THE FOOD THAT BINDS US
by ROSALEEN SWEITI (United States)
Issue 1.2 September 2019
There's a sort of spell that falls over the dinner table as we wait for the athan to sound. Hungry souls glancing excitedly at their clocks, watching the minute hand slowly tick on. Sun setting below the vast horizon, every phone in the house goes off—a notification echoing a beautiful call for prayer beginning with "Allahu Akbar." We all whisper our prayers before reaching towards the intricately designed porcelain bowl, breaking our fasts with the sweet flesh of a date. We then begin eating lentil-filled soup, drinking mango flavored juice, and devouring delightfully greasy samosas. The evening isn't abnormal to us, with its togetherness being just as common as the smiles on our faces. It isn't just during Ramadan, the holy month of the year where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, that my family bonds over a meal. The meals we eat on a daily basis aren't always as grand as they are during Ramadan, but one factor always remains the same: the people we share our meals with.
It's standard practice in my house to prolong dinner for hours at a time, waiting for a missing family member to show up from work or sports practice so we can eat together. Whatever life hurdles our way, we hold this one practice true. This, nonetheless, is not the case in many households in North America. It stood out to me while visiting my friend's home just how vastly different dinner time is viewed in our respective cultures. At her house, everyone rushed towards the kitchen at the call to eat, grabbed a plate, and filled it with a portion of whatever was being served that day. Her family would then diverge and eat wherever they desired; the couch, kitchen table, or in her case, the bedroom. I asked her why her family did this, and to my surprise, she shrugged and simply said that it was the most convenient for them to spend the time it would take to eat together on other tasks. This was a valid answer.
Meal times at my home take at least 45 minutes and often extend to over an hour. It makes sense that one could get ahead by taking that time to multitask and gain an hour for studying. However, I still see the merit in how my family regards our meals. By gathering together at the end of our busy days, we take the time to show each other we care. The older one gets, the faster time runs; by saving a piece of that valuable time just to talk to and spend time with our families, we make evident how much we value one another. I wouldn't trade our daily meal time rituals for anything, because they are an important part of the glue that keeps my family together. Without this glue, our foundations would crack.
A meal is a meal. Whether it be steak or kebab, at the end of the day it's just food. It is not what we eat that makes meal time significant, nor is where it's spent. It's who we surround ourselves with while we take our meals that makes dinnertime so important.
Rosaleen Sweiti, 16, is a Muslim American teen who’s had a passion for writing since early childhood. She loves sharing her words with the world. She especially loves writing fantasy as well as stories about her background