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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What's for Iftar? Soul Food ~ #BlackMuslimsRead








Ramadhan Mubarak Fam!

In recent years there have been movements created on social media by Black Muslims from around the world to black-out Ramadhan, Eid, weddings and now even iftar (the breaking of the fast meal)! Many Black and Brown Muslims and allies have found these hashtag movements to be necessary to represent the lives and cultures of Muslims who are often left out and uncounted for in the media and even within Muslim communities around the world. Too often South Asian and Arab culture has been used to exclude other Muslim culture, especially Black American Muslim culture from the larger lens.

 According to the Pew Research Center's Demographic Portrait of Muslim Americans (July 2017) half of all Muslims whose families have been in the United States for at least three or more generations are Black Americans.  Yet, you wouldn't know it or see it if you went to your local suburban masjid for iftar during Ramadhan. Suburban - bigger masajid are often represented by South Asian and Arab Muslims who have boards who control just about everything including the menus on Jumu'ah and Iftar during Ramadhan.

Black American Muslims gather together in safe places to not only avoid being marginalized in larger Muslim communities but to also celebrate the foods and culture that they represent. Iftars in suburban and city masajid are being put together and sponsored by Black Americans to acknowledge, celebrate, and teach immigrants and second generation Muslims about Black American cuisine. Black American Muslim culture has spread around the world and infused pop culture and culinary arts. The time is ripe for the Muslim world to embrace and properly welcome Soul Food!

Soul Food, as coined by Black Americans in the 1960's is now used for any and all Black American cooking. However, it really is a mixture of cuisines from West Africa, Southern American, and even a bit of  European cuisines that American slaves were introduced to as they learned to cook for their slave owners. The soul part definitely is a well deserved nod to Black American Soul Music and the feeling that the food gives you, just like the music does as well.  The interesting part is that as Black American Muslims continued to return to Islam they brought those recipes and memories and either halalified it (yep, that's my word) by replacing pork with beef or turkey to make it permissible to eat or invented something similar to it altogether! And since as many as 30 percent of African slaves in the Americas were Muslim and were the first to practice Ramadhan in the United States - it is really an honor to them, all of our predecessors and ancestors, that we continue to cook and share these meals in our communities all year round, but especially during Ramadhan!

So what sort of food can you expect to savor at a Black American Muslim style Soul Food Iftar? I'm about to tell ya, here it goes:



1. Fried Chicken ~ This is a delicacy in the Black community.  Those who are privileged to fry the chicken: the Jeddahs, Umms and Abus, are bona fide elders and respected cooks in the community. Their recipes are tried and true and passed down from another elder in the community. As a courtesy, don't bring fried chicken to a Soul Food iftar, if you have not been sanctioned to do so. Better safe, than sorry! Stick with water, dates, and salad.




2. Jerk (or Curry) Chicken West Indian Style ~ Pimento, scotch bonnets, nutmeg, brown sugar, garlic and ginger give this Island dish a sweet and spicy taste. Jamaican jerk sauce was developed by enslaved Africans from the Spanish colonies who later resettled in Jamaica. For many Black American Muslims of West Indian descent, Jerk and Curry chicken are staples for iftar meals. And once again, for the Soul food iftar, make sure your recipe is cleared and approved first! Or, just contribute the water, dates, or a side salad!

3. Fried Fish  ~ A lot of brothers not only fish, but they can fry the fish as well. Fishing, cleaning fish and frying fish is something that I have fond memories of my grandfather, father and uncles doing when I was young. Fishing was and still is a beloved pastime for Black Americans, especially those raised in the South or those who grew up close to coasts and harbors. Typically, we fry our fish with seasoned cornmeal, but other batters are acceptable as well.






4. Salmon Patties/Croquettes ~ These southern staples are really simple to make and pretty cheap as well because most often, Black Americans use canned salmon to make them. You certainly can use fresh salmon, if you're balling like that, but there is definitely no need for it. Salmon patties are also a really good way to break into some Soul Food cooking because you really can't mess these up. You don't have to fry them either. Baking them are more healthy and you can even add some veggies into the batter. A great substitution for vegans would be to use canned green Jackfruit instead of the canned salmon! This is E for everyone to make for a Soul Food iftar! Just don't burn them!

5. Beef/Veggie/Vegan Patties/Empanadas ~ Caribbean and Latinx Muslims are very much apart of the fibers of Black American Muslim communities. Not only are we all connected through our shared African ancestry, but our communities' political and spiritual movements have always been supported and represented by Caribbean and Latinx as well. From the Nation of Islam to Dar al Islam to the Warrithul Deen Muhammad communities, Caribbean and Latinx Muslims have had important involvement in dawah (propagation of Islam). So their Island dishes mixed with Soul Food and are often represented at Soul Foul Iftars in Black American Muslim communities. That said, these patties are great and versatile. You can make them with meat or completely vegan full of fresh or frozen veggies! You can also make a batch and freeze them and have them for sahoor (pre-dawn meal before fasting) or have them at iftar. This is also a level E for everyone to try to cook! 

 6. Barbecue Beef  or Chicken ~ In case you forgot, Muslims don't eat pork! But that doesn't stop us from barbecuing the heck out of our beef, chicken or seafood (and veggies, too!) Who doesn't love smoked barbecue beef? It's a staple at Soul Food iftars and it is usually sticky and sweet and you got it: SANCTIONED COOKS ONLY! You know what to bring instead ❤❤❤






Some other meats that you might see at a Soul Food iftar are liver and onions, Shepard's pie, meat loaf and a variety baked meats. For our vegetarian and vegans, seasoned seitan protein can replace most of these meats for you or just double up on your sides.


