How getting over my fear of the kitchen changed the way I eat

Bismillah–

Deformed cookie men... but I love em!

Cookies decorated using royal icing by my cousin Ameera (age 9) and I.

It’s true, I used to hate the kitchen. I hated being in it, I hated cleaning it (sometimes I still harbor this feeling), and I hated hated HATED making anything. For the longest time the only talent I had in the kitchen was making cake out of a box, mac and cheese, and of course your run of the mill chicken noodle soup (notice–comfort food). My relationship with the kitchen, coupled with my klutziness (at times) made me just want to stay out of it. For example:

I have put molokhiyah (dried jute leaves) in a cup of tea instead of mint for my uncle.

I made vinegar cake. What is that you ask? Well when you are all out of of buttermilk, you can substitute 1/2 tsp of vinegar per cup of milk. Well I saw 1/2 cup of vinegar per cup of milk and doubled the batch of banana chocolate chip cake I was attempting to make. It was DISGUSTING to say the least–it smelled gross too!

I consistently burned eggs…

I even messed up coffee at times!

One time I ended up covered in almost 5 lbs of hummus because of sheer klutziness…

Not to mention my sheer ability to burn myself with anything. (This one I haven’t really gotten rid of, I like to think of it as a talent for racking up battle scars of the kitchen).

As you can see, I could not STAND the kitchen. However, I had an awesome friend….someone who’s love for the kitchen made me rethink my hatred for it. It was none other than, Taiyyaba, she would blog all this amazing food and she would use language that made my mouth water. But still…my hate for the kitchen was set in my heart. Taiyyaba on the other hand continually would invite me over and it took one day of trying out a recipe with her that she planted the seed of love of the kitchen. We made Pan fried steaks and Shrimp Dumpling Soup (check out her blog…it’s definitely on there and trust me…you better be willing to get up and eat afterwards because till this day when I think of what we made that day my mouth STILL waters). The flavors that consisted of this meal were so diverse and so … fulfilling. Something in me changed…

It was shortly after this encounter (and many debates with a close friend) that I decided to change permanently to eat meat that was only slaughtered on the Islamic tradition (otherwise known as Zabiha). This is similar to Kosher standards, except that when the meat is slaughtered, the name of God is repeated over it.  This was a little difficult, seeing as that my family does not follow this standard which tends to be a little more restrictive due to the shortage of places that supply this type of meat. At first it wasn’t so bad–I adjusted and stopped eating my favorite things: Bojangles, Chik-Fil-A, Turkey subs (oh my gosh…turkey was my most favorite thing), and most of all eating with my family. There were times where I would just eat whatever carbs I could find in the house. The problem with the switch is that, I didn’t prepare myself and find alternatives elsewhere. The first few months were not that bad, it was only until summer came and I didn’t work or go to school in order to take a break…boy did the pounds add on. It was so depressing.

Going back to the purpose of this story…I started to experiment in the kitchen. I started to try different flavors and be a little more creative with my food. I also became very keen on, if I can make it at home, why would I go somewhere else? I learned to make spicy cajun fried chicken breast, I mastered preparing asparagus, and I actually learned to make eggs properly! In my head I thought–wow, all that Chemistry I learned in school is FINALLY paying off. Reason I say that is because I learned to substitute and understand why and how certain ingredients worked together, giving a certain result. Honestly, I am one of the happiest people in the lab, I become so relaxed and in my own world. It’s just me, my materials, my goal, and my head.

While all this is great and I learned to love my kitchen–I still had a problem. All that weight I gained over the summer (which is very rare for me) I had to lose it. But how? I started paying attention to everything I put in my mouth and really learned something from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution…if I can’t tell you exactly what is in that food, then I’m NOT going to eat it. If I want juice, I want juice not a little concentrate with a ton of fructose syrup and additives. I’m a Biochemistry student, I can’t say I know everything or can testify as to the dangers of certain additives, but what I can tell you is that when we add things that are not natural to our bodies, our bodies are not able to break them down and we end up with a lot of problems most of which we still haven’t seen the effects. I also used to be a soda drinker–it was habit. I completely cut that out, and this is not to say I don’t have my occasional soda, but I limit it to once a week at most. Since changing my feeding habits, I am really happy to say I dropped 20 pounds over the course of 4 months. Alhamdulilah! Now this is without a serious workout schedule therefore the loss was really slow and gradual…however guess what? I’m taking a PE class this summer and boy it is KICKING MY BUTT! I love it! I really feel more energy throughout the day, even when I’m soooo sore. And I know this is a leap of faith, but I already see changes in my body and most of all, I’m happy with myself.

Had it not been for my friend, Taiyyaba, and the close friend that taught me the merits and the reasoning behind eating only Zabiha I don’t think that I would be where I am today. I am much more aware of what goes into my own body and I am happy with it. How can I not be? I started to love the kitchen and use the kitchen as my lab when I am home and instead of looking at E.coli cells under a microscope–I’m understanding that certain proportions of yeast and sugar result in different types of bread. So … some updates on me and the kitchen…

I can make bread from scratch in a matter of hours, without using any measuring tools. It’s all by hand! (And I usually never get to eat any of it because my family eats it all in a matter of minutes).

I can make a mean frittata, actually mastered it this weekend.

I LOVE spicy food–if there is no spice, my food feels bland.

Mixing non-traditional flavors, such as fruit and chipotle, with a meat dish results in some of the best food.

And even better, I got a compliment from my little sister! (And those come rare) She said that I know how to eat–and I’m glad she said that because I would rather eat a small meal in which I am completely satisfied instead of eating a huge meal that just keeps me looking for more. You can still see me grabbing some fries or some kind of comfort food from time to time, but I’ve learned to not rely on those to satiate me, I would rather be in the kitchen at home!

Alhamdulilah for all the people in my life that support me and push me on this journey of self discovery when it comes to food! It’s truly something we need to appreciate–my next project is my own garden! Insha’Allah.

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