About the Book
Title: Spoonful Chronicles
Author: Elen Ghulam
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Thaniya Rasid grew up in the Middle East dreaming of becoming a surgeon. Now living an ordinary life as a mother, wife and a hospital lab tech in Vancouver, Canada, she garners unexpected fame as youTube’s Queen of Hummus when her video demonstrating the recipe goes viral. How could blending chickpeas in a food processor generate so much excitement? And how could her life have ended up so far away from all her expectations?
To make sense of the unlikely events that have brought her to this place, Thaniya turns to food, curating memorable eating experiences of her life, searching for clues. Between her childhood aversion to cucumbers, her search for an authentic Iraqi kubeh in the city of Jerusalem, her 10-year tomato wars with her husband Samih, a mood altering encounter with a blood pudding in Edinburgh, and a Kafkaesque nightmare involving a cauliflower, Thaniya unravels repeated patterns occurring in her life. The secrets of love, friendship and destiny hidden in her cauldron of mishmashed cultures begin to reveal themselves.
Between lust and disgust there is a thin line. Spoonful Chronicles is the beguiling story of one woman taking hold of her fate by uncovering the clandestine geography of this divide in her heart.
My name is Elen. I am an Iraqi-Canadian. Please allow me to tell you a story of a curious event that happened to me. I was a perfectly happy computer programmer doing the nerdy stuff that computer programmers do. You know! Geeky stuff. Like the normal stuff that an Iraqi-Canadian would do if they worked as a computer programmer. When one day, out of nowhere, the inspiration to write hit me over the head. It came at me fast and furious and turned my life topsy turvy. I was always an avid reader. Ok I was a bookish geek. But the idea that I would try to write never even occurred to me, until the violent incident with the muse. Since then I have published a memoir called “Don’t Shoot! … I Have Another Story to Tell You“. Which Was followed by a novel called Graffiti Hack. That one tells the story of a hacker who installs lavish graphical designs on commercial websites. Imagine the trouble she gets in? Well I had to. I was writing the story, so I had to imagine every last bit. A third novel is on it way. I don’t know where all these ideas come from, they just pop in my head and I write them down. In addition to writing, I am a flamenco dancer, I enjoy painting and I love to cook. Somehow all these activities inspire each other.
I am a married mother of three, living in a pink house in Vancouver BC
Really I just love telling stories and I love listening to stories.
It came to me gradually. In spatters and smudges. Like a Jackson Pollock painting. Splash here. Drip there. Seems accidental. You stand back and look. The horror of the furtive activity attacks you. My name should be Sabbah. Nobody ever said this within my earshot. It was a little niggling suspicion. A faint whisper in my head. It grew and multiplied. Now it is a scream. I know it in my toes. I feel it in the frazzled ends of my hair. I never dared ask directly. It is as obvious as the sun in the sky. I should be sitting here, declaring to you proudly that my name means morning in Arabic. A name that implies light, brightness, the first call to prayer of the day and the cock-a-doodle-doo of a proud rooster breaking dawn. Since my sister’s name means night in our language, I have surmised my parents worried about the negative connotation that would be assigned to her in relation to me. Imagine my parents introducing us to their friends:
And here are our daughters: Night and Day.
They are as different as light and darkness.
People might have sniggered at the too matchy matchy extremes.
“Oh you called your daughters Night and Morning,” those with comedic aspirations would have continued. “If you have a third daughter you should call her Noon.”
Instead I have this nothing name. It reeks relativity without embodying substance. My name is Thaniya.
“Hello, pleasure to meet you.” I was disappointed to hear him speak in English. I replied in Arabic: “It is a pleasure to meet you as well.”
Rafid paused and then switched to Arabic. “Affirmative. It has been my forefather, who has furnished me with voluminous tales about her, which is your forefather. It is now that I see, I feel knowledge for her family even though your face I only see now.” His Arabic was a code red disaster zone. He had inverted the feminine with masculine pronoun, his accent was terrible, his diction most ridiculous. In that first ten seconds of meeting him I realized that I could never share a life with somebody who spoke so poorly. If this had been a comedy show, a fifth grader would be peeing himself laughing right now. I had given him a test and he had failed in the most spectacular manner possible.
