R'11 Day Twenty-One: The "Iftar Nazi"

(Note: Iftar dinner is eaten right after our fasts are broken at sunset)

Last night, I attended a community Iftar dinner in which a large amount of food was laid out in a prayer space (a spread on both the women's and men's side), and anyone was free to attend to break their fast and share a meal together. It's a very lovely concept, being around a large group of Muslims also fasting and praying together, and it can be heartwarming if you're helping serve food to those fasting.

Yet it seems like some people don't know how to apply Iftar etiquette and treat these dinners like the GOLD RUSH at the local "all you can eat" restaurant! Because with a large number of people depending on this food to break their fast, you had better not be on one of those people who enjoys HEAPING food onto their plate or attempting to fill up extra plates to take home for tomorrow's Iftar dinner.

The following are some sure-fire trends that you WILL come across at community iftars!

1. The Plate Heapers:
I understand that we are fasting and likely feeling quite hungry by Iftar. BUT what tends to happen is that people take TOO MUCH food and then are unable to eat it all, so it ends up in the garbage. This is exactly what we DON'T want happening, it's horrible and haram to waste food, and especially during Ramadan. Remember than Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, recommended filling ones stomach with the following allocations: 1/3 food, 1/3 water and 1/3 air. It's SO much better to take a smaller amount and when you're done, then consider seconds. Too many people act like they've never seen food before and go crazy!!!

2. The Take Home Plates:
Yes, here we have it! People filling up a second...and third plate...and fourth plate to take home when not everyone has passed through the food line! I mean really, how inconsiderate is this, can't people even wait until everyone has had their initial plate before they start dishing out for home?! And the worse part is when people throw after the own plate of food they were eating but then keep the new home plates and guard those with their life! So people, if there's food left over at the end, you'll know about it and THIS would be the appropriate time to fill up "home plates"!

3. The "My Kids Eat Everything" Plate
It should be common sense to everyone that kids in general eat less than adults. Yet why are the iftar plates for children sometimes MORE full than those of adults? Whether or not parents do this intentionally or not, it's wasteful and what are you teaching your kids - to take food uncontrollably and don't worry if you can't eat even half of it?! And THEN, some parents don't want to be wasteful, so they end of eating their child's portion too, and then eating their own, sometimes to a point of being TOO full or having to throw away THEIR food. There's just no winning in this situation!

4. The "Can I Have Another Piece of Cake?" Plate
ARRGGGGG! Even when adults and children are going through the dessert line for the first time, they ask for MORE. Why can't people wait to see if there's even enough for everyone first before hoarding dessert? You'd think that some have never seen a cake before and it's to a point where they have to have MORE than usual just to make up for this deluded fact. And then what happens? You guessed it! Half of the dessert goes into the garbage.

It's not that hard to conduct oneself in the proper manner during community Iftars. The following are few simple tips!!!

1. Start with a SMALLER plate of food to ensure that you can finish it! 
2. Don't take food based on what you THINK you can eat, but what you KNOW you can (I had to throw out a plate with a giant untouched samosa on the top...so sad)
3. Don't take food items you don't normally eat but want to 'give it another try' because more than likely, it will end up in the garbage! For example, I have a slight aversion to a Pakistani red lentil dish (called "daal"). If I see daal at an Iftar dinner, do you REALLY think I'm going to dish some out? I don't think so!!
4. QUANTITY control your children's plates!
5. WAIT until everyone has passed through the line before you ask for a second of anything. How do you know that there's enough for everyone?! Unless you can figure out the cubic area of each dinner plate multiplied by the number of guests, and then tell me it's LESS THAN or EQUAL TO the cubic area of all the food dishes combined...then NO SECONDS DURING FIRSTS!! :P
6. STOP heaping take-home plates until you have been told there's leftover food to take home!

Perhaps drastic measures will have to be taken if these tips can't be taken to heart. I would recommend a concept called the 'Iftar Nazi', similar to the episode of Seinfeld where there was the "Soup Nazi". Orderly Iftar lines would have to be formed, and people wouldn't be allowed to dwaddle between dishes. Assembly lines would be quick and efficient, and if someone even took a little more than their allocated amount, "NO IFTAR FOR YOU!" If someone asked for more dessert, the Iftar nazi would reply "You want more cake?! NO CAKE FOR YOU!" If someone was seen sneaking plates for home before Iftar was even over, the Iftar Nazi would tackle them down: "YOU TRY TO SNEAK PLATES HOME! NO IFTAR FOR YOU!" You catch my drift, eh?!

Remember, Ramadan is about self-control, and this concept does NOT end just because our fasts are opened at sunset! :)


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