Afghani salad

Preparations of salad

It was 9 am when I knocked on Sahar’s door. Bella opened it. She was excited because it was turning 11 today. I offered my unskilled labor in the kitchen voluntarily. Sahar and Farooq were hosting 15 people in their small apartment. I thought an extra hand is probably appreciative.

When it comes to chores, I was considered to be the lazy one. Honestly, I hesitated to help in the kitchen because I hated when people judged me the way I work in the kitchen. It was less of a learning experience, but being pointed at, that I am not good at making round and soft Rotis. Food and cleaning have been an important topic in my family. I grew up with my grandparents in Lahore. My grandma is an early bird who always starts and ends her day in the kitchen. A long day in the kitchen is enough to master cooking skills. Her life motto was to keep the house clean, pray, cook, and feed the family with her delicious meals. I am sure many of my Asian and middle eastern friends can relate to this picture of our mothers! They have spent more time thinking about what to cook for the family than what inspires them in real life.

We Pakistanis are proud of our food. I have heard my friends saying all the time that their mothers are the best cook. Well, how a large number of the female population can be this great in the kitchen? Thanks to systemic oppression making women stay in the kitchen for long hours. The hard work contributed to the taste but also kept eating freedom. Many women have happily accepted this life. (Read more)

At woman March, May 2018, a slogan saying ‘heat up your own food’ in woman’s march uproared many men and women in Pakistan.

No doubt, the time is changing. Many young girls are not able to carry this lifestyle today. Probably, this is the reason for us putting Instagram posts every time we cook.

Sahar was baking afghani naan bread. It is a rectangular-shaped bread baked in a tandoor (a tube-shaped oven made of bricks that sits above the ground). The baker sticks the dough to the wall of the oven, and heat bakes the bread through. Well, Farooq and Sahar are not that fancies! They were using a regular oven to get the job done. But the job was done tastefully.

Freshly baked naan bread

I was cutting the salad. I learned how to make the salad in the afghani style from Sahar. It consists of tomatoes, cucumber, sweet onion, coriander, and squeezed lemon & salt to taste. I was not able to keep the uniformity in the slices of vegetables. Sahar assured me that I am doing fine!

The small kitchen was a cozy place to be during the cold weather outside in December. Farooq made us chai (black tea with milk cooked on the stove) and was helping with the dishes. Our discussion involved mostly politics and food.

Rice with butter, Chicken korma, Chickpea curry, Naan, mint chutney and the three different assorted salads,

I have mostly escaped chores. I feel guilty that I hardly offered help in the kitchen. I realized how important it is to cook and clean until I learned to live by myself. But I still do not accept the notion of taking it as a pressure and making a complete job of a woman. It is shared chore, must be done on shared terms.

I am on a small process of restoring my confidence when I am standing in the kitchen. I cook a couple of times a week usually because of two reasons;

  • We need to eat proper food!
  • We feel like eating something good today.

I haven’t cooked for 20 people like Farooq and Sahar did. I can probably do it if I also get a little help.

Does any of this is relatable to you? Share your experience.



Feeling to share?