September 08, 2008
Ramadan in Spring
Spring is coming! We're so glad we've been enjoying gardening in the sun again. The heat is just right for me although my husband is still complaining about his freezing knees with that shivering gestures. Can't blame him, though as weather in New Zealand is temperamental. One time we're expecting to be in sunny day, the next minute we find ourselves frozen by southerlies. I assume that many New Zealanders are consulting on weather forecasts. You can't really go out there fishing when a storm is waiting for you in the open sea.
However, a week in the sun brings a lot of joy for us. We can do a lot of gardening. We've been germinating vegetables and flower seeds in the plastic house, hopefully they'll come out right for Summer garden. My children have been planting vegetables in their own patches while playing with their growing cats or feeding Brownie and Whitey, their one year old cows.
Flowers from Spring bulbs have started to finish although some of my tulips and anemones are still budding. Irises and cineraries have also started to flowering. Magnolias are just superb with their lovely blooms. When I am gardening in the corner of the garden, the air is filled with their mild scent. Very pleasant.
In the orchard, bees have started pollinating our fruit blooms. A good sign. Plum and some of peach trees are fully covered with blooms. White and pink displays in the orchard. It's this tiny ticklish feeling churning in my tummy when I witness the changing of season. The mighty of creation of each characteristic of season can tickle the deepest sense of mood, the grateful feeling to be able to enjoy the expression of nature, and it is such a pleasure of hard work, the rewards.
Even if you have a small garden, don't you feel that you're on top of the world to see your tomato plant is growing healthy, from little seed (if you germinate yourself) or seedling, and flowering, and then giving you a tiny fruit which then getting plumps and red, and served on your dinner plates? If you can feel it, that is what I feel of the rewards. Satisfaction. The oomph, you know.
It is the greatest feeling that we can welcome Ramadan in Spring. Although it covers a lot of work in the garden during fasting, we still can manage it. Hungry and thirsty is just a journey towards the maghrib, when the sun is set, then this satisfactory feeling, even is mightiest than that, burst into a gratitude. I am still happy, even happier, because I am fasting for my soul and I do my work at the same time for my human-being existence. Isn't life wonderful?
Ramadan brings joy as far as I remember and do. Although it is very quiet in New Zealand because not everyone is fasting and I am in the minority of Islam community here in the countryside, I can always take a look at my past journey to my childhood and my home-country.
I am not sure why traditional food is more enjoyed and feasted during holy months like Ramadan-Ied el Fitr, and even during Christmas. Perhaps, it is the time when people are being with their families more. Perhaps the togetherness brings the so much joy feeling, more than the other months where time passes so quickly and more works have to be done. In Ramadan, things seem go much slower. Offices and school days are cut shorter which presumably give parents a chance to go home to their family and to spend more time with them.
When I was single and worked in a textile company in a marketing division, I still remember that it was such a joy to be able to go home earlier. I could feel myself was still 'fresh' compared to the old days when I had to come home at 9pm each day, 6 days a week with salary below expectations.
When you've been hungry and thirsty for, like what... 14-15 hours, you might want to eat or drink as much as you can in order to break your fasting, but I don't think that such a good idea. Religiously, fasting means a lot more than to abstain Muslims from drink, foods, smoking, and intercourse within a certain time. I could not agree more when I read article written by Dr. Arafat El-Ashi about fasting in Islam. If you'd like to read it, please do, it is a good article.
I usually break my fasting with a glass of water followed with a hot cup of sweet tea. If I still have a little time before Maghrib prayer, I would enjoy one apple or banana. Then, I will have light dinner after Maghrib. Sometimes, after a glass of water, I don't feel much hungrier and dinner will be too much for me, I would make sanok.
Sanok is another name of kolak which is stewed vegetables in sweet coconut milk. It is quite satisfied for a hungry and thirsty tummy because it is often served watery. I tend not to use too much coconut milk as my tummy will go acid after a long fasting day. Sanok includes sugarcane bars in it which I am familiar with. I don't have cassava planted in the garden, as much as I want so, it is a tropical plant and not suitable for our frosty climate here, so I don't use cassava. I use pumpkin instead.
About sugarcane, we were lucky to receive it as a present about a year ago from a Maori man in the group. He said it was a farewell gift but it will thrive forever in our garden. Because we love gardening, we accepted it and it's been in the garden since then. I am familiar with sugarcane as my father grew them when I was a kid. We just loved eating them right after they are cut into bars. The sugarcane plants we planted here is different from those my father grew. The sticks are much slender than those were back home and the skin is redder while my father's was dark purple and much larger than its cousin. Above all, they're both sweet!
I am sending this entry for Lubna and Yasmeen to celebrate Ramadan and Ied el Fitr: Joy from Fasting to Feasting event.
2 kumaras, peeled and cut into chunks
about half of small pumpkin, peeled, cut into chunks
one small sugarcane plant, trimmed, peeled, and cut into bars
2 firm bananas
300ml coconut milk + 200ml water (add more coconut milk if you'd like)
2 pandan leaves (frozen)--or use 1 strip of fresh pandan leaf
1cm root ginger, bruised
1 block palm sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Heat the water until boiling, add in kumara and pumpkin chunks. Keep cooking until both are half-softened. Add in pandan leaves, sugar, ginger and salt. When the pumpkin and kumara are cooked, pour in the coconut milk (keep 1/4 cup for frothing). Just before serving, add in the bananas (cut into chunks). Simmer for 5 minutes, and then served with frothed coconut milk. Serves 4-6.
Note: bananas in New Zealand is different from those grown in Indonesia. There are many varieties of bananas suitable for frying, stewing or just for dessert. I am using half-green bananas here in New Zealand and add them to the last minute because I want them to still be in shape but then also to be able to give melt-in-the-mouth sensation.