Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How A Buddhist Celebrates Ramadan

In case y'all didn't know this, today is the first day of Ramadan. That's the ninth month in the Arabic calendar, which coincides with God's revelation of the Qur'an to Mohammed on Laylat al-Qadr. It's also called the "dry month" or the "time of short rations". Observant Muslims use this month as a time of fasting and purification, ask God forgiveness for sins, ask for guidance and try to focus on modest, non-self-indulgent thoughts.

Since it's obviously impossible to not eat for a month and live (yeah, yeah, I know; Jesus did it, Buddha did it, etc - okay, but they were divine beings, gang) most Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. As an ex-member of a Lutheran street gang I used to do this on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and it was not fun. I never felt particularly religious either. Just cranky and out of sorts and occasionally unconscious (that hypoglycemia is a killer; just ask Paul Blart, Mall Cop.) So I wouldn't do too well at Ramadan. Luckily for me, there is an out; if you're physically or mentally ill, or there's some other medical reason you shouldn't fast, you can make up for it by doing service for the poor. If I were Muslim, I'd just park myself wherever the poor hang out for the entire month. Believe me, that would be easier. (And also safer. One should not drive while having a blood sugar crash.)

As someone who thinks Muslims are like totally cool (They pray in public and have sex in private! Totally the opposite of us Yanks! When they say inshallah they really mean it! They cook the world's best akawi pie!), this is a rough month for me. No, I don't have to fast from sunup to sundown, but I have to do without my favorite restaurant, Afrah. More to the point, I have to do without Afrah's pita bread, which is the best pita bread on the planet and makes that dry stuff you buy at the store taste like what it is: bird food. If you live anywhere near the DFW area and you haven't been to Afrah, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. C'mon, you're a swell person, you deserve a treat. It's in Richardson at the corner of Greenville Avenue and Belt Line Road just east of the 75. Just don't check it out between sunup and sundown until September 19, folks. Or is it the 22nd? Carp. I can never keep track.

During Ramadan, Afrah is closed until sundown, when it opens and throws a big buffet dinner for the low, low price of only $14.99. Cheap! I've never actually been to the buffet dinner, though, because I kind of feel like it's not my party, if you get my drift. I mean, my sponsor (who is Jewish) and I meet there all the time ("A Jew and a Buddhist go to a Mediterranean restaurant...") but I'd feel like the Irish Catholic crashing the Mexican Christmas Eve party, or, if that's too much of a religious in-joke, I'd feel like the gregarious New Yorker at a coffee-and-bars after church social in North Dakota. Still too obscure? Okay, I'd feel like the family member everyone felt obligated to invite to the reunion but secretly hoped wouldn't show. Still, I may try it this year anyway. As Joan pointed out, I'm a "regular." And I do start seriously jonesing for their pita bread a week or so in.

At the moment, I still have three (count 'em, 3) pieces of Afrah pita bread in my kitchen. They'll probably be stale by tomorrow, at which point they should by all rights be made into pizzas. Then we'll enter the pita bread drought and I'll just have to survive somehow. Gee, I don't sound like I have a problem with food or anything, do I? HA HA HA!! And here you thought I just went to OA meetings to hear myself talk!!

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