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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.

Two weeks ago, my boss called me into her office.  I instantly thought doom; that they were going to get rid of me, I mean, after all I was just filling in for a six month maternity leave and there were only two more months left of that.

She told me to sit down and smiled sympathetically at me from across her desk. She asked me how I was. I answered that I’m fine. What was I supposed to say, I’m freaking out! Wondering what’s warranted this impromptu meeting! That Karim and me hadn’t sorted out our expenses to not include my income yet!

She nodded and said that was good, that she was glad I was fine and then started talking about how the organisation, unfortunately, wasn’t fine, that it  had been hit pretty badly with the credit crisis and what not, that their budget has to go further, that they have been asking people to voluntarily reduce their hours, that some people are going to start working a 3 or a 2 day week instead of being in every day and I felt like screaming, Just fire me already!

“But you, Amira, you have a 6-month contract with us, because as you know, Amira, you’re covering Amy’s maternity leave. And your contract, Amira, is ending in about two months time.”

I nod. What else was I supposed to do? Start begging her to keep me on. That I’m excellent at what I do, that she said so herself! That I get on with everyone in my department, and it’s important to have a good team, a good morale within the work dynamics is good, good, really good, for the organisation. But yeah, I just nodded.

And so she continued, “So, Amira, we were thinking…” Oh crap, here it comes, the Alan Sugar moment – you’re fired! “ We were thinking…yes, we were thinking…” Stop saying ‘we were thinking’!!! “ ..that you would like to remain with us for the foreseeable future?”

Huh? What? What was all that hoohaa about the credit crisis, blah blah blah? There’s a catch! There must be a catch! Where’s the catch?

“The catch is…” *sigh*There’s the catch. “We’ll have to reduce your days from full time to two days a week. And one day you’ll be working from home. What do you think?”

There was no two ways about it, after I graduated from uni with my MSc it had taken me a year to find a job, especially one that deals with International Relations – the subject that I had specialised in, so of course I said yes.  

And so today is my first day at home, not working. It gives me a chance to kick back and relax, enjoy two extra days of the week, spend time with my best friend and baby Aida. And actually see my hubby more. So, although our expenses will have a knock, there’s always a silver lining! Yep, always a silver lining under my slice of sky!

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