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Working around food while fasting for Ramadan? For some, it's not so bad

Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

"I get full from the smell," she joked. "But I get hungry when I get home because I realize I haven't eaten all day."

Scraping the dip into a large dish, Chahine said that not reaching for a cigarette or coffee is harder than avoiding lunch. Still, she welcomes the introspection that comes from abstaining.

"It helps my body," she said. "When I smoke one at the end of the day, it's like, what if I couldn't buy this or it didn't exist anymore?"

Fasting is an inherently silent endeavor and, at times, Tehfi and others at the restaurant have to explain to customers fishing for food recommendations that they haven't eaten since before dawn. But Bell is home to a growing Lebanese American community, Tehfi said, and there is generally little need to explain what Ramadan is to the regulars who come in.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, World Famous Grill was a popular place for young people in the community to gather during Ramadan, Tehfi said. The restaurant would stay open until the predawn hours, when diners of all ages would come for a large-scale suhoor, the morning meal eaten before sunrise.

The booths inside were packed, he said, and the parking lot was filled with people sitting on top of their cars with mouthfuls of food, like they had joined a Ramadan tailgate. Sometimes people would wander in, curious about the 2 a.m. parties they'd stumbled upon. The scene was particularly special to Tehfi, a Bell native who grew up eating parfaits and mashed potatoes at the KFC that once sat in the same spot his restaurant does today.

 

"People were so alive," he said, recalling the gatherings.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Tehfi's mother, Zeinab, deftly plucked her fingers through delicate dough, filling her baklava rolls with generous portions of ashta, a Lebanese clotted cream. The 70-year-old comes in early to bake sweets and savory flatbreads, unbothered by the aroma of warm sugar and pistachio, or the smell of freshly baked pizza-like lahmajoun.

Hunched over the treats, she said she enjoys fasting. She also fasts for the two months before Ramadan every year.

"For me, it's not hard," she said of preparing food all day. "People eating, I don't care."

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