HACKENSACK, N.J. — Alaa Mohamed stands behind the counter in Juicy Platters Hackensack, carefully scooping hot ladles of yellow rice and spiced meats into tin pans for customers to devour.
Normally, she would be counting down the hours and minutes until it was her time to eat.
But the Lodi teen is fasting for Ramadan until June 24, so until then, she will be spending her lunch and dinner breaks reading religious material in her car.
"Your whole body is fasting — you're supposed to have a clear mind," said Mohamed, 18. "You are 100 percent pure. There are no distractions or temptations — even outside of work."
The first week was difficult for both Mohamed and her boss, Juicy Platters owner Jaffar Wahdat. But after Days three and four, they both said they felt calmer and more focused.
"[Fasting] affects your body, it affects your soul and it affects your mind," said Wahdat, who opened the first Juicy Platters in Fair Lawn.
"Once a year, you're changing your routine. We're so used to getting up in the morning and having a cup of coffee, and we can't.
"But we still have to go to work, run a business or be a parents. We have to try to function normally with a lack of calories. And you have to dig deep to try to find that focus."