Is it the big communal iftars that stand out in your memory or is it the smaller more intimate ones where you really got a chance to talk to the people you were eating with? There is a place for both and this year, after the challenges of the last two years, there will be many that will linger in our memories.

In the 22 years I’ve been in Australia, interfaith and intercultural iftars have become a significant part of the cultural landscape. Large or small, each one is a special opportunity to share food from our different traditions and stories from our different backgrounds and to take steps towards greater understanding and appreciation for cultures and religious traditions different from our own whilst developing a shared sense of what it is to be Australian in the 21st century.

I am so grateful for the many invites and it seems rude to pick out a few but there were a few this year – in no particular order – that will linger long in my memory and may also resonate with you.

The first National Muslim Community Annual Iftar will be remembered as a landmark event with 15 Australian Muslim organisations hosting a national event together for the first time and MC Bilal Rauf celebrating “a transformation’ in the Australian Muslim community: “A new generation is emerging and assuming positions of leadership and engagement at various levels – political, legal, business, professional. We have voices emerging who identify, first and foremost, as Australians. We are a generation born and raised in this country – a generation which wants to make a difference and ensure that our country and society improve for the betterment of everyone.”

Our identity as Australians in 2022 was an important theme as several hundred people from all walks of life broke the fast and sat together: imams and politicians, brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues. “All part of the same tightly woven fabric,” as Mr Rauf put it, “as we care for each other and seek to overcome barriers, prejudices, ignorance in attempting to understand and connect with each other.”  And it is that theme that has guided my other picks.

The second event which participants  said will stay long in their memory was on a very much smaller scale. Held in the boardroom of Amity College Prestons, four parents and their student children hosted the Mayor of Liverpool, Ned Mannoun, and prepared and served food from their families’ culture and country of origin.

There were mains from Iraq, Somalia and Turkey and a dessert from Japan but equally or more importantly, the hosts shared their family stories of migration and diaspora and Mayor Mannoun shared his. We talked for hours about our sense of identity and belonging, our ties to our families original roots and our sense of what it is to be Australian in 2022… before moving on to brainstorming ideas that might fulfil the mayor’s aim to improve the quality of life for all people living in Liverpool. The recipes and stories of Fathia’ Lamb Pilaf, Beyza’s Ali Nazik and Sueda’s Tapoica Pudding with Coffee Jelly if you’d like to try them can be found on Recipes for Ramadan.

Sueda’s Coffee Tapioca Jelly (Credit: Sueda Ugurlu)

On a smaller scale again, my husband and I were so thrilled to make new friends with Kiran Afzal and her husband Ali. Kiran is a fantastic cook and treated us to the best Pakistani spread including the three recipes she contributed to the Recipes for Ramadan collection: Dahi Baray, Fruit Chaat and Sheer Khurma which her family always has as part of their Eid breakfast. We arrived before sunset and ate and talked until quarter to midnight. We’re still hoping we didn’t outstay our welcome!

Kiran Afzal’s family recipe for Sheer Khurma a vermicelli and milk dessert which graces every Eid table in Pakistan

Another very special home iftar was with the Tahery family who were evacuated from Kabul last year after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Farukh worked for the Ministry of Finance, one sister worked for the UN, the other is a teacher. Her father is a GP and her brother has worked extensively in the area of domestic violence. We have become quite close over recent weeks and they really are a very special family who will be invaluable to Australia.

The girls and their mum had cooked all day to lay on a wonderful Afghan feast. Farukh’s family recipes for Beef Pulau and Bolani are on RecipesforRamadan.com and you can meet Farukh and her brother Rahmatullah in ABC Radio National’s program Soul Search, search past programs for Recipes For Ramadan, first broadcast Sunday April 3.

Farukh Tahery and her brother Rahmatullah

Then there was the fundraiser for Mahboba’s Promise to support their ongoing work with widows and orphans in Afghanistan. Nothing could be more needed as poverty and hunger soar and the UN reports that 23million people face extreme hunger with 5 million at risk of starvation and 1million children at risk of dying.

I was involved last year as we struggled to get some of the most vulnerable orphans and widows in Mahboba’s care out of Afghanistan so it too was a very special evening, with many recently arrived Afghan women, the orphans Mahboba managed to evacuate last year, fantastic support from across Sydney’s Arab community and huge generosity from everyone who participated in the auction. (Comedian Frida Deguise is a standout auctioneer.)

Then there was the one at UTS with 350 students from six Sydney and Wollongong BD Societies (Bangladeshi Societies) and meeting ‘Liam’ whose parents had changed his Bengali name when no Australian could pronounce it. It wasn’t necessarily standout food but the company and conversations with Australian-born and international Bengali students were truly memorable.

Thank you to everyone who has shared their Ramadan and wishing everyone Eid Mubarak.

The recipes for many of the foods held at many iftars over the last month can be found on  www.recipesforramadan.com along with the family stories that contributors have been generous to share.