Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Because First We Eat …..

My last post about my Top 5 Must Try Malaysian Foods is so far the most read and shared post. (out of the few posts I have done) I composed it quite a while ago but kept editing because to select only 5 foods and then write only precise information was not an easy task. There was always more to add. My mother, my strongest critic, finally appreciated my post and a friend, whose opinions I take really seriously, told me she googled the dishes mentioned in the post to see their availability in Pakistan. My Instagram and cell phone are full of food photos and my friends do not find my 'weight-gain-for-no-reason' jokes funny anymore as my Facebook wall is all about food. There is a reason for the weight gain.

I have come to terms with my ever-growing love for food! But this love and passion for food is new for me. I am not a born foodie. I am a convert. My journey to foodaholic, I believe, is a story worth sharing. 

I grew up in a family that 'eats to live'. My father, the simple man he was, would eat lentils seven days a week if needed without a frown. My mother being a working woman all her life focused on healthy, quick and easy-to-make dishes for every day. Though very delicious, the spread on our usual lunch or dinner table comprised of one or two dishes that everybody ate without much trouble. Except for my eldest brother, perhaps who just wanted chicken, be it chicken tikka all seven days. During the days my mum used to be busy with her work, we were satisfied with eating a meetha paratha (Paratha with sugar) or Ponga which is jam or honey filled in a rolled chappati. (I don't know if this name is coined by my family). We always had cupboards full of snacks and there was an unlimited supply of milkshakes and hot chocolate depending on the weather. My mum had the signature dishes that she cooked on weekends and for parties that everyone loved but even then it was always a simple affair, a few delicious well cooked dishes and that’s it.

I got married into a family that celebrates food. My husband, like his mother and sister, is an excellent cook. He did not learn, but it was something he picked up naturally like a child picks up his mother tongue. My in-laws 'live to eat'. At lunch, they would plan the dinner. At dinner, they would talk about the last dinner. Their memories are all filled with food related incidents. The acceptance of invitations to dinners and weddings is heavily governed by food. My mother in law (May Allah bless her soul) was bedridden when I got married. I never tasted her cooking, but the way her eyes gleamed as she told me of the days when everyone lived under one roof and it was normal for her to cook for over 30 people taking care of the tastes and needs of every person on the table; a spread of 7-8 dishes plus special food for my father in law made me realize where this family got their love of food from. She did not complain - it was something she immensely missed doing. And while she told me about all the exotic things she cooked, I could feel my in laws sitting around, basking in the memories of those glorious food filled days, their mouths watering and their eyes -- well -- hungry. My in-laws cook with passion and eat with double passion. There are these unspoken rules not only for cooking but also for eating (which my husband had to spell out to me) like: Haleem is only cooked with beef. Nihari is only cooked with calf muscle of the hind leg of a cow. Nihari has to be served with special naans from a specific shop. Kachori to be bought only from a certain shop even if it means you stand in line for hours. Strange unheard of vegetables like Kachnar & Sanghri. When turnip is cooked, the peels are kept for another completely new dish etc etc etc.

And here I was - the youngest daughter-in-law, married to the biggest (& tallest) food lover of the family. I knew almost nothing about cooking, let alone these rules. The only cooking I had ever done was after my high school in the three free months before joining college. My dad happily enjoyed my cooking and my mum was satisfied that at least I had learned the basics. I was also satisfied that I had enough cooking skills to get married and make way to my husband’s heart through the stomach. Little did I know that this route, in case of my husband, would require really high-class cooking skills. The first time after he had given me ample of the honeymoon grace period, my husband asked me to cook koftay (Meat Balls in curry). I confidently agreed since I had my mother’s recipe book and I believed I knew the basics of cooking. The tricky thing in making Koftay is making the meatballs as they either become very hard or so soft that they can’t retain their shape. I opened my mum’s recipe book and started reading the recipe. When I was done with the ingredients and method of making the curry, the line under the recipe said,

After the curry is done, buy ready-made meatballs from CSD and put them in”.

She had even given the name of the store. 

I realized that I needed to find a different route to his heart. But my husband wanted me to take that route anyway. It was not just about cooking, I also lacked the passion for food. We settled on a middle ground where I was allowed to take baby steps towards 'loving' food and he was willing to compromise on quantity and variety but not quality. The mantra was 'cook less, but cook well'. However, even now when he craves for something really good, he cooks it himself! 

This love for food got a boost when I moved to Malaysia two years after my marriage. Food helped me make friends in this foreign country. I realized that food binds people. In a group of people who did not understand my language, culture, ethics and religion, the love of food was the only common ground. My colleagues showed me their acceptance and love by making sure I had tried the best local foods. They took pride in introducing famous dishes and it was a delight to see friends going out of their way to find halal versions of their favourite dishes so I could try.  

And so the love affair started.... 

My love affair with food may be very new but it is a true and passionate affair that is blossoming into something big - that you can see around my waist and also in the ever growing numbers on the weighing machine (control plan is now in place). It welcomes different tastes and is daring enough to try new things.

I think that the easiest way to anyone's heart is through the stomach as in words of M.F.K Fisher,

“First we eat, then we do everything else" 


  1. Food was always a necessity not a luxury in my life, you have aptly depicted this. A well written piece. Good job

    1. Thank you! Your words of encouragement act like a fuel :) 😘

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed. You are a true foodie.

  3. Could not agree or relate more. Food is life. Such a fun read Mehwesh! Good luck!

  4. Loved it... My koftay story is equally interesting as yours....🙈

  5. I love how food as different meaning for people. It really is more than just nutrients, it's also about good times with loved ones :D

  6. I can relate to this post completely. I also knew no cooking when got married but now almost good cook.

  7. I can so much relate to this! Haha

  8. I am also a person who came from a family who "eats to live," basically eating only at home. We only started eating out when I got married and my wife is a person who likes eating out. Now my own family try different restaurants and cuisine almost every week. But if I was alone at work, I still eat simply.

  9. Hahaha... That's exactly the same in my case too. My parents house we used to eat to live. My inlaws live to eat and celebrate food!!

  10. Food is as important as anything in life. Either eat to live or live to eat, it is very important to eat for the healthy purpose. Thanks for sharing

  11. It must be fun to be associate with your family. As a food lover, I'd visit your house every day.

  12. Once you start seeing the joy in eating good food, you will definitely fall in love with too. It's nice to fall in love with food and the process of making it. That's how you start to appreciate and enjoy eating.

  13. Food connects people like how music connects people. It expose and share people's culture. You should share more of the photos of your meals with your families!