About a year ago, JJ told us about this little grocery store down in her neighborhood that sells beef bacon. We were curious, but because the little grocery store is outside of our normal grocery store roundup, we never made it there until just a few weeks ago.
We were out for the day wandering around and spending time together as a family. No movies, no iPods, just the five of us chatting about life and doing some errands. We stopped to get fruit and veggies at the local orchard we love, then we decided to search for JJ’s little grocery store in the hood.
Once we got there…we found 2 different brands of beef bacon, some amazing beef sausage, and some rabbits.
Yes, you read that correctly, Rabbits. In the freezer section, right in-between the chicken and the pork parts.
Khaled was really excited about this score and bragged about it to his good friend, Mr. Imam. Mr. Imam told us not to cook the rabbits, that Mrs. Imam was the Best at cooking them and she would teach us.
On Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Imam and the little Imams came to hang at the house, and Mrs. Imam proceeded to teach me to cook rabbit.
It was interesting.
It was fairly simple.
All the children liked it.
Almost all of the adults liked it.
Except for this girl.
Yeah, but to be honest, I’ve been off meat for more than 2 months now and I really have felt really good and not missing it. I wasn’t looking forward to eating the rabbit, but I didn’t want to be rude. So I did. It tasted like chewy chicken. But the squick factor just was not an easy thing to get around. I will tell Khaled how to do it and he can cook it next time he has an inkling for rabbit. I won’t be cooking it.
On Sunday, I decided to invite our extended family over for Iftar on Monday night. You might not understand that this is a big deal for me, but it has been 11 years since I’ve invited my extended family over to the house for an Islamically related celebration. I decided this year was the year for change, so I asked and quite a few accepted. I was pleased that over 1/2 accepted the invitation on such late notice.
On Monday, we woke early for Suhoor. Monday we fasted Arafat. I made Lasagna, Strawberry Pretzel Squares, Roasted Garlic Bread and Cupcakes. There was supposed to be a tossed salad on the menu but by the time the guests had arrived and it was time for Iftar, I was happy with whatever we had.
I am happy to say that our family Iftar was a great addition to our Eid celebrations. We shared a wonderful meal, the cousins all played together and we passed out small gifts to every child.
On Tuesday morning, we woke early to prepare for Eid prayer.
We attended Eid Prayer with Mr and Mrs. Imam and hundreds of members of the congregation. The grass was wet and it was a little chilly so the prayer was held inside the hall. When we arrived, the ladies section wasn’t completely full and the first row of women sitting on the floor to pray was behind the last line of the men. Leaving over 1/2 of the women’s side completely empty. I stood at the back of the room waiting for Kate and Pea even though the room was squeezing room only once the prayer got underway. Someone asked me to step outside if I wasn’t going to pray, but I could not. Kate and Pea depend on me to be right where they left me when they finish praying. I’m not going to disrupt their sense of security because someone didn’t want to weave through the women praying to get to the front of the EMPTY ROOM to pray. God help me I will never understand the nit picky BS that happens in Muslim prayer spaces. I took photos for Side Entrance. (Notice the LOVELY step-ladder in front of the women’s prayer space? If you look ever so carefully, you will see behind the Imam there is a beautiful Eid Mubarak sign with decorations hanging from the ceiling.) I actually saw quite a few other women taking photos with their phones, I’m not sure if they will be submitted…I didn’t know the sisters…and I didn’t feel comfortable asking.
After the prayer and the brunch of pizza, grapes, cookies and foul we left. Mrs. Imam, the little Imams, Kate and Pea came with me to the house while Khaled, Mr. Fox and Mr. Imam went to the farm to perform the slaughter.
This is the first year Khaled has been able to physically perform the udhaya on the Eid here in America. Once when we were in Egypt, Mr. Fox went with Khaled and saw a lamb being slaughtered for meat and they have also done it a few times since then, but never on the holiday. So, this year it was really special, a big change in the way we celebrate the holiday and completely new to me.
When they came back from the farm, they had about 5 big bags of meat still on the bone, just barely broke down from the actual animal shape. I really didn’t have any idea what to expect. Somehow I imagined something smaller in scale than the 4 hours of work that continued in my kitchen. Khaled, Mr. Fox and Mr. Imam cutting, chopping and trimming meat and placing it in ziplock bags. 1/3 for the poor, 1/3 for friends and 1/3 for us.
Mrs. Imam cooked the heart and kidneys with onion, I took pictures.
I found the whole thing quite overwhelming. But tried really hard to set my feelings aside, but on a brave face for our guests and Khaled. I texted my sister-in-law in Egypt. I texted JJ. The children were watching movies in the lower level, somewhat oblivious to what was happening upstairs.
We ate a dish called Maglooba with the leftover Roasted Garlic Bread.
And the Imam family left with a trunk full of lamb to distribute to the needy.
Khaled offered to clean the kitchen. I needed to do something cathartic to get the tension out of my body.
There is something about cleaning that helps me get rid of difficult feelings.
So, I made up some bleach water and methodically went through the kitchen from top to bottom.
At the end of the day, my house smelled like a swimming pool, our bodies were as tired as our minds and memories were made.