I’ve already introduced myself as a mom of 9 and home cook! But, living the Middle Eastern life style you must cook and that means from scratch, often times all day, big cooking! While living in Seattle my friends and I traded recipes, tips and stories until we perfected homemade Arabic bread, cheese and even yogurt. While living in Saudi that meant cooking many American dishes totally from scratch without key ingredients.
When my kids and I relocated to the U.S. 6 years ago, I worked to support the family at various jobs, a paper route at 2 a.m., a cook for a local girl’s college co-op and cleaning buildings. At that time I had 7 kids at home, and had little time or interest in cooking. Cooking had also become a chore, a drag! So cooking meant chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, which wasn’t bad but not what we were used to.
After things settled down a bit I was able to stay home and work on getting my kids into school and adjusted to our new life. My daughter worked on her GED as well as working at a local restaurant. I had two boys and a girl that were now attending public school and two little ones at home being schooled by me!! My daughter Fattima invited her boss, his wife and kids for dinner. I hadn’t done “real” cooking for about 3 years! Of course we ate, just not the kind of food it takes hours to cook. I thought about what I would make and came up with a Palestinian rice dish, Maclube or upside down. It is a rice dish layered with eggplant and chicken. I decided that would be fine for a main dish.
I set to work and made the dish. I had about 5 chicken legs left over that would not fit into my baking dish. They were spiced with the typical Middle Eastern flavors, cinnamon, allspice, cumin etc. and had been cooked to a tender falling off the bone point. I didn’t think the kids would have much interest in a pile of chicken legs but told them just the same.
I sat in my chair, the mom recliner, for a break. I put my feet up, sipped on my coffee and laid my head back. A few minutes went past, I heard hurried footsteps in the kitchen, cupboards jiggling, laughing and playful arguing. I had to see what was going on. I entered the kitchen to find my 21, 19,17, 15 and 13 year old children all gathered around a baking dish lined with the bones of chicken legs. Their faces were covered in broth dripping from the chicken. They were laughing and reminiscing about mom standing in the kitchen holding a baby, little ones tugging on her shirt wanting to “help” in the kitchen, which meant taste anything that was cooking! They said their fondest memories were of mom waiting for their return from school with a smile, the smell of onions, garlic and spices, fresh baked cake, cookies, those smells greeting them at the door. They argued over the last bit of chicken as they laughed and joked! I decided that is was time to get back to family cooking and that is where it all started. Now four years and many chicken legs later, I have embraced my love for cooking again!
One day after my son and I finished a phone call where we discussed many things but always got back to …. cooking, I found it very exciting, wow he loves to cook! And he is a fantastic cook, makes homemade pies, pizza, calzone, and he puts his own signature on each dish! I started thinking of each of my children from oldest to youngest and I was amazed, the oldest ones all have excellent cooking skills, and several of them have a creative and passionate interest in cooking! I told each of my kids how strange it was that so many of them loved to cook, they looked at me and laughed and then reminded me that they were raised in a house that revolved around cooking, baking, dessert nights for neighbors, huge dinner parties and COOKING!
For this reason, I think it would be fun to feature one of my kids every couple weeks and a dish they love to cook! So we will start with my daughter.