Ramadan is both a physically and spiritually intense month of fasting. The fast allows time for self-reflection and purification of mind, body, and soul. Abstaining from all food and water from just before sunrise to sunset is no small feat, but taking the time to slow down and reflect can be be immensely rewarding.
This year for Ramadan I'm choosing to slow things down a bit in the kitchen. I'm giving myself more time to cook and I'm working with simple, seasonal ingredients. My meal plan this month has much more to do with working with what's in my own backyard and garden than rushing to the grocery store. It's helping me to be more aware of what's available at my fingertips already, to practice being grateful for what's given, and to use that abundance to create special meals such as a ratatouille made from all the fresh summer produce to share with the people I love the most.
As someone who is forever concerned about the state of our natural environment and the world around us, I also see Ramadan as the quintessential time to highlight the importance of where our food comes from. This is essentially the framework from which halal is derived. Halal is an Arabic word meaning something allowed. It is communicated in the Qur'an, the holy book believed by Muslims to be the Divine word of God, as a dietary guideline. In terms of food, the observer is instructed to avoid all intoxicants, things harmful to one's mind, body, and soul, and more specifically the flesh of swine, carrion, blood, and animals with fangs and claws. I don't believe this is a limited way of eating, rather one that encourages a more mindful approach to all that is consumed.
One of halal's primary concerns is the lifecycle of the animal. It is quite literally a farm-to-fork approach, including the proper, humane treatment of animals, and treating their sacrifice as a sacred act. When we are aware of the steps taken to ensure humane practices in the husbandry of animals and the stewardship of land, it translates into living a more compassionate life. I try my hardest to know the farmers or at least the suppliers of the halal meats I'm consuming, so that I can better understand the processes and practices used to bring it all the way to my table. Caring about where our food comes from means caring about what we put into our bodies.
During Ramadan, the lack of food opens my schedule for me to think a little more about what I normally do to fill up my life and stomach. It gives me time to ask myself how much I really need versus how much I want. This minimalist approach is something I can take into the future once the month of Ramadan is over by consuming less and keeping a better eye on food waste. It's a practice that I'm trying to refine more every year.