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A friend who I had lost contact with about 4 years ago added me on Facebook and she commented that she was shocked that I was already married. The comment made me laugh because at the age of 20 when we last spoke I was adamant that I wasn’t going to settle down until I was 30 at the very earliest. I apparently didn’t have time for that kind of ‘stuff’. I was career driven, determined to get a MSc, get a job and to me at the time that meant no men.

But then Karim happened. I’m relatively stubborn, so the way I had began feeling about him didn’t factor into the path I had set myself. I continued to suppress my feelings for him, thinking that if I showed anything he’d say what I knew he was feeling and for some weird reason I thought I couldn’t consolidate my ambitions with love and relationship, which is preposterous now that I think about it. Three months after tip-toeing around the situation we began dating. But I made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to settle down anytime soon, that even getting engaged was not on the cards. Two months or so into our relationship my brothers figured out there was someone, and being brothers they wanted to check him out. Luckily I have the most amazing relationship with my brothers and they understand me and the bonus was/ is that Karim and them get on like a house on fire!

On one of my mother’s visits to London she caught wind of our relationship and kept pestering me about what his intentions were. There were quite a few arguments if I’m honest about this between mum and me (but we’ve had a relatively turbulent relationship – luckily it seems to have settled down in the last year). We had been dating for almost six months then and I was open with Karim about what my mum was thinking. That’s when he told me that he was ready to propose to me at least a month ago but that he knew how I felt about getting tied down formally. You would think that hearing an admission like that would make me run a mile but I couldn’t stop laughing. It occurred to me right there and then that I didn’t want to spend my life with anybody except Karim, he has in all honesty become my best, best friend, I was completely in love with him and if I allowed myself to imagine being married, it would be to him. And so we got engaged and a year and a bit later we got married.

I am lucky that I’m married to a guy who isn’t insecure enough to stop me from getting on with my life, from stifling my ambitions. If anything he encourages me, even nudges me forward to do better. He’s the kindest person I know, and I know everyone says that about the person they love, but after the flack that he got from my mother and the way he handled it all with such grace I found myself falling in love with him all over again.

So yes, two years ago I would never have imagined that I would be married being determined as I was not to fall, thinking that marriage was a trap. And then Karim came along changing the way I thought about marriage, washing away my insecurities and my assuredness that it meant the end for me as a person. If anything, he’s made me grow, wiser, more worldly, more confident and so much more in love.

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When I wasn’t married food didn’t worry me. I lived in London on my own since the age of eighteen, so fending for myself food-wise basically meant frequenting the different restaurants on Edgware Road. It was practical. I lived just off Edgware Road so why would I go anywhere else when there was tabouli, shawerma, shish tawooq, batata 7ara right on my door step.

Until I was 24 when I finally married the man that stole my heart at the age of 22 I hardly spent any time cooking and any culinary activity that took place in my kitchen was pouring milk over cereal. I have to admit that for the first three months of our marriage we did splash out on eating out and ordering take-ways or deliveries – you know, we were still in honeymoon mode. But we knew it couldn’t last and so I headed out to Waterstones and spent hours browsing the cookery section. I picked up some books on Middle Eastern cookery in an attempt to replicate the delicious meals I had on Edgware Road during my student years.

 As someone who never thought they would find satisfaction in cooking I was slightly shocked at how now I love spending time in our kitchen. We’re entering our eighth month of married life and I’ve realised that I seem to have a knack for cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I’ve also found myself collecting recipe’s from all over, things on tv, articles on the net, from my mum, Karim’s mum and especially from Karim’s dad’s wife who is a phenomenal cook. We’ve actually established an internet relationship where she’d send me and e-mail saying “Amira, I’ve tried out this new recipe. Try it on Karim.” – case in point, yesterdays Chicken Parmesan Bake! I do have to make some modifications though. Like Karim and I LOVE salt (I know, I know, its bad for us) but Tante Maysoon (Karim’s dad’s wife) doesn’t put as much salt as we do (due to health reasons) and so her instructions of ¼ teaspoon results in 2 teaspoons. Or when she gave me the recipe for musakhan and says use a whole chicken – a whole chicken for a family of four fine, but for two people no, so I ended up using just chicken drumsticks.

In all honesty I always found myself recoiling from the kitchen, not wanting to be labelled as that stereotypical Arab woman who slaves away chopping dicing onions, slicing peppers, boiling broth and whatnot. But my love for my forays into the culinary world goes way beyond my reluctance to appear as the clichéd wife.