Miswak Update

In my last Ramadan entry, I wrote about a little stick called a miswak.

During Ramadan, the miswak appeared in the hands of Muslims everywhere, and when I asked about it, it was described to me as having a minty-spicy taste to it. That description reflects the inexactness of language translation.

My friend, Amer, just brought me a shorter cut (say 3 inches…maybe 7 cm) of a longer miswak that he’d bought. He instructed that you bite into the soft outer bark, which you chew and spit out. Inside is a stringy pith that is pretty much what you would expect to find. The inside is chewed gently until the strings separate and become like a brush, which you can use as a toothbrush.

I am now – as in currently – chewing on my first miswak. The taste is decidedly NON-minty. Rather it tastes much more like horseradish. The taste is not the same as horseradish, but very, very similar. I like horseradish, so this is not a minus; but it did surprise me when I first bit into it and expected a mint flavor. Once again, the inexactness of translation rears its head.

I can see that, for someone who smokes and is trying to quit, a miswak could be an adequate replacement for the oral fixation part of the habit. Additionally, it would be nice to have around for after lunch if you aren’t able to get to a tootbrush.

I’ve always been told experience is a far better teacher than relying on someone else’s words. In this case, that is particularly true.

Copyright 2007, Greg Hubbard.

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