Since I have been married I have spent much of my time cooking, chopping and preparing meals for the family. It has always been a collaborative effort when we have placed our meals on the table but I have not always looked upon this task very easily. You see in my home before marriage anything I made or prepared would be an ‘add-on’ to what my mum or sister in law had made. To be honest I never really paid attention to what vegetable was to be placed in before the fish or meat. I never really gave a second thought about soaking spices such as cassia bark, cardamon pods and bayleaf to attain maximum flavour. These tiny gems have been passed on to me over time by my mother in law.
In any home the kitchen (well in my culture, which again is a generalisation) is the hub. It is like the centralised location. Lets face it food is a BIG element of our lives. Initially I could not fathom everything and used to become apprehensive and anxious as everything needed to be precise and handled delicately. Over time I began to learn that it can be enjoyable if it’s not something you feel you have to do. My mother in law would share little tips and ideas and advise which was the best way to do things. However, overall this was her domain. As an individual I tend to conceptualise things as a learning process (a structured and organised one at that-though this is arbitrary.) For me I would look at things in terms of what I have achieved or what I have contributed. As a muslim I would see this time as attaining reward.
Over time my thinking changed and cooking, preparing and making meals became a chore. Whereas once there was a time I had a motivation to go into the kitchen I no longer had this. In addition to this include two pregnancies, two births, two engagements, one marriage, unexpected visitors, birthdays, religious festivities you have the ingredients of a partial recipe for either madness or success. It becomes difficult at times to balance everything to say the least. If you change the way you think about things then it can be easier-And- I realised it has made me value time more so.
In recent times I can feel that there has been a shift and I am hoping this positive mind set remains insha-Allah. I savour the stories my mother in law imparts and take mental notes of her story of her life and how she has become the person she is now. Often we can undermine those who are around us and our perceptions can be one dimensional but I believe if one looks for treasures they can be uncovered. I like the way mum ( I call my mother in law mum) will always remember my father in law when we soak the spices. I enjoy her anecdotes about living in Bangladesh and the methods they had to utilise- which if I’m honest I do not think I could use. For example, they had this stone slab that was raised around three inches in depth coupled with a large pestle type utensil which they would use to make the chilli masala. This job was designated to mum who did it on a daily basis. I am sooooo grateful for the blenders we have access to. Cooking over hand-made clay stoves doesn’t take my fancy either. Also having to ignite a fire with a tube like tool seems rather dangerous to say the least- but our mothers from Bangladesh did this and did not complain (maybe not much anyway.)
I really adore hearing about my mum fetching a pail full of water for her father in law so he could perform the night prayer. This was not easy for her but she did it. I reflect on this and think how remarkable she was then and she is now to have done those things and I pray that Allah rewards her and look forward to more kitchen anecdotes.