28 April 2019
South Africans are familiar with the infamous sardine run, where once a year, during the winter months, hordes of sardines and predators flock to the waters of the Eastern Cape coastline to the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.It has been described as
“The largest bio-mass migration on the planet” For many years this description was appended to the sardine run, however the phenomenon of the sardine run is still not fully understood. There is another mass phenomenon that occurs throughout South Africa in concentrated areas. It happens once a year, is driven by the lunar cycle of the annual Ramadan (Muslim fasting month), rather than by weather patterns. Geographically it is not confined to any particular area but occurs anywhere in the country where concentration of Muslims are situated. This phenomenon can be described as the ‘samoosa run’, where women and some home-industries produce hordes of samoosas and other savouries in preparation for the month of fasting for Muslims. It could easily equate to the largest savoury-mass on the planet, where single households can make up to 70 dozen samoosas, in addition to dozens of other savouries, including pies, half-moons, sweet treats and other niceties in preparation for this month of deprivation. Like the sardine run, this phenomenon too is not fully understood.
Women start asking each other as early as 2 months prior toRamadaan, “have you started your savouries yet?”, incurring a rush of guilt and fear in the most organised home-executives, who feel compelled to immediately catapult into action for fear of not meeting the annual target on time. There has been a burgeoning tendency to outsource, and although this innovation has taken root, there are still some who regard it as sacrilege to not make one’s own savouries from scratch. Having grown up with the notion that the month of Ramadaanis connected with eating savouries and sweet treats, I never questioned the rationality or origin of the tradition growing up. There was a great aspect of the samoosa run that stuck in my mind as a child. Before iftaar (the breaking of the fast at dusk), as children, we would be tasked with taking small plates of goodies to the neighbours, who would oblige with an exchange of different savouries or sweet treats from their kitchens. Often there were so many exchanges during the hustle and bustle of last- minute preparations before iftaar, that often plates would simply be swapped, and one would have to make sure that the neighbour was not receiving the same plate that she originally gave you. As the designated samosa runners, we would have to be vigilant and fleet footed at the same time. There was a community connectivity about this tradition that I miss, having moved to a less homogenous community, where houses are spaced further apart, and neighbours are bereft of the community spirit we had growing up.
Despite the sharing spirit engendered by the samoosa run, the tradition is somewhat ironic when you look at the purpose of fasting. Fasting in broad terms in the Islamic context has a component of sacrifice, and self-discipline and the deprivation of food, water and sexual intercourse during the hours of dawn to dusk has the spiritual effect of lessening desire and bringing to the fore the weaker traits in our personalities to allow us to address these shortcomings and strengthen our essence, humanity and state of being. If done properly it purifies and ennobles the soul. There are many other benefits which include sharing the feeling of hunger of the less fortunate. There is somewhat of a disjunct between the spiritual pursuit of Ramadanwith the obsession of providing extra-special food during this month. Gorging ourselves with fired unhealthy foods on an empty stomach is in fact the opposite of the prophetic practise and
Nevertheless, this sub-culture, which developed from goodness knows where, seems firmly rooted in South Africa. Like everything else there should perhaps be a mindfulness that if you don’t have a deep-freezer full of savouries, or heaven forbid, have no savouries at all and plan to break your fast with normal food😱, the social consequences are not going to impact on your physical, emotional or spiritual existence in any material way. You may also be surprised to discover that your families may actually be fine and survive the month, and even better may be healthier at the end of
Wishing all those who are approaching the fasting month, a blessed Ramadaan. And to all those having to deal with those fasting, I wish you much patience and forbearance towards those who struggle to hold their tempers in the face of
With love as always