Friday, July 18, 2014

Honey & Co. Ramadan Challenge Day 10

Today's recipe is something sweet for a change - a cherry-coconut-pistachio cake. I couldn't find the specific spice the recipe asked for, which is made from the pits of St. Lucia cherries and is not readily available in Pakistan. But it is the height of fruit season and I got a box of the last summer cherries to do this. And I used fresh coconut ground into tiny pieces for extra flavour, instead of desiccated coconut. We won't know how this turned out until the evening, when we have it on our Iftar table. But from the scent coming from the oven, I think this is a winner.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Honey & Co. Ramadan Challenge Day 9

Today's recipe is a bit of a cheat for me - Turkish coffee. I know how to make Turkish coffee. I love Turkish coffee. I used to drink it with an Egyptian lady who had married a Pakistani and emigrated here in the 1950s. She would make it for me, I would drink it, and then she would turn the cup upside down and tell me my fortune.

Wherever I go that serves Turkish coffee, I will have a cup. I savour its bittersweetness, its thickness, the rich taste. Turkish coffee is definitely an acquired taste.

But I've never been able to replicate that taste at home. I bought the coffee and an ibrik a couple of years ago, researched brewing techniques on the Web, experimented at home. It has never tasted quite the same as it does in restaurants. Once I was trying to impress a romantic interest, an Arab man, and I made a cup of Turkish coffee for him. But I was so nervous that I didn't brew it right. What I served to him could not be called coffee by any means - gutter water was probably a better descriptor of the drink. He was too polite to tell me how bad it was. It's no surprise it never worked out between us.

Anyway, the Honey & Co. cookbook has a recipe for Turkish coffee. It asks you to infuse cardamom in the coffee as you brew it, but I had coffee with cardamom added already. What differed between this recipe and how I usually prepare it is that it asks you to add sugar after the first time the coffee comes to the boil. Then you bring it to the boil twice more before it's ready to drink.

So I tried it that way today. It tasted good and smooth, although I still am not able to replicate that kind of burnt taste and thickness that I adore. It didn't have enough foam either which is the hallmark of a great cup of Turkish coffee.
 I'll keep trying though. And turning that cup of coffee upside down to see if fortune is smiling on me today. 

Honey & Co. Ramadan Challenge Day 8

Yesterday I had to be out somewhere in the evening so I didn't have any time to cook something from the cookbook. But at lunchtime, I did make something - it's probably the tiniest recipe in there. It is the salad dressing for the Fattoush (traditional Arab/Lebanese salad). It is the easiest thing in the world to do and involves infusing one garlic clove in some olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. I made some for a lunchtime tomato salad (tomatoes and lettuce, only) and thought it was nice. I left it on the table to infuse some more. When I came home in the evening, the bowl was gone. I thought that someone had thrown it out, thinking it was a leftover.

This afternoon, my sister in law said to me, "By the way, that dressing you made was delicious!"

"What?" I said. "I thought it had been thrown out!"

"No way," she replied. "We took it downstairs and put it on everything. The pakoras, the samosas - it was delicious and everyone loved it."

What a shock - but it counts!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Death of a Cricketer

The newspapers yesterday reported the death of Haleema Rafiq, a seventeen year old woman from Multan who was a fast bowler on the national cricket team as well as playing in her home town.  Haleema, who along with five of her colleagues, accused the Multan Cricket Club officials of sexual harassment last year, saying that they were told they'd have to provide "sexual favours" if they wanted to be accepted on the team.

A committee investigated the allegations but when three of the women then denied there had been any assault or harassment, the two others, including Haleema, didn't show up for the hearing. The committee decided that there had been no impropriety, and then placed all five of the women on probation and recommended that they be banned from playing cricket for six months. Not only this, but Maulvi Sultan Alam, against whom the accusations had been levelled, then sought damages worth Rs. 20 million against the women.

Haleema was apparently fasting when she drank acid and died.

There have been misogynistic comments in the comments sections of the news sites reporting Haleema's death, bringing up the fact that sexual harassment charges were dismissed and that the "girls were lying in order to blackmail" the Multan Cricket Club officials.

What is far more likely to have happened is that the women were threatened and pressured to back off from their accusations. Their families were probably threatened, too. And then, they were punished for having dared to break the silence regarding the harassment. The thought of having to pay twenty million rupees to her abuser probably was too much for Haleema to bear.

This is an all too common story in episodes of sexual harassment and violence against women.  The victim suffers from mental harassment, intimidation, and the thread of physical violence if she doesn't recant. The victim is blamed, the accuser gets off. Haleema isn't the first woman to commit suicide because of this cancer.

RIP Haleema Rafiq. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Honey & Co Ramadan Challenge Day 7

I had made boikos again for day 5, and then day 6 and 7 I wasn't feeling well so didn't make anything. But tonight I've made hummus (by request) and lavash, a type of flat bread that the cookbook tells me is popular in Turkey, Armenia, Iran, and the Caucasus. In fact, in Armenia, where the bread comes from, it's used in the Armenian Apostolic Church for performing the Eucharist.

I looked it up on Wikipedia and found out that this bread is also used in Kashmir, where it's called Lavase.

Etemar and Sarit write that you can top this bread with a beaten egg and any combination of spices you like, crushed nuts, crunchy sea salt, etc. I used rosemary because I like the combination of the dry bread and the delicate scent of rosemary. It's hard to find zaatar here, which is also good on this bread. I might have to get some when I next visit the Middle East...

Malala Day #StrongerThan Campaign

Yesterday was Malala Day, and Malala Yusufzai wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post that explained the goals of her campaign to help girls obtain the education they need and deserve.

When I talked about Malala Day yesterday on Twitter, @DramaGirl19 told me that because Malala didn't speak out against the atrocities in Gaza, her entire message was invalid and she was "doing the bidding of America and the West and Israel." The stupidity of such arguments infuriates me more than it should.

Anyway, Malala has initiated a #StrongerThan hashtag meme to draw attention to the campaign.  GirlRising Pakistan, for whom I am an ambassador, asked me to take a selfie with the hashtag to be posted on Twitter and included in a collage of pictures that will be sent to Malala as a present for her 17th birthday.

Here I am with my sign. This one was inspired by my conversation with @Dramagirl19 who at such a young age displays more hatred than should be in any human being's heart. I hope that she, too, learns that she is stronger than hatred, even if she doesn't believe in Malala's message.

But I do.

History Lessons

When I was 21 and fresh out of graduate school with a degree in education, I interviewed for a job in Brookline, Massachusetts with an educational project that was meant to teach high school students about the Holocaust. I was enthusiastic about the job because I wanted to help teenagers understand the roots of tolerance by studying one of the darkest periods of recent history. I had always been interested in the Holocaust, too, having been taught about it in my European history class in my own high school back home in Karachi.

They didn't teach us about Palestine in those classes, as I remembered. I only learned about that when I went to college and met Arab students, Palestinians and others who had known about the Nakba since the day they were born. And so when I went to the job interview, the interviewer, a warm, friendly woman, asked me what I thought I could bring to the job that would be unique from other candidates.

"Well," I said, "I think I'm really interested in bringing the other side of the conflict today in Israel and Palestine to light as well."

"The other side," she repeated, her smile fixed on her face like a stop sign.

"You know, about the Palestinians and what's happening to them right now. And being Muslim, I can bring a different side of the story to the table. Students will have a better perspective to understand the region, and think about peace."

Needless to say, I didn't get the job.