Hello, I am an Iftarholic and I have a few confessions to make
Sit too close to the sherbet jug and you will end up filling glasses for others during the entire meal.
When Ramazan began, I told myself that I am going to use this opportunity to secure a place in heaven, to achieve a significant share of 72 hooris (nymphs) – the halal way of course – and lose some pounds off my protruding belly. Sadly, my pre-Ramazan resolutions faced the same fate as my new year resolutions do each year.
Come Ramazan, the first roza to be precise, I found this insatiable, almost corrupting desire inside me to go crazy on the iftars. No matter who it was arranged by, no matter what the menu was, and no matter how tough the days were, I was thrown into this ‘hunger games’ type of a competition. The survival of the fittest had become my mantra, and I relied on it for all my iftars.
Hello, I am an iftarholic and I have a few confessions to make.
The first and foremost task for each day of Ramazan is to get an iftar invitation. There may or may not be a reason for that. People usually invite me at their own free will, but if there appears to be too many gaps in between the subsequent invitations, I invite myself over.
It can be for reason or logic. It could be a friend whose child got a high score on a Friday test; it could be a co-worker who received some appreciation from their boss; a neighbour who purchased new nuts for the wheel cups of their old car; or a pedestrian who happened to avoid getting their shoes into a roadside mud puddle. Every piece of news is good news and every good piece of news is a reason for an iftar invitation. It does not even have to be a direct invitation, for iftar is like a wedding reception. Anyone in the vicinity of the place where an invitation is given is automatically invited, all you have to do is jump in and declare your willingness to join. Religiously speaking, it’s the inverse of a farze kifaya that is, if one person in the village is invited, the whole village is invited.
All iftars are equal but some iftars are better than others. Remember your rich uncle, who despite all the shiny cars in the porch and bank accounts claims he puts so many bananas in the fruit chaat that the other fruits in the mix started demanding minority rights for themselves? You search through the whole bucket, hoping for a stray mango slice but end up with nothing but rows and rows of cantaloupes, which to be fair is as acceptable amongst the fruits as a civics professor is in the rishta market.
Remember your aunty who is known for the perfect balance of black pepper and garam masala (mix spices), or the old chachi (aunt) who probably deserves a Nobel prize in chemistry for discovering the right amount of sugar and cream needed in a fruit chaat? Remember how in some places you get samosas that don’t contain hollow promises, and how sometimes Rooh Afza has not been tainted by saccharine sachets, or how sometimes chicken legs are so thick and meaty that you feel like asking,
“Bro, did you even lift?”
You know what I am talking about?
An iftar seating plan is a strategic decision and any expert on the subject knows that you have to maintain an equal distance between the various supply lines. Sit too close to the sherbet jug and you will end up filling glasses for others during the entire meal. Sit too far away and you will go home thirsty like a Thar resident during Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) tenure. Thus, samosa, chaat, fruits, drinks, basically every item, has its own importance, but a wise supply chain manager knows what order to attack the enemy in.
Not all resources have equal value, surely a pizza slice is valued more than a nukkar wala (street side) samosa, and surely chana chaat is a more coveted item than the crispy papri that has been resting in the oven for too long. If I can give you one piece of advice, it is to target the expensive and rare items first, making sure you eat as many as possible before the plates empty out. If ever there is a time for hurry, it’s these early hours of panic.
Each item has its own place. For example, dates serve as an appetiser of all the good things to come. If you are filling your stomach with those, you are either a date aficionado or a novice. Samosas and pakoras are the mortar that holds everything together. You use these items to create layers for a stable foundation on top of which several stories of interesting food items can coexist peacefully. Drinks are the lubricants that keep your digestive track slippery enough for dry things to pass. Water is either to put down a small fire or for those rare emergencies when you can’t deal with Rooh Afza.
If your iftar is 10 minutes late, you still need to finish your meal with the others because it is a race against time. Don’t expect others to show you the mercy of being a late comer. They have their own taraweeh prayers to worry about later in the evening, while you clearly don’t. Man up and eat as much food as you possibly can. You can always finish your maghrib after iftar.
There is a chance that you might have missed out on some key items though. Maybe that cream cheese pudding that your ‘wilayat wali bhabhi’ (foreign sister-in-law) learnt in France, or that ‘la patisse’ that was ordered from the posh bakery, you can forget about them because nothing waits for someone who is 10 minutes late.
Never question the logic of your younger brother going out for a walk immediately after iftar. If you are not a smoker, you would never understand the importance of a healthy walk during this precious hour. Also do not question the origin of any samosas or fruit chaats ever. Remember the first rule of desi food,
“Jitna ghaleez, utna lazeez!”
(The dirtier the place of origin is, the tastier the food is.)
The bun kebab that your mother warned you about is the best thing after an iftar. The chai ka khokha (tea cafe) with the most number of flies is also the one with the best chai. All those insects flying around can’t be wrong.
Mosques are the places you visit when you are either not invited to an iftar party or when you don’t have an interesting iftar at your own house. They give you a wonderful concoction of things, mostly arranged by strangers you may not know, but you would have to wait for the right time. Even if you don’t offer taraweeh, take time out for the 27th night of Ramazan or whenever the first khatam e Quran (completion of the Holy Quran) is. That is when the real treat is. You might have to fake a friendship with that little bearded fellow in your neighbourhood that goes regularly to the mosque. Chances are that he knows the precise time of ikraam that will grace the mosque after a khatam and the actual amount of jalebi and samosas. This information is critical and will help you choose the best mosque for your participation.
I would have gone on to include many more confessions, but I have an iftar to attend to and I can’t miss this golden opportunity for the world. So have fun and Eid Mubarak in advance.