoush. My sisters will bring the more Americanized dishes -- the lasagna or the Salisbury steak."
Dan spent an afternoon with Suzanne at her home in Ann Arbor, as she cooked her family's iftar meal:
Tunisian brika (a savory, fried turnover)
Lebanese meat pies
Tunisian freekeh (a tomato-based soup with cracked wheat)
Suzanne's family is from Lebanon, but she grew up in Dearborn, Michigan -- and her husband is from Tunisia. So her family's iftars are a delicious mix of all three cultures.
Listen in to the full episode to hear how Suzanne gets through a long day of fasting and her strategies for making the most of the one meal she does get to eat each day during Ramadan. (Hint: easy on the salt, heavy on the protein and water!)
And if you're curious to try making Suzanne's amazing brika (below), you can get her recipe here.
Later in the show, we talk to two men who fled the fighting in Syria about what it's like to celebrate Ramadan in the U.S. for the first time.
Then Dan heads to JFK Airport to share an iftar meal with New York City cab drivers and talk to them about what it's like to do such a physically demanding job while fasting.
Just before sundown, taxi drivers passing through JFK take a break from their 12-hour shifts for prayers and quick iftar meals at a makeshift outdoor prayer space (below):
Mohammad Tipu Sultan (bottom), a taxi driver who also works with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (and who was also fasting that day!), came with us. We bought fruit and sweets for the drivers and arrived at JFK just before sundown.
But as you'll hear in the episode, instead of eating and talking with cab drivers as the sun sets over JFK -- we unexpectedly got the real NYC taxi iftar experience:
Listen in to the full episode to hear how our plans went terribly terribly awry. (Kids, do not try this at home!)
Special thanks to all of our guests this week, who fed us and shared their Ramadan experiences with us.
Ramadan Mubarak, everyone!
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Incidentally" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Sun So Sunny" by Calvin Dashielle
- "Fresh Air" by Erick Anderson
- "Can't Bring Me Down" by Jack Ventimiglia
- "Coffee And Sunshine" by Erick AndersonPhotos: Dan Pashman and courtesy of Suzanne Baccouche