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!


The View from Above, or Your June Book of Days

June is here and here, too, is our monthly gift to you: the printable Convivio Book of Days Calendar. For June, our cover star is the plumeria tree in our yard, which is so tall now that it’s rare for us to actually see the bright pink blooms on the tree. We only know the tree is blooming when flowers drift down to the ground. But we need a new roof, and Seth was up there assessing the situation, and from above the yard’s tree line he got a bird’s eye view of the plumeria and that’s when he took the photo that graces this month’s calendar. The plumeria is better known around here as frangipani. In Hawaii, I hear, this is the flower that’s used most often to make leis.  And that’s kind of nice, having a tree in the yard that occasionally sends petals to the ground, like a quiet Aloha.

Enjoy the calendar. It is a PDF document, so you can print it and pin it to your wall, if you are so inclined. It is a handy companion to the Convivio Book of Days Blog, and that companionship is also kind of nice, no? I will do my best to write about each of the holidays listed on the calendar. It is summer, the gentle time of year. May it be a beautiful time for you all.


Memorial Day

On Memorial Day and this weekend that has grown around it, we pause as a nation and remember. Pure and simple. It is the day we remember especially our fallen heroes, those who gave their lives in service to their country. Memorial Day (or some version of it) is celebrated not just here in the United States, but in other countries, as well, and usually at this particular time of year. It is a tradition that harkens back to Ancient Rome. The day was earlier on known as Decoration Day, and the Memorial/Decoration Day traditions in this country go back to the Civil War era. The original date, May 30, was chosen for it was believed that flowers for decorating graves would be in bloom in every state of the Union on that date. It’s since been moved by act of Congress to the last Monday of May. It is our unofficial start of summer here in the US, but a somber one if we honor the day in its proper tradition. And so we decorate, and we remember.

Convivio friend Deborah Wolford wrote just the other day and told me what her family does for Memorial Day Weekend. I thought her family’s way of honoring the day summed things up just right, and I asked if I could share her words. She gave her blessing:

We are getting ready to put the flags out in the front in a few minutes. Memorial Day has always been a family biggie. We have private family cemeteries in West Virginia and surrounding areas. It was always a tradition to clean them and decorate the graves—hence, Decoration Day. My grandfather used to go to take care of them at this time of the year. It took several weeks to get them done, so I rarely saw him for my birthday because of it. He would take various family members to help. It was a huge deal for my father as well. We honor our predecessors and those who served––this is the way it has always been.

And so we welcome summer, and, more importantly, we remember and honor.

Image: “Decoration Day, Jefferson Barracks, MO” by Carl Michel. Photograph, circa 1914–1918, Missouri Historical Society.