When it became clear last April that COVID-19 lockdowns would mean a completely different Ramadan with no opportunity to share daily iftars with extended family, neighbours, friends, colleagues and the wider community, several community organisations banded together to extend an invitation to a virtual iftar when it was impossible to meet face-to-face.
Before the word pivot even became a thing, we pivoted a TV idea originally pitched to SBS into a feel-good community project, asking members of the Muslim community to share their recipes and family stories, using food to unlock their family history, stretching back to the lands of their ancestors – just as they would share food and conversation at their iftar table.
One of the best ways human beings can get to know and understand one another is over food and with Australian Muslims’ family roots stretching back to 183 countries and every corner of the globe, the food we put on our plates, the ingredients we use, the way we prepare it, the way we eat it and the conversations we have as we eat reflect the different lands from which we come and the diversity of cultures we bring with us.
Traditionally, wherever you are, the daily Ramadan fast is broken with a date – but after that first date, the food we share tells many different stories.
Those stories prompt us and others to think more about our identity, the legacies we have inherited from our grandparents and great-grandparents, and the kaleidoscope of rich cultures that make Australia what it is today: a jigsaw of 25million different pieces, with different stories and different traditions inherited from our forefathers and foremothers
In 2020, Recipes For Ramadan shared 33 recipes from 15 different countries with contributors (our virtual iftar hosts) telling family stories reaching back to Afghanistan, the Cocos Islands and Egypt; India and Iraq; Japan and Jordan; Kurdistan, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine to Scotland, Somaliland, South Africa and Turkey.
Contributors ranged from primary and high school students to grandparents, local politicians to some of Australia’s most popular Muslim cooks and food experts.
The Recipes and Stories can be found at www.RecipesForRamadan.com with easy-to-follow instructions for starters like soup and samosas to main dishes, desserts, cakes and Eid biscuits.
Videos shot by contributors take us inside family homes and professionally shot ‘chop and chat’ videos show that our local foodies can give the likes of Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi a run for their money!
An online Facebook Live Zoom Iftar and Watch Party hosted by Amity College, Unity Grammar and Together for Humanity proved there are other ways of hosting large numbers of people even in the most challenging circumstances.
And social media (Instagram, Facebook and YouTube) achieved a reach of more than 220,000 with enthusiastic and appreciative feedback from Muslims and non-Muslims in such faraway places as Venezuela, Japan, the USA and the UK.
Equally gratifying, the project which started on a wing and a prayer was chosen as a finalist in the NSW Premier’s Multicultural Communication Awards 2020 – for Best Use of Digital and Social Media.