How can we minimise food wastage during iftar?
UAE's influencers voice their opinion
Ramadan in the UAE really has a different kind of feel. Dubai, in general, gets a lot more laidback and it feels like a time of reflection. Having grown up here, being part of iftars along with my Muslim colleagues and friends is second nature during Ramadan. And so, we get invited to a lot of buffets!
The UAE currently sees an estimated Dh 13 million in food waste in a year. This is the reason a lot of bloggers (myself included) tend to wean away from the iftar buffet previews unless there are set menus being offered. I believe restaurants now are starting to take notice and are responding to it. I'm seeing a lot of the menu items being cut down from previous years or a select menu ending up as part of a restaurant's offering. Kudos to them!
Let's all try to minimise wastage this Ramadan and beyond; whether you choose to break your fast at home with family or go for an elaborate buffet where there are five different types of hummus, make an effort not to waste the food on your plate either way. Take only what you need and let everyone do his or her own little part to minimise food wastage.
To all chefs, please try to at least shorten your menu. Include healthy options or even opt for a set menu of three-five items. Do them well. Often, when I find myself at buffet-style iftars, I can't taste anything beyond the first five dishes. Variety is great, because understandably, we're a very diverse group here in the UAE, but if you know your customer base well, you will be able to crack down on the right dishes to serve. If it's too late to change your menu, please make sure that unused, wasted food can now be given to the UAE food banks. Around 30 new food banks and a 100 food bank fridges are set to open across Dubai in the near future. It is the year of giving after all!
- Aneesha Rai is the blogger behind www.omnomnirvana.com. You can follow her on Facebook @omnomnirvana
I'm not a huge fan of buffets in general, Ramadan or not. Of course, to each their own, but I always taste a diminished quality in the food as it's never as fresh as á la carte options. Also, having worked in the kitchen of a 5-star hotel, I've seen, first hand, how much ends up in the bin. Food waste is a major disadvantage of buffets, which is why I'm especially opposed to them during Ramadan. This is a time for purification, humility, restraint and developing compassion for those who unwillingly have to go hungry.
If you've fasted before, you know that, at the time of iftar, however hungry you think you are, it's physically uncomfortable to eat too much in one go (kind of like going grocery shopping on an empty stomach and returning home with all of aisle 10). It's also recommended not to eat excessively while breaking your fast for health reasons. So, there's really no need for lavish spreads.
I'm not saying in any way not to go out for iftar during Ramadan, but it's our responsibility to know the true meaning of the Holy Month. There's no excuse for ignorance and we shouldn't be condoning practices that run counter to the purpose of this season.
There are a lot of restaurants that serve iftar á la carte and in actuality, the food is fresher, tastier and much less is wasted. The real iftar is about communion, be it with family, friends, or strangers who share nothing more than the goal of total abstinence, and you won't find it at buffets. You find it in mosques that invite you to share their food regardless of who you are, over dining tables in family homes, and amongst the volunteers who work tirelessly to distribute food to the less fortunate. This is the spirit of Ramadan.
So, avoid the iftar buffets this month, explore other options, and let's stay humble.
Hope everyone has a blessed month!
-Nadia Parekh is a chef and the blogger behind www.melangeme.com. You can follow her on Instagram @melagedubai or Facebook @melangedxb