Eid al-Fitr Celebrated Through Distinct Family Recipes

As the poet and writer Kima Jones prepared for Eid al-Fitr, she used it as a time to connect to herself, her ancestors and her family through food.

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I was 13 the first time I fasted for Ramadan. That was 25 years ago, and each year has brought unique challenges and epiphanies. There were the years when I greeted Ramadan with spiritual goals, and the years when I felt sheer panic because I didn’t feel ready.

For me, every Ramadan has included some kind of first: There was my first holiday in Los Angeles after I moved across the country; there was my first after my father died and I wondered who would wake me up for suhoor; and then last year, my first in a pandemic, when I was anxious at the thought of my own mortality as the coronavirus was claiming lives across the globe.

This year, as I prepared for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day celebration marking the end of fasting, I used the time to connect to myself, my ancestors and my family through my food.

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Kima Jones believes each year’s fast has its own challenges and epiphanies.Credit…Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times

I invited three of my sisters in faith to share a heritage Eid recipe from their families, for our collective gift to you. I am sharing my mother’s oxtail recipe because, like the other recipes, it was conceived of and passed through the maternal line.

My mother, Jack, experimented with different preparation methods until she perfected it. Because food is my mother’s divine ministry, I always honor my Eid table with her oxtail recipe.

Eid Mubarak, friends!

Jack’s Oxtail

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Kima Jones’s oxtail dish, which she learned to make from her mother.Credit…Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times

[This preparation is more of a guide than a strict how-to recipe. As with the other recipes, it has not been tested by The New York Times.]

Season the oxtail to your liking, with the spices of your choosing.

Add a little oil or butter to your pot.

Sprinkle white or brown sugar into the oil and heat until the oil smokes.

Add the oxtail and brown the meat to give it a good sear and render the fat.

Add onion, garlic, peppers and whatever aromatics you like.

Add beef or vegetable broth to cover the oxtails.

Cook for four hours, checking for tenderness. Add more aromatics in the last hour. Thicken your gravy however you please.

Serve with white rice, fried plantain or cabbage.

Mufeedah’s Ramadan Drink

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Azizah Kahera pouring a cup of her mother’s Ramadan drink recipe.Credit…Nicole Buchanan for The New York Times

Azizah Kahera lived all over the world as a child, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and across Europe. When her family returned to America, her mother, Mufeedah Abdul-Karim, began hosting themed parties to teach her three children about Black diasporic traditions and create fun ways for them to explore and appreciate being Black and Muslim.

In the early 1990s, following a move to Atlanta, her mother invited Muslim businesses to sell their wares at her parties, with the proceeds going to women’s charities. Her mother died in 2006, but Ms. Kahera revisited the tradition last year during the pandemic.

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Azizah Kahera recreated her mother’s Ramadan drink in 2020 for the first time since her death in 2006.Credit…Nicole Buchanan for The New York Times

Ms. Kahera and her sister, Amirah Kahera, rebooted their mother’s Ramadan recipe party last year, but virtually, as a way to give fasting Muslims a way to be together during quarantine. Ms. Kahera is most fond of her mother’s Ramadan drink because, she said, it was created out of love. Her mother would promise the drink as a reward to her children for getting through a long, hot day of fasting in Atlanta. It worked every time.

Ingredients:

2 cups of water

1 lime cut into four wedges

1-2 cups of mango juice, or a whole mango peeled and sliced

1-2 cups of Tang orange drink

1 cup of ice

Mint to garnish

In a blender, add the water, lime, Tang and mango or mango juice. Blend until it’s pulpy. Using a pitcher and strainer, strain the juice from the pulp. Add more water if you want it to be less sweet. Add ice. Garnish with mint.

Dr. Donna’s Greens

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Donna Auston shopping for ingredients to make collard greens in Somerset, N.J.Credit…Kholood Eid for The New York Times

When Donna Auston, a cultural anthropologist, converted to Islam in 1990, she became the first Muslim in her family. Then 17, she embraced the lifestyle changes associated with her conversion. All of it came easily, she said, even giving up pork, which was a cornerstone of her childhood diet. It wasn’t until her grandmother made a pot of her famous greens, seasoned with ham hock, that Dr. Auston paused. Would she have to give up greens to be Muslim?

