Saturday, 12 July 2008

Day 15 (Cont'd): Food

We just had lunch, and I'm feeling a lot better. True, it was the same rice/curry mix we have almost every day, but I guess I was hungrier than I realized because eating made me feel better. Plus we got some chocolate milk and I feel as though the much-needed chocolate went straight to my head.

But just in case I came across as an unusually uptight person when it comes to food, let me explain myself.

The food here doesn't really vary:

Breakfast: Bread with triangle cheese spreads (la vache que rit wannabes) and beans/ eggs
Lunch: Rice and curry
Dinner: Soup and bread

It's also usually unseasoned--I find myself putting anything I can find on the rice to give it flavor: vinegar, ketchup, yogurt, and even an orange once. But it is definitely more than enough, and we do have a lot of little luxuries—fizzy drinks (you should have seen the expressions on everyone's faces when they were delivered) and chocolate spread especially. And we're lucky—the variety of food this year, according to one of my housemates who was here two years ago, has more than doubled.

But here you do realize how spoiled we've become when it comes to food. Back home, I'm at work most of the day and then I have classes in the evening and so I eat out a lot of the time. Or I simply pick up the phone and order whatever I feel like that day—shanghai wings from Chilis, butter chicken from Maharaja, beef barbeque from Peking, a bagel, a pizza, a shawerma sandwich etc.

Plus, you realize how attached we've become to deserts, which are the one thing that we definitely don't have easy access to here. Chocolates, candy, cakes, ice-cream etc, things that we get just by standing at any checkout till in any supermarket, are as rare as rain is here.

And even if you do get access to candy here (or even normal foof like tuna or cornflakes)—by getting the husband/ brother of one of the women to buy it since women aren't allowed in stores here—you feel guilty about hoarding it and eating it like a fugitive in your room because you want to offer some to the rest of your housemates but know that you don't have enough to go around. So I end up not buying sweets or candy at all and nor having lunch often with my family.

As Muslims, one of the only halal pleasures available to us at a certain stage in our life is food. But sometimes, we forget that gluttony is also a sin—Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said you should never feel full, and that a third of your stomach should always be empty. How many of us actually implement that advice?

Nor do we realize what a blessing it is to have such an incredible variety of foods—the Prophet and his companions were once going to battle and they had only dates to sustain them; they would place a date on their tongues until it dissolved. The Prophet told them that there would come a day when they would have two types of food in one meal. They were astonished and unbelieving. Now, how many types of food do you eat in a day?

So what I guess I'm trying to say is that the lack of variety of food in this Dowra is a hidden blessing. Diet potential aside (jk), we will be able to appreciate food back home a lot more than we do, plus we have the opportunity to reel in our nafs which we may have been giving free reign to with regards to food.

And something to remember: Imam Al-Ghazali said:

"There is no vessel more hateful to God than a stomach full of lawful food. […] Satiety hardens the heart."

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