By Asjad Nazir
ACCORDING to acclaimed chef and culinary TV personality Sarah Choudhury, this year’s Ramadan will be different than usual in terms of food due to the extended lockdown period.
Although being indoors has negatively impacted many, she feels there are a lot of positives that can be taken from people’s changing habits during self-isolation and applied to making the fasting period smoother.
“Let’s be honest, the past year has been something that none of us could have seen coming. A virus we thought couldn’t touch us became a global pandemic and pushed us all indoors, which, subsequently, led to us trying to make everything work as smoothly as possible from our own homes in a way like never before. We can take these lessons into Ramadan,” explained Sarah Choudhury.
The award-winning food expert thinks a major part of being properly prepared for the holy month is getting organised, which many have had to do during lockdown, from budgeting to planning meals, and says this can be easily applied during fasting. By using newly acquired lockdown planning skills, Sarah thinks the stress of preparing food while fasting will be reduced.
“Lockdown has taught us to shop smarter and resulted in less food being wasted. We have become expert organisers in different areas of life, especially food. So now when planning suhur and iftar meals, people can take what they have learned to plan ahead and have healthier options,” she said.
Having delivered free online cookery classes throughout lockdown, Sarah likes that more people than ever before are cooking and thinks this will result in healthier eating, but also more variety when preparing Ramadan meals. “The one thing I definitely think changed, possibly improved, for so many is that they have been cooking more than usual. This has perfectly been illustrated on social media with everyone taking pictures of food, creating, testing, tasting, cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. This new-found love for cooking during lockdown has been inspiring to see and can only be a good thing during the holy month.”
Surveys have shown that over 70 per cent of people have also changed their diets during lockdown and the impact of this will be seen during Ramadan this year. Sarah is confident that people will be eating healthier during Ramadan thanks to lockdown and urges everyone to be aware of healthy options when cooking, including hydrating properly. “Although there has been an increase in snacking and generally grazing, many are eating healthier. If this is carried forward into the holy month, it will make it safer and less stressful. It is just a matter of carrying good habits learned during lockdown forward.”
Sarah is confident lockdown will have an overall positive impact because following self-isolation guidelines has made people more disciplined. She even revealed that many have fasted during self-isolation so they wouldn’t put on weight and to control cravings. “Although fasting is the main focus during Ramadan, what we eat before and after each fast is important. I would advise those who haven’t taken up cooking to use one of the many easy-to-follow classes to prepare nutritious food. Shop smart, go for healthy options and use the new regimented life we are leading due to Covid-19 during Ramadan.”
She thinks the combination of being indoors and learning discipline during lockdown will inspire more people to fast. “With less distractions and stress of the outside world, I do think there will be an increased number of people fasting and more people than ever cooking, which is great.”