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PAPER/PLATES is a
literary food blog, for readers with good taste.

Got It From My Mama: Habits

Got It From My Mama: Habits

It occurred to me recently that most of my habits regarding food and the kitchen are directly inspired by my mom. Shocking, I know. Having enjoyed her home-cooked meals for 18 years before leaving for college then two more years when I returned home, I unknowingly picked up some of her habits. Amma, if you're reading this, I miss spending time with you in the kitchen. These are the things that always remind me of you.

Lighting a candle. Pakistani food is rich, complex and, often, stinky. My dad is one of those people with a hypersensitive nose, and he always knows when my mom is cooking even before he enters the house. To appease and try to keep him from opening windows—even in mid-winter—my mom always lights a candle when she cooks. She also turns the exhaust on full blast, allowing the powerful vacuum to suck the pungent aromas of spices and fried onions out of our house and away from our clothes and hair. Still, she's always said that lighting a candle, even an unscented one, does wonders for counteracting food smells. For me, cooking without a lit candle feels just wrong.

Eyeballing it. You know those little pink tasting spoons from Baskin Robbins? We have tons of them at my house, and not just because my sisters and I thought they were perfectly kid-sized back in the day. My mom uses them to measure spices and seasonings. I don't think I've ever seen her use formal measuring spoons. Even better, she uses the palm of her hand to measure salt. I try to do this sometimes as well, but my hands are bigger than hers so I can't seem to get the amount quite right.

Leaving the last drops. We drink a lot of tea in my house. Black tea with milk and sugar, at least once a day and probably more. And never, ever, do my parents drink the whole cup. They always leave a thin layer of tea at the bottom of the cup. You're just not supposed to drink all of it. Like so many habits, it's an act justified by how things have always been done. When I drink my daily tea now, I always leave a little at the end. It feels greedy to empty the cup.

I'm lucky to see my mom a lot, but it's still nice to have little reminders of her as I go through my day. Tell me: Whom do you emulate in the kitchen?

My Week in Reading

I finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and can't wait to write about it here. It is my sincere hope that some of you will read it as well because I think there's a lot to discuss about race, gender and love within its pages. The next book I picked up is decidedly less sexy: Investing For Dummies. Sigh. Gotta get my knowledge on.

Other interesting links I perused this week:

  • A searing letter of resignation from William Faulkner in 1924. (Letters of Note)
  • Sometimes people mistake correlation for causation, as in reports that say vegetarians live longer. (Quartz)
  • A laid-off Chicago-Sun Times photographer chronicles his new life. (Laid Off From the Sun-Times)
  • Kevin Barry's City of Bohane won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. (Graywolf Press)
  • Short on cash? Here's how you can stock your kitchen on a budget. (Food52)
My Week in Cooking
Taco pizza

I make this taco pizza about once a month. It's adapted from The Pioneer Woman's recipe. I do away with the fried tortilla strips on top, use pre-made Trader Joe's pizza dough (which is a godsend and can be frozen!), skip the lettuce and add chopped avocados. Best pizza ever.

Until next week!
Amina

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