Kandil nights, only several in a year, are special nights in Islam religion, marking some specific events related to Prophet Muhammed’s life and Islam in general. During those nights, all mosques are illuminated and become very photogenic. Prayers can be heard from everywhere. They are those nights for the people who feel the religion deeply in their hearts and make a sincere connection with their beliefs. To me, it never felt like a big get-together type of night, my family approached it more like “you are on your own to pray and figure out what it is that makes you who you are”. Kandil means light source by definition, typically a lantern. So to me, it was the search of my own inner light.
Of course, like every other special occasion, these nights have some food that makes a special appearance. Kandil simidi comes on the top of that list, the pastries that are ring shaped, dotted with sesame seeds or nigella seeds on top. Sometimes we make it at home, or we buy it in neatly packed dozens from the nearest bakery.
Why am I writing about this food now? I made it a while ago, but never felt like it was the right time to post it for some reason, even though it was one of those nights that come around and passed. One thing that baffles me is that I still make appropriate food when the Islamic festivities come around, baklava, asure, Kandil simidi… You see, I am not a religious person. I was raised Muslim but I have stopped practicing or “being a Muslim” long time ago. I never practiced in a traditional way when I was younger, maybe occasional fasting here and there. But once the questioning starts, it is hard to silence yourself. I have had hard time taking a book’s direction word by word and tell me how I am supposed to behave, dress or eat by not trusting me with my own judgement.
But, Islam is engraved in the culture and the way the society lives, the families get together in my country and any other Middle Eastern country. I guess it is that part of me, the usual celebrations that I miss which involves the people I miss. So I pay a visit down the memory lane by cooking the food I remember during those times.
So why post this now? Because the unrest that has happened over the past several weeks have startled me, surprised and left me wondering about people’s judgement. I felt awful for all the things that have happened through the Middle East, taking innocent lives. And done by people whom I supposedly shared the same religion once upon a time.
I thought I would never bring politics and religion discussion to here but guess what? They are always discussed around my dinner table, and you are in my kitchen by reading this. So here it goes:
I get the freedom to talk about your feelings, beliefs, thoughts and whatever makes you who you are…You can speak. I can speak. I love that this country allows me to say what I believe or do not believe and nobody can judge me for that. Well, they can but who cares. They are free to speak their minds as well.
What I don’t get when we pass the blurry line and start saying things in a very offensive way that we very well know it will create tension and we do it anyway just for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of people. We know we will push their buttons, ridicule their beliefs, make them mad and oh yes, we know all that but we do it anyway. Because those people with the fiery buttons will do something we want them to do and the whole world will see it. We will prove our point. But don’t consider at what cost!
Then on the flip side, all these people who think and believe that they belong to the greatest religion of all times, who they think they are holier than thou, who preach that their Prophet was peaceful, their religion is the most tolerant will respond to this not the way like the people who belong to that religion should respond but like a bunch of bandits or gang members. Instead of making peaceful demonstrations, speeches and keeping a cool, level head and say “You believe what you want to believe, we know our religion and we know our Prophet and we are secure in our beliefs. We will not come down to your level”.
To me, what you believe in is not heightened or reduced by others’ beliefs in it or lack thereof – that is if you are confident in it. So why not shrug and move on. Because with the violence displayed, you are behaving exactly how they want you to behave.
I know it is not that simple maybe for some people. Yes, we get angry when we are disrespected. But is anyone on either side of this considering that by being provoked, burning flags, killing people or by provoking these people , they might be playing into somebody else’s bigger agenda. An agenda that might not even be related to the religion at all? Just a thought.
When we did very stupid things in our younger years, the adults in my family would jokingly ask us “Why did you do this? While God was handing out brains, were you hiding behind the door and did not get yours?”
I assume these people were hiding behind the doors. This post might be heavy and out of place. It was building up in me and had to come out. And I love that I can do it and hopefully I did it in a respectful way. Maybe I should leave it on a lighter note with Dr. Seuss:
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.”
I am a hopeless hopeful and hope that one day all people will steer themselves towards peace and commonsense.
- 9 oz all purpose flour (plus more if needed)
- 1 heaping teaspoon mahlab
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter(softened – almost melting)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1 egg – yolk and white separated
- Sesame seeds and nigella seeds
1. Mix all dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl.Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
2. Add butter, oil, yogurt and one egg yolk to the dry ingredients. Make the dough. If it is still sticky, add gradually more flour.Should be consistency of ear lobe. (typical Turkish description)
3. Cover and set in the fridge for 20 minutes.
4. Make 10-12 balls. Roll each ball into a log, about 6-7 inch long. Bring the ends together, making it into a ring shape.
5. Whisk the egg white in a bowl wide enough to dip each cookie.
6. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle sesame seeds and/or nigella seeds.
7. Bake them about 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and top.