I love a date - I don’t mean the kind where one gets all dressed up, is met by a handsome man with a bunch of red roses, who takes you to a posh restaurant - which is lovely (writes columnist Parveen “The Spice Queen” Ashraf.
I mean the sweet, sticky middle-eastern fruit that satisfies my sweet tooth, well actually all my sweet teeth.
The reason I want to talk about dates is because they are the traditional fruit that is eaten to break a fast during Ramadan, which began on Tuesday this week.
Ramadan is the holy month when Muslims around the world fast and abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. However, it is not only food and water that is not allowed during the 30 days of Ramadan. It is also a time to cleanse the mind and soul as well as the body.
Along with this, sins such as swearing, lying, cheating and gossiping are not allowed during the hours of fasting. I am not sure about other people but when I am fasting, I am way too hungry to take part in anything of that nature. All I can focus on is what time the fast finishes and I can tuck into my delicious meal, called ‘Iftaari.’
Fasting can be quite taxing and strange things can begin to happen. Dehydration can cause headaches and there is a lack of energy due to lack of nourishment. For me, my senses become hyper sensitive – I turn into a little bloodhound and can smell food from 20 paces.
Freshly baked bread smells like heaven on earth, sweet strawberries tantalize the taste buds and don’t even get me started on the smell of a freshly brewed coffee!
You may not fast yourself but you might know someone who is, for example, a colleague, friend or neighbour. So, please be mindful that they are fasting all day and may get ‘hangry.’
If you live near someone who is fasting, you many get a tasty treat at Iftaari as it’s traditional to send food to one’s neighbours - you may be lucky enough to a samosa or two or three!
Ramadan is a time for contemplation, taking stock of our eating habits and giving to charity. In the western world, we have such an excess of food. We seem to have a culture of ‘living to eat rather than eating to live’. We are fortunate to have so much food at our disposal, whenever and whereever we need but what about those people less fortunate than us? In many Muslim countries, come sunset when the fast breaks, mosques and restaurants open up their doors and feed the poor for free.
I think that’s a wonderful way of giving back... and it all starts with a date.
You can see Parveen doing a live demo in the main chef tent at the Great British Food Festival in Shropshire this weekend