Rafid was slim, tall, clean-shaven, dark and handsome, stylishly dressed in a sky-blue cotton shirt and black slacks. Everybody in the room was clamoring to grab his attention. He sat confidently on a chair in the middle of the living room, gesturing elegantly with his index finger when he spoke. He listened attentively when spoken to, placing the fingers of his hand gently against his cheek. He was altogether the prince of any young woman’s dream. Except when he addressed me; then his atrocious Arabic had turned him into a Shrek-like green ogre.
Every morning, no matter how hectic my schedule, I wake up early to prepare a pot of coffee. I pour the black liquid into a see-through glass cup. Then I add milk one drop at a time. I watch milk drops lazily swirl around in my cup. I never mix my coffee with a spoon. I just sit there and watch two extremes doing a gentle dance together. A blob of white rises to the top, then it is elegantly pushed into halves. The blackness of the coffee caresses and sways. Whiteness pushes blackness away and then takes hold of it wanting to conquer it. “You are mine,” whispers whiteness. “You can never conquer the idea of me,” responds blackness.
I finally take a sip. My coffee is smooth. It flows over my tongue like honey. It gives me hope. Opposites don’t have to come with jagged edges and sharp sudden starts. One day, I will learn to dance like milk in a cup of coffee. Without a stir. No violent mixing shall occur. Flavours mixing at will, giving of their sweetness gently.
Milk unmixed in coffee is at least a possibility.
Just yesterday a patient shrieked with delight when I entered her room: “Oh My God! I can’t believe it. Hummus lady!”
I was taken aback. “Excuse me?”
“You are hummus lady, in the video. You saved my marriage.” The skinny young woman looked at me with awe as if I was a deity of some sort. This understuffed scarecrow told me that she had married an Egyptian. They had been fighting for months. Finally, he told her it was over and walked away. She accidentally found my video on YouTube and decided that instead of eating a tub of ice-cream, she would make a tub of hummus. When her husband came home to pick up his things, he encountered the plate of hummus. One taste led to another. His wife found him licking the plate clean. She sat down at the table without a word. Her husband began to cry. “This tastes exactly like the hummus I used get in the public market of Alexandria,” he told her. They talked things over. Cried together. And decided to fight to stay together. Experts might tell you that a marriage should be based on respect and shared values. But if you listen to Thaniya Rasid, you would forgo all that and entrust your life partnership to a flatulence-inducing legume. I suppose marriages have been based on shakier ground. This must be the mushiest. “Why don’t you make more videos?” asked the woman.
I shrugged. “I’m not sure cooking is my forte.”
“Oh it is, it is, there is magic in these hands!” She grabbed both my hands as if rubbing invisible lotion into her own hands.
I wanted to tell her: “Leave your husband, he’s an asshole.” But instead, I grabbed her chart and focused on the medical task at hand.
You know what shakshuka is, right?
It’s a favorite among students, bachelors and those that don’t know how to cook and those who can’t be bothered to cook. In short, shakshuka is the Middle East’s version of Kraft Dinner. Unlike mac and cheese out of a box, it is a dish you will continue to crave years past your student days and many clicks after the honeymoon of your marriage turns into mustard-sun.
The shakshuka wars started in my household on the fifth week of my marriage and have spanned ten years, traveled to two continents and have yet to reach a peaceful resolution.
It all started when, after returning from our honeymoon, Samih decided to make shakshuka for dinner one night.
I took one bite and screwed up my face. “This shakshuka is all wrong!” A rather arrogant proclamation from somebody who didn’t know how to boil an egg.
“Wrong how?” Samih smiled, bemused, the way you would be entertained with a cute three year old saying a four-letter word that they didn’t understand. I hate it when Samih treats me in a patronizing way.
“It’s too oniony,” I said in the same tone I might have used to say “Smoking causes cancer.”
“You just don’t know what shakshuka is supposed to taste like, that’s all.” Samih tore a piece of pita bread. Folded it to create a scoop. Drenched the bread in the tomato massacre on his plate. Placed the dripping bundle into his mouth. “I bet the taste of tomato with the eggs seems unfamiliar, you’re probably used to scrambled eggs instead,” Samih said with a full mouth. Bits of masticated poached egg stained red flashed behind his teeth with each chew.
“I know the difference between shakshuka and scrambled eggs. I know how it’s supposed to taste and this tastes wrong!” I placed my fork down and pushed my plate away.
“I am certain your mother never made shakshuka.” You know an argument is going sideways when your mother gets mentioned.