My love of food
There are those eat to live and those who live to eat I am definitely the latter. Some people eat big and others are grazers, I’m both at the same time. True story; when my son was born and my wife and he were staying in hospital for the night I celebrated by eating a kebab which weighed over 6lbs, more or less the same weight as my new baby. I know that’s gluttonous behaviour. I love food. So much, I love to cook and love to eat even more. My Mother-in-law says I have “hollow legs” because I usually eat 2 main courses and what’s left over at a family meal. When I visited Florida for the first time and went to an all you can eat KFC I had 13 servings of chicken and stopped eating only when my friends fell asleep.
This isn’t about food though.
Recently I decided to give up eating meat for lent, that was the essentially because my son challenged me. Each Birthday and Fathers Day the standing joke is I always ask for a steak, Sirloin Rump or T-Bone, this carnivore loves meat. However, I stopped eating meat and have continued some 3 and half months later. My ulterior motive was a fear of contracting cancer, namely prostate cancer which took my Father over 5 years ago. Such is my fear of cancer I have made significant life style changes and this has been a great way to be held accountable to not eating meat and feeling good. I have lost 2 stone and my digestive system been like clockwork, result!
So it’s for health reasons? Not quite.
Having the discipline to self deny such an important luxury as meat has given me the confidence in myself that I can make positive lifestyle changes. Mental discipline is very important to me.Every success story involves a hero with discipline. And to be honest recently I haven’t been feeling my best mentally so maybe fasting would good challenge.
Is it about Religion?
Well kind of, but not entirely.
I am Christian. I believe in a creator and he had a son called Jesus whom saved us. I have been a regular church goer for most of my life. However, I don’t consider myself religious. That is to say that it’s my belief that orthodox religions are constraining and labeling of people. It suggests to me that being religious about something denies the individual the permission to question “why”. That said I do have faith. I have faith in people, humanity (even now) and believe that good always beats evil. I consider myself to have in more in common with anyone with faith whether they are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Wicca etc. than someone of the same culture who has no faith.
It’s about Respect.
I respect everyone from any culture, region, faith, background you name it we are all equals. We are born pure and will all eventually die; we all have that in common. It’s what happens in between that can be wonderful and painful in equal measure. I am fascinated with faith, spirituality, religion and mostly people. During the holy month of Ramadan many millions of Muslims fast. I have been envious of those with such strong faith to not eat, drink, swear etc. in daylight hours for a month. I am in absolute awe.
Back to food
My wonderful wife Nicky works at a school in Oldham. English is the second language and most pupils are Muslim. The parents often cook excess food at Ramadan and especially Eid. Nusrat works with Nicky and gave some Fruit Chaat to her for me to try. OH MY – delicious, I may’ve mentioned how much I love food, well trust me the tastiest fruit dish ever, must try! And last night vegetable pakoras with chilies, well Nusrat you found a direct route to my heart via my stomach.
I posted a picture on Facebook and wished my friends “Ramadan Mubarak” and paid respect to those make their many sacrifices. That’s when I was challenged to try fasting for a day. My good Friend and mentor Raja said “you should try and keep a fast. You will learn so much about yourself/body”. And then another friend Ansar suggested I took a challenge called #ShareRamadan. This wonderful initiative started a few years ago by another friend Kabir has gone global. And it’s easy to see why. A Muslim friend who is fasting invites a non-Muslim friend to fast with them for 1 day; simple and brilliant.
Check it out for yourself;
Andy + Challenge + Share = Game On!
“I simply cannot turn my back on a challenge, the bigger the better. I am stupidly fearless at times”.
Why this is so important. Most western non Muslims are often fed lies and mistruths about Islam and now the media apparently loving that ISIS is causing terror, it’s easy to see why division continues in our communities. We appear to be conditioned to hate and not love by the media and extremists who write the main headlines. When I read about the level of charity being shared on our doorsteps by those who are fasting, how can anyone not be inspired to prove the haters wrong.
I have been fasting all day and have only a couple of hours to go. I made the mistake of getting up super early so my first fast is a full 17 hours. And I’m so excited to be invited to Raja’s House, to celebrate with my new family and share their food (and love).
This has been one day, my friends around the world do this for a month. Blessings and love to you all!
Update: I made it through to the end. This is what I found.
I did it, and loved it. Crazy I know that abstaining from food and drink, (and swearing, having negative thoughts about others etc.) feels good but it does. At iftar, when we finally ate, the food tasted all the more delicious, not only in taste but the appreciation that others around the world don’t actually expect to eat. When I had the first sip of water I’m sure I could feel the oxygen entering my bloodstream and my stomach waking up. Such a strange but wonderful feeling to be conscious of my body.
For the final hour Raja and I walked and talked. We discussed friendship, faith, gratitude, culture, tips on how to make the most of the fast. I listened and learned. Raja showed me the local mosque and I was somewhat shocked to be invited inside. Even more so when I entered and was introduced to friends. None of the secrecy and whispers I had always imagined, but a building full of warm and friendly people, all of us nearing the end of our fast. This is when I started to feel the connection to millions of others.
Back at Raja’s family home I was treated to a feast. We sat, ate and shared stories. Topics like how communities can become detached, about business, family, studying, all normal conversations friends would usually have. I felt part of a new family. And that reinforced the feeling of connectivity to others. I felt I could speak for hours but we were all tired. I could sense that.
“It was my first iftar, a wonderful moment I will always remember”
I felt humbled, kinda emotional, grateful and above all connected.
Do you remember your first iftar?
What Did I learn?
- Ramadan is more than not eating and drinking – it’s a time of reflection and charity
- Everyone I met was friendly, warm and loving (obviously)
- Mental discipline is often tougher than physical exercising, yet far more rewarding
- There are 2.7 million Muslims in the UK (4.8% of the UK population) and 20% of the world is doing this for a month.
- 2016 UK Muslims gave £100million in charity.
- Fasting is good because it detoxes the body, your organs have a chance to rest and take on nutrients. Because we often over indulge and eat out of habit our bodies and digestive system is constantly working overtime.
- Humanity has a chance if we share and embrace our differences
Would I do it again?
You bet! I await an invitation to next years #ShareRamadan
Who’s with me?