The Spring of Paradise – Ginger Juice
My friend’s grandmother just passed away recently. Having lived a life filled with joy, she was ready to go, but wanted one last thing before she died: to be surrounded by her grandchildren. So the grandchildren, sprinkled around the world, embarked on airplanes to come from the various places of the world (Paris, Amman, New York, Ottawa) to share her moments with her. She was happy and at peace surrounded by her grandkids.
A few days later, I got to share ginger juice and jasmine cookies with Mimi, and we inevitably discussed her grandmother. While sipping away on the marvelous golden drink in Rumi, one of my favorite Montreal restaurants, we talked about the transition from life to death and the transmission of memories. We commemorated her grandmother’s life and wondered about its lasting impact How much would her grandchildren carry on her legacy?
Mimi’s story is an interesting one. As is that of Rumi’s owner, Todd. In both stories, Mimi and Todd decided to search for new roots, and to find new ways to be true to themselves. They both adopted the way of life of mystic Islam. And as they did, they found themselves carrying out new traditions.
The spring of Paradise.
In the Qur’an, it is written:
“And they will be given to drink there a cup [of wine] mixed with zanjabîl [ginger], a spring there, called Salsabîl”. [76:17-18]
Following the Islamic traditions, Todd and Johnny opened their restaurant in the same spirit that the Prophet Abraham opened his tent: a refuge for everyone who passed by. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Todd and ask him a few questions about his path to Islam. I also got him to share his recipe for the heavenly drink, ginger juice.
Todd explained to me the importance of finding out who we are, each individually. His story is one that is of creating new ties, transcending the boundaries of national identity. He shared many insightful bits about recipes following Sufi tradition.
“We have made you from nations and tribes in order that you might know one another”
Roots & Recipes: Why was it important for you to serve Middle Eastern food at Rumi?
Todd: I was really inspired by the mixing of culture that represents the Middle East from Andalusia to Persia. There is so much diversity and multiplicity. There is a book that also really influenced our experience, A Book of Mediterranean Food. Also, there is this concept in Arab cultures that stems from the Algebra of Food: to have the ability to reduce, to bring to the essence. Any good craftsman goes toward the essential.
R&R: What was your intention in opening Rumi?
Todd: We wanted to receive people, with no distinction, because they are human beings. There is a reality, intimacy, when people feel welcomed. Abraham, the father of all, received every one. And we, well we try to emulate these noble characteristics: love, generosity, beauty. I was inspired by the poetry of Rumi, this perfection and transmission. I found my own roots when I met my Sufi teacher, Shaykh Nazim, from Cyprus. He said of himself“I’m neither from the East nor the West.”
THE INTEREST WITHOUT THE CAPITAL (a poem by Rumi)
The lover’s food is the love of the bread;
no bread need be at hand:
no one who is sincere in his love is a slave to existence.
Lovers have nothing to do with with with existence;
lovers have the interest without the capital.
Without wings they fly around the world;
without hands they carry the polo ball off the field.
That dervish who caught the scent of Reality
used to weave basket even though his hand had been cut off.
Lover have pitched their tents in nonexistence:
they are of one quality and one essence, as nonexistence is.
R&R: Can you tell me more about the ginger juice?
Todd: It is a recipe we got from one of the women from the Sufi center. It used to be served at every gathering that we had with people from Mali and Senegal. The woman came to show us one day at the restaurant, and people really liked it. And we also wanted to incorporate food of paradise like ginger and lentils—foods that have been mentioned in the Qur’an. Ginger has many health benefits as well. Food brings nutrients, and they have holistic properties. “The stomach is the house of illness” is one of the famous sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. And food, when used properly, is a prevention and cure for illness. For cancer, we believe, for instance, onion juice is very good. There is medicine in food—such wisdom is an endless treasure.
- A lot of ginger
- Fresh mint
- Raw sugar or honey *to taste
- Juice from a lemon
1. Peel and grate the ginger as you would with carrots
2. Put the grated ginger into some cold water and let it soak
3. Take out as much of the ginger as possible with your hands or a slotted spoon. Press the ginger gently to make sure you get out all the good flavor.
4. Strain the remaining liquid to filter out any lingering pieces of ginger.
5. Pour juice into a bottle
6. Add the juice from one lemon and a sprig of mint,
7. Add sugar or honey to taste.
8. Place in the fridge for a refreshing drink.
9. Serve sprinkled with a dash of nutmeg if desired
Thanks to Rumi Restaurant and the Fournier-Tombs family