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Giving iftaari platters to neighbours is something that my family try to give to all our neighbours, Muslim and non-Muslim food every Ramadan. But what makes it slightly difficult are the rules you have to abide by, those of courtesy and those based on relation.

How it’s done every year is this: the children in the family would be given a few plates piled with food and one by one they would knock on their neighbours doors and give one plate to each house. This is a good way to show your neighbours that you are aware that they exist and it’s a nice way of getting the ball rolling with neighbours who are awkward about mixing with other neighbours.

Rules on receiving:

  • Whenever someone gives you an iftaar plate you feel pressured to give them one back on the spot. So what usually happens is you make the child wait at the door whilst you transfer the food onto one of your own and give them what you have at home.
  • If there isn’t much to give, with embarrassment you hand back an plate empty.
  • It then becomes a must that before the end of Ramadan you give that house a plate of food for iftaar.
  • If you kept the plate on which the food was given by the neighbour you must give your iftaar on this very plate or risk being badmouthed by the neighbours.

Rules on giving:

  • You give only one plate but the food is usually enough for 2 people
  • You give hot food. If it gets to them cold…!
  • You persuade someone young in the house to venture out half an hour before sunset
  • The child has to knock and has to say which house no. he’s from.
  • The child should only give the plate and walk away unless told to wait for his plate to be returned
  • The child can ask for the plate back, but it is better if he leaves the plate with them as this will mean the neighbour doesn’t have to give anything back on that very day, but on another day

I have finally persuaded mum to use plastic plates. This means we can give the iftaar to the houses without worry over when it will return to us, and it’ll make the family feel less pressured to give food back.

I remember once a neighbour sent their son with a large plate of food with so many small dishes and it had to be the one day we decided to make pasta for iftaar. So we had to send the boy away without giving anything back. You see, when you give food back it should be equal to what you gave.  No family will appreciate you giving back pasta that took half an hour to make, when they’ve given you a range of things that took probably the whole day to prepare.

A week later we sent my brother to that same neighbours house with a plate piled with food to make us proud. People usually look at what is on the plate rather than the good intentions behind it.

What I had for my iftaar?

Sadly I have no spectacular photos of my iftaar today. We had guests round for the meal and I was serving up plates and yelling instructions across the rooms till it was time to break our fast. So as soon as I got a seat I tucked in straight away. We didn’t have anything complicated and we had lots and lots of exotic fruit

Till tomorrow…