Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim
2008 / 3 / 18
Whenever I came back home the whole flat, like a kitchen in a restaurant, smelt of food, usually red meat and a couple of other things being cooked. Her fridge was always jam-packed with food and drinks. Her Kitchen was full of all types of kitchen gadgets you could think of. I am not saying I hated cooking but I think all her passion was reduced to her mouth. The smell of cooked meat went deep into my head and I often suffered from a headache. Eating at a laid table everyday and saying my prayers was not really my passion. I could do with a sandwich or a piece of bread and cheese while walking or watching TV. But for her it was more than air she couldn’t live without. The moment I mentioned a delicious meal I had eaten, she would go to the market either to buy it or put it on her shopping list. I stopped telling her what my mother used to cook which I often did when we first met.
I think she got it when she was trained as a “Hotelkauffrau” a kind of a three-year hotel apprenticeship in Germany. She liked walking in the evenings and whenever we came near a restaurant she went to the entrance and read the menu which was kept behind glass and frame outside. I told her about my problem with pork, not because of any religion for I never had one except my own. But it was like eating a dog for me. Once we went to her parents’ house and as usual they served the traditional German food: pork with cooked potatoes. They told me it was beef. I was hungry and I dug in. When we finished they all laughed and said: you see pork can be as tasty as beef.
The problem was whenever I ate red meat the animal’s picture was in front of my eyes I told my mother in-law I couldn’t eat anything cooked in a pot if red meat, particularly pork, had been cooked in it before. It didn’t help even if the pot had been washed as clean as a whistle. I have never been a vegetarian either but I had problems with all types of red meat when my mother cooked them with bones. I could only eat red meat when it was extremely well done or nearly black and of course without bones. I preferred to die of hunger than to eat anything not served on my favorite white square plate and risked many an argument with my mother when she forgot.
I knew my problem about cooking and I was careful to meet somebody who liked cooking but I never thought there were women who could be that fanatic. I think she needed people’s compliments. She got a boost and felt validated when praised: super, delicious food, you did a great job. Often people, mostly women, were in our house eating her food and praising her culinary skills. She couldn’t bear it if I told her the truth even if I didn’t like the meal and forced it down. I felt like the inspector in Hitchcock’s film “Frenzy”. Once I risked it carefully: Sorry I know you are an excellent cook but I think today’s meal is not to my taste. This made her lose her nerves. She took my plate and threw it on the floor with all the food on it. Then she started insulting which she was very good at: You bastard, all men from your culture like cooking and care for their families except you. Go back to your God-damned mother…...
Well, I thought of my mother, my poor mother, she had no daughters. We were six sons and sons never helped in the household. My mother was always busy doing something from the moment she got up to the moment she went to bed like a machine. But we didn’t have any of them. There was not even a vacuum cleaner let alone a cooker. Anyway the vacuum cleaner wouldn’t have been useful because we had mud floor. I think my mother was born either to give birth or to do the house chores. This was her world and I think she knew she couldn’t do anything about it. My father did nothing to help her even at the weekends. He sat with his friends talking and laughing and my mother was supposed to bring them tea every quarter of an hour. She never complained either. I often wondered why she didn’t ask for a divorce. Once when I was alone with her I said: I think mother it would be better if you left. I would come with you. She said laughing: where shall I go, son. My family would only accommodate me for three days. Then she patted my head and sent me away.
After breakfast she would start preparing lunch which took a very long time. She often asked me to take some aubergines (egg plants) or zucchinis to a lady who was about forty years old to scoop or hollow them for her. Her name was Zul but all women could only be identified by their husbands’ first names. People called her Haji’s Zul because her husband’s first name was Haji. One of my aunt’s was called Jabar’s Miriam because her husband’s first name was Jabar and another was Rashid’s Aysha. Haji’s Zul was the most dexterous woman in the town. All women wanted her to scoop auberigines and zucchinis. No kitchen gadget, no matter how sophisticated or modern could hollow the aubergines and zucchinis so fine like Zul. In addition she was very fast. When I arrived I found her sitting enthroned crossed legged on the floor because there were no sofas or chairs. She looked like a huge, boiled over, piece of meat without bones. Her husband sold grilled meat on skewers in his little restaurant.
Bremen, 16 March 2008