When some of us hear Ramadan, we instantly think: FOOD! FOOD! FOOD! We imagine lots of cooking, exotic meals, lots of food, overeating, hours of cooking in the kitchen, more hours doing a tower of dishes and pots, belching throughout Tarawih and sadly, very few thoughts of actual worship.
Other members of the family are resting after Maghrib, we are in the kitchen, yet to observe our salaah. They have gone for Tarawih, we are scrubbing pots and pans. They are sleeping; time to finally catch up but we fall asleep instead. They are observing Qiyaam-lail but we need to prepare sahur. And on and on till Ramadan is gone. While cooking for the family has its reward, should we ladies aim to spend all our waking moments in the powerhouse of our home doing kitchen duty, cheating ourselves out of the stack load of rewards available? Ramadan is about our relationship with Allah. We can cook up a storm during all the other months of the year but other months do not possess the qualities the Holy Month does.
The holy month is almost upon us so let’s resolve to make the most of it this time. I will highlight 10 ways to help us cut down on our kitchen time in Ramadan. Note that this size doesn’t fit all so you may have to tweak it to suit your family.
1. Accept that everything occurs in accordance with Allah’s Will. If you have family members who loathe recycled meals, must eat everything ‘fresh’ and not out of the freezer, perfect your intention and convert your cooking to ibaadah. Once you intend to cook for them for the sake of Allah, to nourish them in order to help them worship Him better, your time spent cooking no longer seems like a waste. Besides, food cooked with love, fisabilillah always tastes better!
2. You have to make your intention known to your family beforehand that you intend to make the most of this Ramadan and would like their help in actualising it. You may need to put your foot down as you explain the things that may need to change this Ramadan for your plan to come to fruition.
3. If you read my Shaaban post, you would have stocked up on non-perishables and had your menu written out by now. Your menu should not be filled with complex time-consuming dishes. It should be healthy and include a variety of food classes especially fruits and vegetables. Drawing a menu saves you the headache of thinking of what to cook and helps with the grocery shopping but remember that you may need to be flexible sometimes.
4. Foods that need lots of preparation time should like our West African pap, bean cakes (akara, kose), moinmoin, blended tomatoes, peppers and onions, elaborate soups, samosas etc should be prepared to a certain level in advance, batched and stored in the freezer. Once the menu calls for them, it will be faster to prepare them. For example, I blend my dehulled beans and store in the freezer. A pack will brought out of the freezer and allowed to thaw in the fridge ready for frying into bean cakes the evening. Likewise with samosas and pap. My tomatoes, peppers and onions are blended and boiled so when I need to prepare stew, it’s quicker. You can also buy lots of vegetables, chop/slice/dice them and store in various packs. Thaw and add to your soups, rice, pasta dishes to increase nutritional value.
5. When shopping, buy food items that shorten your preparation time, if healthy. Diced/chopped vegetables, de-scaled fish, pre-cleaned catfish or cow offals, soft cowhide (pomo), grilled fish or chicken can be procured at our local markets. Some of the sellers do often offer these services for free or for a little token.
6. While in the kitchen or out grocery shopping, seize every opportunity to make ibaadah. Instead of gossiping during cooking, recite along with your favourite reciter. While you are waiting at the checkout aisle at the supermarket, recite adhkaar instead of emptily browsing through your phone. Perform extra nawafil units of prayer while food simmers on the cooker.
7. Schedule inviting guests for iftar to coincide with your monthly period, if you can and you aren’t already menopausal!
8. Have you heard of division of labour? If you need help, ask. If you need a maid, employ. No need to act like a martyr. Involve anyone around you in the preparation for iftar. People are often willing to help or will help anyway if only we would ask.
9. Remember it is a fast, not a feast. The essence of the iftar is not to compensate for the meals we missed during the day. This defeats the purpose of the fast. It is counterproductive to gobble on food then become too sluggish and useless to perform worship. Meals high in simple sugars tend to make us hungrier. Eat right by choosing whole grains, complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, lean meats, proteins, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Avoid or cut down on salt, sugar, canned foods, fizzy drinks, saturated fats etc.
10. For Allah’s sake and in consideration for whoever is going to pray beside your family, keep the garlic-y and onion-y dishes till after Tarawih!
Wishing you a fulfilling Ramadan in advance!