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Breaking The Ramadan Fast In A Cab At 50 MPH

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Jun 29, 2015

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

Muslims across the world are celebrating Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. During Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to dusk every day. They don’t eat or drink anything while the sun is up -- for 30 straight days.

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 when I talked to a wide range of Muslims for this week's episode, I learned that Ramadan is also spiritual, peaceful, and when the sun finally sets, delicious.

Arafat Family Breaking fast at Tarweea Restaurant. Amman.

First up, I meet a Palestinian-Texan cooking teacher who rediscovered her Muslim roots as an adult.

"I may not be always fast and I may not always eat halal, but it’s a part of me,"  says Sahar Arafat-Ray of Tart Queen's Kitchen:

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Sahar's father is from in Nablus in the West Bank, and her mother is from Texas. When Sahar was growing up in Ft. Worth, her family didn't practice Islam -- but she took an interest in her father's faith after the 9/11 attacks:

"It did make me think that I should look into this and actually learn more about my own religion," she says. "When somebody says something that is incorrect about Islam then I can at least say, 'No you’re wrong.'"

Later in the show I head to New York's JFK Airport to break the Ramadan fast with 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 at JFK gather at a makeshift outdoor prayer space there (shown below) for prayers and quick iftar meals to break the day-long fast.

JFKPrayerSpace

Mohammad Tipu Sultan (below), a cab driver who also works with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, came with me. We bought a bunch of fruit and sweets for the drivers, loaded everything into a taxi (Tipu was off-duty that day), and brought it all to JFK just in time for iftar.

But as you hear in the episode, instead of eating and talking with the cabbies as the sun set in the parking lot -- we unexpectedly got the real NYC cabbie iftar experience:

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TipuBreakingFast

Listen in to the full episode to hear how it all ends (hint: kids, don't try this at home!).

I also visit the Arab American Family Support Center in Brooklyn to talk with some Jordanian-, Yemeni-, and Palestinian-American teenagers about their Ramadan plans.

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They tell me about their favorite iftar dishes -- from Yemeni sambusa (below) and sabaya to watermelon and dates:

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And they reveal the hardest part of fasting for a whole month:

"The last minute [before breaking the fast] is like a whole hour for me," says Abdulla Aldaferi, 16, of Brooklyn.

"Everybody goes crazy because you're just waiting [to eat]," adds Nirmeen Shumman, 14, of Brooklyn. "You've been waiting hours. It feels so long."

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

Connect with me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook!

Interstitial music in this episode by BWN Music:

- "When You're Away" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Can You Dig It" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Coffee And Sunshine" by Erick Anderson

Photos: Dan Pashman, courtesy of Sahar Arafat-Ray, Flickr/CC

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