Grandmothers are the glue of a family. They always have the warmest hugs and are so happy to see you no matter what. In the 80’s they were built in nannies for most. At least I know mine was. I was there daily even when I became old enough for school. I was for sure a grandma’s girl. In fact that’s what she called me. Her gal.
I can remember every detail of my grandma’s house. I can remember the house before and after the remodel to expand the kitchen. We spent most of our time together in the kitchen.
She always said, “ One day when you have your own family you have to make sure you keep your hands good and clean! A mother will touch every bit of the food that goes into her family’s mouths.”
When I was very small she would sit me on top of the washing machine so I could help stir. We’d make cakes, pies, cookies, rolls, and all sort of goodies. Churches and family members from all around knew grandma was the best baker.
It wasn’t the desserts that I loved. I loved her savory meals: roast and potatoes, mustard greens and corn bread made into hoecakes especially for me. But my favorite was hamburgers. I can recall other kids being fascinated with popular drive-thru burger places, but not me. I only ate my grandma’s or my mom’s homemade hand patty burgers.
Growing up a farmer’s daughter, grandma learned to stretch meals to accommodate a large family. She was the eldest daughter of thirteen children with one older brother. In our home it was just my brother and me, so I wondered why she wanted to teach me to stretch meals.
“Add a cup or two of broth to that soup,” she’d say. “The pastor might come by this evening round supper time.”
Always making more out of what little she had.
On Fridays we had fish! It was tradition. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that eating fish on Fridays was a tradition based in the Catholic faith. Humph? We aren’t Catholic.
Like clockwork the fish man would show up on a weekday. My brother and cousin would holler, “The fish man is here!!”
Grandma and I would turn down any pots and pans to a low fire or off. Picking the perfect fish took time. Nine-year-old me would stand there bashfully, hanging on to her apron. I must have worn a hole in that thing. I was painfully timid and reserved.
“You got any of them nice fat ones?” she asked.
Laughing, he’d say, “ Nobody want them but you.”
I’d wonder why people didn’t want the big fish. My mama and daddy always kept the big ones. After picking her bucket full she’d pay him from the pocket on that apron and we’d rush back to get supper on the table.
“We got some work to do this evening. You gonna help me?”
I’d smile and nod still holding her apron as if I’d get lost between the front porch and the end of the driveway.
“That’s my gal,” she whispered.
That night, along with cutting up the catfish into fillets and buffalo fish ribs, we’d also grind the beef we got from Madea’s out on the farm. I was old enough to work the grinder now!
We wrapped the kitchen bench good with plastic and some butcher paper we’d pulled from the pantry. I didn’t mind handling the raw beef meat like I did chicken. I even liked the way it smelled. Once we’d filled my large yellow Tupperware bowl with sections of beef I’d drag it over to the bench. PLOP! In goes the first hunk of meat.
“Don’t forget we gotta pass it through two times” she’d say.
While I ground the first pass, grandma started prepping the fish. I was glad to be helping her. I didn’t care that the other cousins were off playing. Grandma would usually sing a church hymn while we worked away. Sometimes she’d even turn on the old crackling radio in the kitchen window or put on a record from my uncles collection. But I liked when she just sang, slapping her thigh occasionally to get the right soulful rhythm going. We didn’t sing lively songs like that in our church. All the while she’d be making sure I wasn’t chopping off my fingers or dropping a big piece of meat that was too heavy for my small hands. Strange how she could do so many things at one time.
“I’ll do the second pass,” Grandma said.
“No, let me finish it,” I begged.
She agreed reluctantly. She inspected my work from the end of the grinder shoot. Still singing and smiling as before. She added filler (fat) back into the meat. This was to make it stretch and for flavor. I tried to take in all she did in the kitchen. She handed me my yellow bowl back, but this time it seemed to smell different and was covered with cheesecloth.
When I removed the cheesecloth the beef not only smelled different, it had some bubbly looking things in it! Grandma had a smirk as if she knew I’d react how I did. A smirk, not her usual full toothy beautifully gapped smile.
“EEEWWWW, what is that!” I screamed.
She said, “Child that is roe. Roe from the fat catfish.”
I apparently looked puzzled.
“Caviar! Fish eggs,” she said. “You’ve eaten it all your life.”
