Which shall it be? Gulab Jamoon, Sawine, Barfi, Nankathai, Halwa, Maleeda…cake and cookies…ice cream…currants rolls, sweetbread, basboosa, baklava…what are you making? what are you looking forward to enjoying at Muslim homes this Eid? Have a list? Have you bought ingredients, started mixing, setting aside insect-free zones for storage? What’s on your Eid sweet menu this year?
Eid ul Fitr is almost upon us and Muslim homes everywhere have probably been indundated with sugar and spice and everything nice for days all in readiness for the big day. Sweet preparation in the Muslim Trini home begins well before Eid, as there is no way it can all be done the night before. Even the main dishes and savouries may require some advance preparation from milling dhal for dhalpuri, kachourie and saheena or baigani, grating coconut, prepping and seasoning various meats, the work required can seem endless.
And somewhat ironic to others, since much of this preparation, as with cooking for an iftar, is underway while the cooks and helpers are fasting. So no nibbling of treats, or tasting of delights. Some, like my mother, will tell you they have learned to smell when the food has enough salt! Well certainly, some of the food during Ramadan, and Eid is the best you will ever taste. And it’s not just because you spent a day (or the whole month) deprived and thinking of food to celebrate the end of the fast, planning menus of favourites and salivating prior to the day. It may have something to do with the communal spirit that Ramadan can engender (and this goes for all Muslim communities) where there are nightly congregrational prayers, quite apart from the communal iftars, whether they be in universities, villages and towns, or in homes with family and friends. Food is a joy, and a blessing best partaken with others. And Ramadan, that time in the Muslim calendar when we fast to increase our awareness of God and try to improve our behaviour, brings out the best in us. And the best in our food. Add in that extra family and community time, and how could the food not be the best for Eid ul Fitr?
The sweets are the top priority. Sawine, with the browned vermicelli noodles in a sweet spiced milk, is a must. In our village in Trinidad, we still share sawine to our non-Muslim neighbours, and over the years we have added little packages of treats. This is quite apart from being invited home to share in the celebrations. Halwa, whether made from rice flour, white flour or other porridge ingredients, is also a popular and identifiably Muslim sweet in Trinidad. Kurma and Gulab Jamoon are addictive with their crunchy fried exteriors and sweet sugary coating. If you are armed with semolina and phyllo pastry, you can indulge in some basboosa and baklava, syrupy middle eastern goodies. Mmmm.
But judging by my stats, one alone will reign supreme this Eid ul Fitr. Barfi Rules. Homes everywhere will be enjoying this milky sweet, covered with candy sprinkles. (ok…not everywhere, but for the past 2 months, the Barfi Recipe has been my top post on an almost daily basis!). I fly home tomorrow, and already the schedule has been planned for the sweet making and cooking. Barfi is Mom’s specialty, although I usually get the first task of mixing the powdered milk and cream, but basboosa is on the menu and that is for Lilandra and me!
For all those who have come in search of barfi, I hope you were pleased and I would love to hear from you, from wherever you are and especially if you made it.
(And of course, enjoy and make the most of the last couple days of Ramadan!)
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