This Friday, May 26th marks the beginning in the United States of Ramadan, the most holiday time period in the Muslim calendar. In addition to engaging in prayer and reflection, those observing the holiday traditionally fast during daylight hours for 30 days, a gesture designed as a reminder of those who regularly go without food.
After the sun sets, the fast is broken via a meal known as iftar. The menu varies according to country and region, though the consumption of three dates is most traditional as it way in this way the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast.
When my Syrian friend and I were roommates, I fasted with her during one week of Ramadan and I found it a very difficult exercise, even though we had it "easy" as that year the holiday fell during the winter so daylight hours were at minimum. This year, I will not be fasting; I will, however, be donating money to the Houston Food Bank as well as a refugee fund, and, of course, attempting to cook some traditional iftar foods. On that note, Ramadan Mubarak to Muslims across the world, especially my friend Lena and her family, whose kindness and hospitality inspired this culinary journey.