“So much of conversion feels like severance,” Dr. Auston said. “Food is identity, memory, connection and emotion. It is more than nutrition or hunger. It was disorienting to even consider giving up greens.”

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Dr. Auston converted to Islam in 1990, the first Muslim in her family.Credit…Kholood Eid for The New York Times

Dr. Auston couldn’t fathom celebrating anything, let alone Eid, without a pot of her beloved greens, which were served on holidays and always present on Sundays. So she got creative with her substitutes.

Instead of ham hock, she seasons her greens with smoked turkey. For her vegetarian daughter, she seasons with liquid smoke. Her greens are so good, she said, that they’re all she’s ever asked to bring to functions anymore — and that’s just fine by her.

Ingredients:

Collard greens (thoroughly washed, stems removed, and chopped)

1 large onion (sliced or chopped)

1 smoked turkey leg or wing (cut into large pieces)

Chicken broth or pan drippings (optional)

Fresh garlic, chopped (amount to taste)

1-2 bay leaves

Seasoning salt (to taste)

Cracked black pepper (to taste)

Garlic powder (to taste)

Onion powder (to taste)

Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Apple cider or white vinegar (to taste)

A drizzle of honey

Once the greens have been prepped, set them aside. Fill a stockpot with enough water to submerge the greens, add the smoked turkey, broth, onions, garlic, bay leaves and the spices.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the greens, cover and simmer for about an hour or to desired tenderness. (Taste the greens along the way to judge how the flavor is developing.)

After it is done simmering, turn the heat off and let the greens steep for at least an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to settle. Reheat or cook further if more tenderness is needed. Add vinegar and honey toward the end, and make any other seasoning adjustments to achieve your desired flavor.

Mama Kam’s Triple-Layer Carrot Cake

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Ismail Rashad, sprinkling walnuts on his mother’s carrot cake.Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Growing up in Brooklyn, Eid was a glorious time of year for Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad. Her mother sewed Eid garments, stayed up all night to wrap presents and made the most delicious treats. Dr. Rashad learned to experience the holiday as another way to feel good, look good, smell good.

After the intensity of 30 days of fasting, Dr. Rashad was most excited about eating carrot salad. She loved the combination of nuts, raisins, pineapples and coconut — a taste that symbolized home. She took those flavors and morphed them into a decadent carrot cake that she sold at her own bakery, Sugar Hill Bakery in West Philadelphia in 2004; it has since closed.

“Carrot cake,” Dr. Rashad said, “has to be right.”

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Dr. Rashad with her children. She honed her baking skills when she opened Sugar Hill Bakery in West Philadelphia in 2004.Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

It can’t be too dry or wet, or too crumbly. The icing can’t be too sweet. She began baking this particular cake because she felt she “could prove to the Black women who came before me that I belonged to them, to myself, and in the kitchen.”

In honoring the many textures and balancing the bold ingredients, she found pleasure in the process. She looked forward to peeling and shredding carrots with her brother Mustafa, who has since passed away, in the wee hours before the bakery opened. Her three children, Laila, Bilal and Ismail, now know the distinct joy of carrot cake on their Eid table.

Ingredients:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat three nine-inch cake pans with a nonstick baking spray and set them aside.

Cake:

4 cups shredded carrots

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup raisins (optional)

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose white flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ginger

1 cup of dried, shredded, sweetened coconut (optional)

1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional)

1 cup of crushed pineapple, drained (optional)

Frosting:

1/2 lb (two sticks) of butter

16 oz. cream cheese

2 lbs. confectioner’s sugar

2 tbsp. of whole milk

2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract

For the cake:

In a medium bowl, combine the shredded carrots and brown sugar. Set it aside for 60 minutes and then stir in the raisins. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger until fully combined.

In a large bowl, blend the white sugar and oil. Add the eggs and vanilla. Slowly fold in the flour mixture. Add the carrot/brown sugar mixture, plus the walnuts, coconut and crushed pineapple. Pour the batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Cool at least 10 minutes before removing from the pans and allow to cool completely on the wire rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

For the frosting:

In a medium bowl, mix the butter and cream cheese together until smooth, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Beat on high until smooth (about 1 minute). Stop, scrape down the sides and blend again for 30 seconds.

Assemble the cake and enjoy!

Kima Jones is a poet and writer. Her debut memoir, Butch, is set to be published by Knopf in 2023.

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