2:17 AM

Lazy Cook?

Wrote: American Muslima Writer |

I'm feeling my American Roots when I'm around an Arab in the kitchen. There is no real measuring -unless you call basing every measurement off an arab coffee cup. Sometimes you feel preparing to cook the meal takes longer than actually making and eating it combined. There is so much chopping, pealing, pressing, mincing, slicing, dicing, smashing, blending going on that you must have multiple knives and cutting boards available and plenty of hands to go around. Kids and Men usually have the tasks of pealing and slicing potatoes, pealing and smashing garlic, or opening and preparing okra, bell peppers, peas, or of course meat. While the women deal with the chopping of the greens like parsley, mint, lettuce, and all sorts of other greens I had never even seen before I came to Lebanon. They also prepare anything that has to be coated with flour and spices, sauces, marinades. Of course if no one is around to hep you this all has to be done by NUMERO UNO! YOU!

The largest preparations are done during Ramadan which I always thought was ironic considering this is when we're not allowed to eat. It is a blessing and a torture to be literally working with food all day. You have to constantly remind yourself that you're fasting and not try to taste anything you're mixing up. Yet smelling it all day lets you actually be less hungry over all later when it is TIME to eat. Normally during Ramadan the families all gather at one house usually a parent's home. The family doles out responsibilities and dishes to be made. Unless there are no kids or men because of school or work. It was hectic and a huge hassle to start about 9am (OR EARLIER for some houses) and to prepare foods in order of cooking time. While the meats are marinating you work the salads, while the meats are baking you work on the french fries and Kibbeh, while someone is frying these things you work on the deserts. No wonder many arab families have maids.

Now that Ramadan was on my shoulders all by myself this past year I had to be super cook instead of my normal lazy cook self. I grew up in a house (no offense at all to you mom and dad you're just following your traditions) where if you wanted spices you opened a jar and many things come in jars and boxes instead of freshly made. Of course it saved lots of time but something really is missing in the long run. Eating fresh tomato soup vs canned tomato soup is totally different. So normally meals take me between 30-45 minutes tops on a regular day after my experience in Lebanon. I do try to use fresh when I can but I admit mostly I'm lazy and bring out the spice jars. Ramadan though? No way! My husband wanted a proper Ramadan meal every night since his boss by government law was giving him the time to come home and eat iftar. So I'd make meat dish, soup, a simple dessert, and something on the side like french fries or some veggie dish. Ohhhhh MY GOD! It was so much more easier cooking with lots of women who can choose what task they are best suited at and like to do. For me it was the cutting, peeling, pounding, while my sister in laws made the desserts or sauces/coatings and my mother-in-law did the actual cooking. Since the days at the last Ramadan were getting shorter you had to push back your starting time to have the food fresh on the table hot to enjoy. (or actually on the floor to follow the tradition in my husband's home -which is sunnah anyways). I was exhausted cooking all day that many times I hardly felt like eating the food I had made. Many Americans might tsk tsk me and arabs for slaving over a hot stove all day just for one large meal. But at the end of the day knowing what you put into your family's mouth was done by hand and was made with the freshest and healthiest ingredients and all done lovingly and with proper Bismillah intentions was worth every drop of sweat that went into making it. Every meal I closed my eyes and I was brought back to my mother-in-law's house in my heart and watching the looks of satisfaction as people bit into the things we all made together. Then I'd open my eyes and watch my small family enjoy the food I made all by myself.

So some days I'm a lazy cook and other days I'm a super cook!

**Views expressed in this post doesn't mean I'm not aware that there are super fine cooks that slave over hot stoves in USA or that there aren't lazy cook in Lebanon... I'm only talking about personal experience**

All this was brought to mind as I just went grocery shopping and found a bottle of rosemary spice and I had never used it before so I came home and looked up Chicken Breast and Rosemary recipes and they got my mouth watering and reminiscing about my in-laws. Tomorrow's lunch is gonna be super cook day.

3 intelligent thoughts:

Anonymous said...

Your post made me laugh, remembering my own experiences during Ramdans in Riyadh! I, too, always felt badly that so much effort was centered on food preparation during Ramadan.

After our kids went to live in Egypt, my husband and I changed our habits. We ate more simply, and had fewer social engagements. Ramadan then proceded closer to what is supposed to be-- a worship.

Don't misunderstand! I loved the social affairs, but not with the usual frequency you see in the ME.

L_Oman said...

Your post made me excited for Ramadan! We used to do the whole shabang during the holy month, but in the past few years we have stopped. It's quite simple in our home. A basic soup, laban to drink, some dates and maybe some samboosa. Sometimes we'll make loquemant, but try to cut down. I tried doing the whole slave over the stove thing, but after the hub saw how hard it really is we limit just a few days in the month to those buffet style dinners!

The hardest is when you have 60 guests over to your house. That's when I get all frazzled!!!!!

American Muslima Writer said...

Lol marahm and I_Oman: Yes it is soo much better for us and our bodies to eat less in ramadan and i kept telling my husband this but he's not ready to give up his cultural tradtitions for sunnah yet inshallah in the future.
Oooh the one day a year when I hosted the ramadan dinner at my house made me sooo nervous and totally frazzled too. I admit Lebese woman can be gossipers so the hosue had to be spotless and the food had to be most excellent and I tended to not make arab dishes so no one would compare me to their family's way of cooking it bbut i made some excellent seafood and such. Afterwards I'd ask my husband a million times did they really like the food or were they being polite? Did they have fun or were they bored? etc... lol..Thats why i loved to visit other people better. Yet i loved heliing them prepare thtough it wa hectic.

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