If you have read my previous posts, I like to use this blog space as a way to share my stories, my opinions, my issues...but I will not use this blog to brag. To do so goes against my nature, and I tend to turn my cheek in a huff to people who do brag--those individuals who always seem to one up you, although perhaps they do so unintentionally or without realizing it. But we all know those people who brag about how they ran 15 miles after you shared with them you ran 10...or, those who have a better way to make the dish you served them at dinner, which you were pretty proud of and everyone else seemed to love. Or how about the friend who can "relate" because they went through the same experience (but upped to the 100th degree) in effort to appear supportive but are really implying that you have their approval only because you share the experience. But of course, their experience is better because they did it first! Ha!
I mention that only because I was faced with a lot of that behavior after my recent dreamlike experience on the daytime talk show, abc's The Chew. Please don't interpret this blog post as me bragging, or as me saying, " Look at me, I was on TV! Let me tell you alllll about it!" Of course I was excited about getting on the show, who wouldn't be? What would have otherwise been an average week in Columbus turned into a sudden midweek holiday to NYC for 2 days where my husband and I got to meet people we watch on TV everyday, cooking and sharing their recipes. Of course that rocks! But with this blog, I just wanted to share how my faith in having an idea and a dream and never giving up paid off, and to inspire any one who reads this to do the same. As I had written about in my very first blog (Jan 2012), I wanted to see Ramadan finally represented on television. I've already talked about how it is extremely underrepresented on TV (in fact, not at all), and fortunately for me and all of those who share my religion, through the miracle of Facebook, my idea was accepted and pushed forward by Clinton Kelly from The Chew (and TLC's What Not To Wear). Amazingly, despite thousands of posts on his public page, Clinton noticed my suggestions and comments. I admit, I posted unabashedly on not only his page, but on the other co-hosts from the show. Although I was sometimes embarrassed that my friends could see on their page the Facebook evidence "Mais Khourdaji posted on Clinton Kelly's (Official) page..." and could read my silly posts on his page, I did get encouraging comments and thumbs up from them too. But Clinton actually took the idea to the producers. He pushed for me. He put the idea of featuring Ramadan on the show in the right hands, then wished me luck. That alone more than I ever hoped for, and I am so very thankful to Clinton Kelly for it.
And it took! I got a phone call from the producer, and one week later I was on the show representing Ramadan for the first time on national television. Finally meeting Clinton after 6 months of Facebooking back and forth (and years watching him on TV!), that hug we shared on the set was so warm and poignant for me because I felt like he knew what it is to struggle, listened to his loyal fans, and he took a chance on one...and I was so grateful and appreciative. I tried not to squeeze him too hard, and if I did, I apologize! But it was just...surreal. It still brings tears to my eyes.
Am I proud of it? Absolutely! After all, Islam is the world's second largest religion after Christianity, and we are just now getting on TV? It is shocking isn't it? I only hope it's the start of Ramadan being represented every year, as Christmas, Hanukah and Easter are. I think we made a breakthrough, and I am still thrilled by how progressive the abc producers were to finally allow the country to see a glimpse of the Muslim culture that is not often seen, and in such a positive way! One word for it: Inspiring!
What made it so inspiring is that I have been working on Operation Ramadan for over a year. I had been contacting other shows nonstop since then-emailing, messaging on Facebook, making phone calls. Not a peep; that is, until Clinton and The Chew. And what was even more refreshing was that Ramadan wasn't downplayed. The producers and co-hosts were so supportive and encouraging..and better yet, they were interested. Ramadan was not muted down on the show as just a segment on middle-eastern food. Although I was cooking middle-eastern food, Ramadan is observed in non-Arab countries too. It's in China, Indonesia and throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and all of the MidEast, Western Europe...the list goes on. I am still glowing from the happiness in giving Ramadan a chance to shine and say hello to the country. Those of you who do celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Kwanza, etc., and get to regularly see your traditions represented, please don't take it for granted. Enjoy it and appreciate it, because now that Muslims were finally able to turn on the TV and feel like we are an acknowledged part of the US population, I think I speak for all those Muslims who watched, or those who have friends who observe Ramadan, it felt pretty damn cool.
In case you missed it, and you're curious to see this Ramadan debut, please click on the link below. And watch the segments Eggplant Casserole, Celebrating Ramadan, and Last Bites!