Category Archives: Eid Al-Fitr

Eid Mubarak

This year, when Ramadan began, Seth and I mailed one of the new Ramadan and Eid al Fitr cards we sell at our online Book of Days Catalog to Tara and Sami, who run The Pelican on Lake Avenue in Downtown Lake Worth. I don’t know if we have the best business model, exactly––a big motivation for me in including Ramadan and Eid cards in our catalog was simply so I could send one to Tara and Sami as a thank you for all their kindnesses to us over the years––but I’m really glad we offer these cards. I feel like we are doing a good thing by including them, for a spirit of inclusion is what we strive to build through this blog and through our little company. Inclusion and understanding (in my experience, anyway) make for a far better, stronger community.

With Eid al Fitr, which begins with the first sighting of the new crescent moon this month, Ramadan concludes and the month of fasting in the Islamic calendar ends. Depending on where you are in the world, Eid will begin tonight or tomorrow night. Customs for Eid al Fitr vary widely from country to country, but charity and prayer, respect to others, and food, especially sweets, are at the forefront. The greeting for the season is Eid Mubarak: a blessed Eid.

My ancestral home in Southern Italy is a place in close proximity to the Islamic world, and so there is a strong Arabic influence on the culture. That influence is probably most notable in the regional dialects of Puglia and in its cuisine, all of which have been brought to the States, too, through the immigrants that came to this country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Last week, when I went to mow the lawn at the family homestead, my mother sent me home with roasted red peppers she had just made, as well as an old family recipe I love: zucchini and onions, cut into long strips, sautéed, and finished with vinegar and fresh mint. I don’t know about the roasted peppers, but the zucchini dish, which we eat chilled a day or two after it is made, so that the flavors develop and meld, is distinctly Arabic. It’s a dish that was handed down to my mother from my grandmother and certainly through a long line of grandmothers through time immemorial.

It may be the result of growing up in a place as culturally diverse as South Florida, where people from all over the world gather to forge a community, but I love seeing these connexions. They are, to me, the strongest bridges, especially when we take those influences and call them our own (perhaps without even realizing the commonality of our roots). We get our nourishment not just from food but from each other, through a thread that reaches back through the centuries. Talk about blessings! Eid Mubarak.

Image: Momma’s roasted peppers, dressed with fresh olive oil and flat leaf parsley, and zucchini with vinegar and mint. So good! We’ll include the recipes in the “real book” version of the Convivio Book of Days. Guess what? I’m almost done writing the proposal and the first chapter!

 

Eid Mubarak

Ramadan, the month of fasting, is coming to an end, and for Eid Al-Fitr, which arrives in this part of the world with tonight’s setting sun and the sighting of the new crescent moon, here is a reprint, slightly revised, of a Book of Days chapter from 2014. The sentiment is the same: Eid Mubarak. Blessed days. ~ John

My maternal grandparents came from Lucera, a small city in southern Italy that was, in the 13th century, home to a population of perhaps 60,000 Muslims that had been expelled from Sicily by Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. The colony became known as Lucaera Saracenorum, or Saracen Lucera. My grandmother, a small woman whose deep olive complexion would grow darker and darker as each summer progressed, often told of long-ago Moroccan blood in our family lineage, and whether this is fact or the stuff of story is not entirely known. A good story is a good story.

But the facts do tend to support Grandma’s story. The Saracen colony at Lucera was comprised mostly of people of Northern African descent––Arabs and Berbers from Arabia, Tunisia, and Morocco. And they left their imprint on the culture of Southern Italy in subtle ways that still persist to this day linguistically (the dropping of vowels at the ends of words––which even came over to America and has influenced the Italian American communities in New York, especially) and in the way we cook. When we add fresh mint to a traditional Italian frittata or make a favorite summer zucchini dish that comes from my Grandma Cutrone, heady with the scent of vinegar and mint, it is a nod to that influence on Italy from Northern Africa.

And so I have a longstanding fascination with the cultures and traditions of Northern Africa, and am always in awe of the tile work and the paper marbling and the cinnamon-infused tagines and sweets scented with rose water. And in my mind, itself an aromatic stew that does such a good job of melding fact and fiction that I sometimes don’t know what is real and what is dream, I like to imagine myself at a feast celebrating a holiday like Eid Al-Fitr. It is the three-day celebration concluding Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is a time of prayer but a time of abundance, with good food and good aromas and good company and good deeds. It is a time meant to bring out the best in people. It begins with the sighting of the new moon’s first faint crescent, which, this year, should be just about now, this 14th night of June. Being a lunar holiday, the dates are not fixed in our Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar. But as the days passed last week, I watched the waning crescent moon grow increasingly slight with each passing morning near sunrise, knowing that the waxing crescent moon would soon follow, bringing these joyous days to Muslims all over the world. To them and to all of us, Eid Mubarak.

 

Image: Detail of a small enamel plate from Morocco that was a gift to Seth & me from someone, long ago. The memory melds with all the others in my mind, into that aromatic tagine… but that’s what makes for good cooking and for good stories: Sometimes it’s not the details so much as the whole. The patterns on this plate fascinate me.

 

Eid Mubarak

34_Hours_After_New_Moon

The timing of Eid al-Fitr and Ramadan and other holidays in the Islamic calendar can be hard to pinpoint exactly, because they depend on the sighting of the new crescent moon. Tonight, driving home from West Palm Beach along the lagoon, Seth pointed out the crescent moon on the western horizon, and once we crossed the canal into Lake Worth, I could see it, too. Which reminded me: for our friends observing Ramadan (like Tari and Sami, who run The Pelican restaurant downtown), Ramadan was now over, and it was time to celebrate Eid al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr is a three-day celebration that concludes Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is a time of prayer but a time of abundance, with good food and good aromas and good company and good deeds. It is a time meant to bring out the best in people. It begins with the sighting of the new moon’s first faint crescent, which, this year, at least in North America, was expected to be tonight, the 5th of July. Elsewhere in the world, Eid al-Fitr will begin tomorrow, on the 6th. Being a lunar holiday, the dates are not fixed in our Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar. A good lesson, perhaps, in being in the moment.

Customs vary widely from country to country, but charity and prayer, respect to others, and food, especially sweets, are at the forefront. And, of course, wishing all we meet Eid Mubarak: a blessed Eid.

Image: “34 Hours After New Moon” by Mika-Pekka Markkanen, a photograph shot at Järvenpää, Finland, May 26, 2009. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.