For the longest time ever, I thought “Halal Food” referred to the food served in the food carts with rice, lettuce, chicken, lamb, white and barbeque sauce. It was not until a friend explained that “halal”, in Arabic, means permissible and that Halal meat is meat that has been slaughtered according to Islamic law, as laid out in the Qu’ran until I realized the true meaning. This particular type of slaughter is called dhabiha.
It’s a very specific method of killing animals for food, one that also involves draining all the blood and ensuring that no live animals ever see another animal slaughtered. According to the Muslims in Dietetics and Nutrition, a member group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Halal food can never contain pork or pork products, or any alcohol. Rasheed Ahmed, founder and president of the Muslim Consumer Group, which both certifies Halal food and educates Muslims about different foods’ Halal status, says that to be truly Halal, how the animals are raised is taken into account. Animals must be fed vegetarian diets, which means that many chickens and cows raised on U.S. farms don’t qualify. Halal animals also can’t be treated with antibiotics or growth hormones, since the hormones may contain pork-based ingredients.
Halal animals must be slaughtered by a Muslim, who says a blessing, and by hand, not by machine. Once killed, the animal’s blood must drain completely, since Muslims who eat Halal do not consume the fresh blood of animals.
After doing this research, a question that raises is, “Are all carts that are considered ‘Halal carts’ actually halal?”
As I was walking from the 6 train station to school after a nauseating commute, the smells of the city began hitting me from all different angles. The overwhelming smell of the early morning was that of the Halal food trucks. It was 8:15am.
The aroma was obvious and present which made me think, “if they’re already populating the streets with their smell at 8:15am, what time did they have to wake up? What time did they get here? How did they get here? How long did they sleep?” All these questions puzzled me on my walk to class.
This project is not just a way of us getting the inside scoop of halal carts and everything that goes into that business, it is a way to broaden our understanding of the city and its people. Halal cart workers are just one example of those immigrants that absolutely bust their behinds in order to make a living. They are everyday reminders of where most of us came from and how we got to the places we’re at right now. The answers to many of the interview questions that we conduct are the same answers that my parents would give to a question like “why are you doing this job?” The hard work, dedication and resilience of the workers are all traits that stretch among the line of those that came here to achieve the American Dream, even if it seems like a steep hill to climb. However, the fact that these workers are on the streets and attracting people of various demographics, making money, and coming home to their families is an American Dream in and of itself.
The project is raw, intriguing and eye-opening to us who are conducting it and hopefully to the prospective people that are going to read it.
While looking for Halal Carts to interview, I walked upon the most famous one of them all: The Halal Guys. Beginning as a food cart in the 1990s, The Halal Guys has become a fast casual restaurant that has taken over the world. There are now approximately 70 carts/stores and many more opening throughout the world. People in countries as far as the Philippines are now franchising The Halal Guys to serve people a platter of chicken over rice. I got the chance to speak with the Director of Operations/Manager of the first original cart on 53rd St. Now, there are roughly 7 Halal Guys carts in approximately a 100ft radius all serving hungry customers. There is a never-ending line of awaiting customers that only gets longer at night. The manager was very nice and told me a fascinating anecdote about how he started working for The Halal Guys in 2004 as a dishwasher. Throughout the years with his dedicated hard-work, he was able to rise the ranks and ultimately be at his high position he is at today in the corporation. I think this anecdote goes along well with the general attitude many newly-arrived immigrants hope for – the mantra that if one were to put in the dedicated effort, then one will eventually see the fruits of one’s labor. The story has a nice ending to it, but I also interviewed Halal Cart workers who are on the other side of the table.
At another cart just a few blocks away from, a worker explained to me how he sold only $10 worth of food in nearly 4 hours! I was shocked. This cart is a few blocks away from The Halal Guys, so no one really buys from it. Business was terrible for this newly immigrated worker who faced the negatives of capitalism.
Just a quick note that if you are doing any revisions to your text between now and Sunday, please re-upload it to the “Documents” section of the Halal Carts website (not this site). Follow the same directions as last time but this time, select your draft and click “Upload New Version.” When you upload the new version, you can remove my comments if you like, make any other changes/revisions, and then select “Second Draft” under workflow state on the right. This will indicate that you’ve uploaded a newer version than what you submitted last Monday.
Please, as always, email me with any questions if you are having trouble with this. Later today the tech committee should have the theme finalized and they’ll let you know what theme our site will have.
On Wednesday, we discussed the daily routine of halal cart workers. From my research so far, I’ve only found that an arduous day of labor awaits halal cart employees. From waking up at 5 or 6 am, to standing on one’s feet for eight hours in all weather conditions, halal cart workers truly have to be resilient and have some degree of passion towards what they are doing. This, in turn, makes me wonder about the general working conditions of immigrants.
More often than not, immigrants face not only longer hours and lower wages, but also a high chance of not working in a field for which they earned an education. Just the other day, I was speaking to one of the workers in my building. He is a handyman who immigrated quite a while ago, whose job is to fix things in the building. He complained about his hard day of manual work, but his eyes immediately lit up when talking about his son. His son is, coincidentally, transferring to Baruch next semester to pursue a finance degree. With excitement, he announced “My son is going to become somebody.”
I think this conversation illustrates the core of the American Dream, the reason why immigrants put up with whatever work conditions they can find: so that the next generation can be in a better place. I’d like to find out more about this as it relates to halal cart workers, but this is a theme that’s resurfaced all semester. I can personally relate to this kind of immigrant sacrifice, as my mom did the same for me when we immigrated—and I am eternally grateful.
I hope that you found Jake’s comments on your specific sections helpful.
I will look at your work on Sunday morning and provide feedback so that you have time to incorporate my comments (or not) by class-time on Monday.