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Cooking with Gratitude Through a Ramadan Quarantine

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There are so few times in life when we are forced to quiet ourselves. This global pandemic and the subsequent quarantine and social distancing has effectively coerced us into facing ourselves in a way most of us never made time to do before– and for me, this has been a very good thing.

Since I work from home, it may seem as though a quarantine or lockdown wouldn’t be all that difficult, but when something is mandatory it has a psychological effect in that one naturally wants to do the opposite. Suddenly, going to the grocery store for one condiment becomes an emergency, a desperate plea to get out into the world and see what’s going on “out there”, even though inherently the mind knows that pretty much nothing is going on at all.

That said, although difficult in one sense, it doesn’t mean being closed off to family, friends and the rest of the world has been a negative in the least for me. In fact this Ramadan, I feel an incredible release- a burden lifted. Why? Because normally, this is a very busy time of year and quite taxing on my body to use up energy required to finish daily chores outside of the house, meeting demands to stay social by accepting an enormous amount of Iftar invitations and feeling the pressure to return the good deed.

Additionally, I’m always inundated with work during Ramadan and the added pressure of feeling tired from fasting, not getting enough sleep, and making elaborate meals has in recent years given me a tad of dread for the blessed month when it should be something I’m longing to relish and savor and come closer to my Lord. I can’t ever seem to find the time or energy to read the Holy Qur’an such as extra acts of worship like staying up all night in prayer because of the workload at work, home, and the pressure to socialize. That has always made me feel less of a Muslim, or less of an actively practicing Muslim. I never liked feeling this way.

This year, it is completely different and I’m seeing it as the silver lining in the dark period of COVID19. Now, I manage my time with family and friends via phone calls and text messages that go around my work, cooking and worship schedule. The psychological pressure to socialize is different- it takes up less time and when I do connect with family and friends it is way more succinct and heartfelt and meaningful. We truly do miss one another. We pray for one another, we remind one another how much we love each other. It’s a deeper connection, a deeper, more cognizant act of affection and love. For that reason, I am filled with gratitude and feel my heart swell more with emotion. It’s also something that translates directly to my relationship with my Lord, my Creator. It’s something I’ve been reaching for for years and didn’t quite know how to attain. Silver lining indeed.

When I shop for groceries at the local market here in Turkey, I am quicker to get in and out of the market, but my eye is sharper and zooms in on exactly what I need and want to cook that is available. My appreciation for the farmers and gardeners who risk themselves to be in the public and bring us healthy produce is so much greater. My cooking has also changed. It’s slower, more thoughtful. I wash everything thoroughly, coming in closer contact with the texture and shape of every fruit and vegetable as I soap them up and rinse them in warm vinegar water. I relish in the miracle they are. Despite all that is going on in the world, this is what nourishes us right now. This is how we fortify our bodies and our minds to try our best to ward off any illness, insha’Allah (God willing).

As I slow cook fresh Spring lamb with the local red peppers and a few potatoes I’ve grown on my balcony, I happily look forward to the day’s Iftar meal and how I can share some with my neighbors because it will be so much for myself. I have time for a (socially-distant) chat to check in on them, as I’m no longer hurried or thinking about how tired I’ll be by the time the night prayers start tonight. I can do things at my own pace, within reason. I can pay attention to the call of My Lord, and still have time to cook, eat, savor and give thanks properly, because there is no excuse not to this Ramadan.

Find out more about Yvonne and get recipes ideas at My Halal Kitchen MyHalalKitchen.com