Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My First Iftar, With or Without the Macaroni

This past Sunday, Nadia, Heather and I hosted a traditional (well, sort of) iftar, or breaking of the Ramadan daily fast. Traditional foods for iftar are soups and sweet drinks, then dishes such as stuffed zucchinis, fatoosh (a salad with fried khutz [bread] on top), lots of rice, mensaf, and kafta, a meatloaf-like dish with Arabic spices and vegetables on top. Oh, and of course tons of Arabic sweets, including kunafa and baklava, for dessert.

Nadia made most of the dishes mentioned above. Heather and I took a more American route.

Heather decided to make Waldorf salad; only to add a little Middle Eastern flare, she put dates in it instead of raisins. I went as American as possible and decided to make macaroni and cheese.

That is, I decided to make my mom's ever-so-famous egg noodles and hot dogs macaroni. So on Saturday night, Nadia, Heather and I headed off to Carrefour for ingredients.

First of all, Carrefour did not carry egg noodles. I settled for jumbo elbow macaroni. Carrefour did not have ground yellow mustard. I settled for a milder variation of mustard powder. Carrefour did not have hot dogs. This one was tough. After combing the packaged meat area (NOT my favorite thing to do; ask anyone) for several minutes, I finally found something called Smoked Turkey Mortadella (plain). It looked a bit like an enormous hot dog, so I thought I would give it a try.

The next day: Heather and I decided to do a variation on the fasting because we wanted to get the real iftar experience. I woke up at about 10 a.m., drank a little water to take my medicine (which you are not supposed to take during Ramadan either, but I am NOT giving up my allergy pills.) and started my fast.

We broke down at about 2 p.m. We had just gotten back from walking around and buying more groceries outside, and we were deathly thirsty. Plus, my hands were beginning to shake. So we grabbed some quick khubz and lebnah and called it good.

We started cooking at about 5 p.m. Iftar began at about 7:10 p.m. Traditionally, you are also not supposed to taste the food while you are cooking it; that breaks the fast. Heather and I decided, in the interests of not embarrassing ourselves horribly, to taste our food BEFORE serving it to 20 guests.

So I wandered over (with two armfuls of ingredients) to the guys' flat at about 6 p.m. to begin my macaroni. Now, this sauce is notoriously tricky to make. It burns very easily and can refuse to thicken even on electric stoves. I was cleverly making this for the first time in Jordan, on a gas stove that only half works, using ingredients I've never used before and serving it to a houseful of people. Yes.

One of the guys had to light the stove for me, but then things went smoothly, even if I had to feverishly yell at the flames a bit for overexerting themselves. Made the sauces, yelled at the cheese to melt faster, then threw it all together in the pan. Then, throwing caution and my attempt at fasting to the winds, I tasted it.

Actually, it wasn't bad. The sauce was a little milder than normal, but I can live with that. The "hot dogs," however... Not such a great idea. They tasted like old bologna. But then again, as Heather said, no one else knew what it was really supposed to taste like. And as the pan was scrapped dry roughly 15 minutes after the start of iftar, I guess they found it edible. I didn't listen to a single complaint.

Hosted first successful iftar dinner? Check.

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