Ready for the sides? Yeah, me too! I actually love my Soul food sides much more than the meats. But don't tell too many people I said that! Many of these dishes are E for everyone to cook and bring out to a Soul Food iftar. But be careful with a few! Some are just as important as the meats and are strictly reserved to be cooked by sanctioned community members.



7. Seasoned Mixed Veggies ~ This is a simple and well loved dish at Soul Food Ifars. I think seasoned mixed veggies is much more popular than salads, but both are acceptable to bring. Now, non Muslim Black Americans may season their veggies with pork! Don't bring that to a Soul Food Iftar! Common substitutions for pork in the Muslim community are turkey or beef bacon, and turkey legs. But you could easily keep this dish vegan/vegetarian by excluding the meat and adding herbs, spices, and vegetable broth. All up to you! E for Everyone!


8. Corn Fritters or Hush Puppies ~ Both are really easy to make or you can cut corners and just grab a box brand (don't tell them I told you that!). Corn Fritters and Hush Puppies both have Southern American roots and are inexpensive to make. Make-do meals is what my mother called them, but they are yummy and sure to make a scene at your  Soul Food iftars. You can substitute many of the ingredients and make these completely vegan or vegetarian! E for everyone!













 9. Hoppin' John or Black Eyed Peas and Rice ~ Seasoned rice and beans is a staple in every culture. Hoppin' John definitely holds up Soul Food. They're very diverse and you might encounter them vegetarian or dressed up with smoked meats. It's really your choice how much soul you want to add to this dish and I think that's the beauty of most soul food. If the budget is tight, you can make this an E for everyone meal. If you are pulling out all the stops and seasonings, it will jump up to an M - a dish that is to be cooked by Mature Cooks Only! Your decision, but choose wisely!



10. Collard Greens or more affectionately referred to as "The Greens" are one of my favorites and my mother is sure to make it every Ramadhan! The greens are for the serious and sanctioned cooks who are patient, resourceful, prayer warriors of the kitchen! Boiling leafy vegetables and eating them with some sort of starch historically brings us right back to Africa. Whether you are in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, or even Sudan - you will see green leafy dishes cooked in similar styles and eaten just like Black American's greens! Traditionally, in Soul Food cuisine the greens are cooked with salted pork, seasonings, herbs, a little sugar and water. The halalified Soul Food version would substitute that forbidden pork with turkey chops, beef bacon, or even beef tips. The greens can be made vegan or vegetarian with even more substitutions - but you must know how to season the greens just right. As such, this is not a dish everyone should try to bring to a Soul Food iftar. Pray about it and speak with the elders if you are unsure of your seasoning capabilities (or just stick with water, dates, and salad).

11. Homemade Biscuits ~ "Are those my Umm's biscuits?"  Martin Lawrence during his 90's hit sitcom often joked about how serious Black Americans took their Mommas'  biscuits. He was really showcasing the importance of African American cuisine and how revered the makers of those foods are to their families and this is a truth that of course extends to Black American Muslims. Eating the last biscuit made by a bona fide elder can get you in some trouble! Messing up a batch of biscuits and putting them out for folks to chip a tooth on at the iftar - can also earn you some trouble and bad notoriety for years to follow. You need years of work experience, references, peace and glad tidings from the community, and an ijaza (license of authorization) from some one high in ranks -preferably dead and laid to rest before you should offer to roll with the biscuits bakers at a Soul Food iftar. This side dish is labeled D for Don't Think About It, if you were not sanctioned at least 3  Ramadhans ago and over 35 years of age.


Daff Roll for Ramadhan



12. Macaroni and Cheese ~ Now, first, you should say this as one word: MacaroniCheese! It's also affectionately called Mac and The Mac, as well in some circles. Either way, Mac is beloved, it's always baked, and it's always included at Soul Food iftars! You really can't even plan a Soul Food iftar without one. It's just not acceptable. It's one of those dishes that has been passed down from grandmamas, Jeddahs, Ma'dears, Daddies, Abus and Aunties, too! There's never a real discussion about who is making the MacaroniCheese. You already know it and you knew that sister or brother since the day you were born, that she or he was "THE" Mac maker in your community. You don't question it! However, it is appropriate to gift the MacaroniCheese maker in your community during Ramadhan with special presents, especially if you have called on them to make the cheesy goodness for you or your family outside of Ramadhan. You may also make special dua (supplications) for the hard working special bakers in your community. If you are the MacaroniCheese maker in your community, May Allah bless you and love you and reward your hands for reppin' our culture - Black American Muslim style! K for Know your position! 



13. Last but certainly not least is the Muslim Bean Pie! Of course, there are hundreds of other sweet, savory, fruity Soul Food deserts that I could write about that Black American Muslims love to eat. But during Ramadhan, the Bean Pie is King and Queen! The Bean Pie is a uniquely Black American Muslim desert that was introduced  by Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1930's. Some have reported that it was developed as a replacement for the sweet potato pie because sweet potatoes were not approved on the original Eat To Live diet created by Elijah Muhammad. At any rate, as NOI members traveled and mingled and opened restaurants with other Black American Muslims, the desert gained popularity in all sects of Black American Muslim communities. For over 80 years now, Black American Muslims have been baking these pies and it's a special desert to us and our community. I remember watching an elder sister in my community teaching us young girls how to cook many dishes. When we finally learned how to make a bean pie, it was a big deal to all of us. We were now young Muslim ladies with a bean pie recipe!  Enshallah, I believe the Bean pie will continue to be important to future generations of Black American Muslims!

Many of these dishes can be made vegetarian or vegan, if you'd like to make them so. But I think I will try to make a separate blog with some vegan Soul Food recipes for Sahoor and Iftar! Keep me in your prayers on that one! I hope you enjoyed the ride! Ramadhan Mubarak!