I was in shock. I sat there silently, wondering how long had I eaten fish egg hamburgers. The last thing I remember from that day is feeling sick. The next day grandma squeezed me close to her while she had her morning coffee wearing her big fuzzy pink robe.
“One day you’ll be able to tell your children you used to eat caviar. I won’t make you eat that ever again.”
No matter what is going on all around us, we need food. Too often lack of food is what is going on in certain parts of the world, while where there is plenty, we might enjoy a morsel on our own or with our neighbors, family, or friends.
I would like to ask you: what tools do you use to cook? Is it a kerosene or gas stove? Charcoal or electricity? A combination? If there was a way to cook your food using less energy, would you want to know about it? This post is all about that, so you are in the right place!
Bibi Saleha (Sally) Qazi is a Tanzanian woman who came up with a brilliant idea. We call her Bibi, a title of respect that means “grandmother”. Bibi Sally is my mother, which might make one question whether I am biased, but once you read on I believe you will see that it makes good sense.
The idea is the Wonder Basket.
So what is it?
The Wonder Basket is a cooking tool that is made with all* recycled materials. Use of the Wonder Basket helps with busy and lazy schedules, as you can use your stove of choice for a short time and turn it off (or use it for other foods). You then transfer your pot to the Wonder Basket to continue cooking without additional energy, using only the heat it has already gathered. The Wonder Basket saves energy, which is good for the planet, people, and the pocket.
Where may one find one of these amazing Baskets, and is the answer Africa? Well, as much as you are welcome to visit Tanzania (as you should) and attend a training session with Mama Sally, you can make a Wonder Basket on your own!
Speaking of bias, I’ll be honest… as her daughter and a woman who has always wanted to be financially independent, the fact that my mom freely shares this information sometimes bothers me Why? Because through this knowledge she could provide for herself, which is something that is needed. However, as a human being I am so thankful, humbled, and proud that she does freely share, and I hope that this universe will continue to provide for her all that she needs and more. My mom rocks as a human, as a woman and as a mom!
How Bibi Sally makes the Wonder Basket
The Wonder Basket is made using ten items: 1) A basket or large wooden box 2) Nylon sheeting large enough for two linings 3) Thin sponge mattress for insulation or enough large wood shavings for lining 4) A piece of sturdy cotton cloth to cover the nylon 5) A nylon bag for a cushion lid 6) Sponge for the lid 7) A pillow slip for cushion lid 8) Some string and big needle 9) A pair of scissors 10) A small square of cardboard to put under the pot in the basket
How to make it
Take a large basket or box (around 50cm x 50cm x 50cm). Line it with the nylon sheet to insulate it. Create a base 3–4 cm wide at the bottom. Apply the second sheet of nylon to cover the base , and fill in the space between two nylon sheets to create a wall inside the basket or box, either with wood shavings or the sponge mattress. Seal the wall which is 3-4 cm wide by folding the nylon sheet overlap. Cover with the strong cotton cloth. I used a large pair of skintight pants as the elastic waist band covers the nylon wall perfectly and the legs can be folded into the central well. The cloth can be arranged to cover the inside of the basket and overlap over the basket walls. Give it a shape with the scissors or tuck it in and stitch with the string to hold it all together. The pillow must not be rigid. Fill the nylon bag with wood shavings or sponge; give it a shape to fit snugly into the well in the basket. Cover it with the pillow or cushion slip and stitch it shut.
How to use the Wonder Basket
All cereals/grains and most foods cooked in water can be cooked in the basket!
Measure and clean the cereal/grain to be used, soak it until saturated. Put it in a pot without salt and with enough water to cover it completely with 1 cm of water above it. Bring it to a boil and stir. Cover and boil for one minute. Then transfer the pot to the insulated basket and cover it immediately with the cushion lid. Make sure no hot air comes out or cold air goes into the covered basket. The cooking time is the same as when you use the stove.
A note about rice
One cup of rice absorbs about two cups of water, sometimes a bit more for mature grains. Soak the clean rice for a few minutes. Then heat the necessary amount of water, salt it and bring to boil; you can put in some oil and spices if desired. When it boils, put in the strained rice, and stir. When it starts boiling properly, cover it and move the pan to the basket, and immediately put the cushion lid on.
Meat, potatoes, and cassava can be cut into inch-long pieces and cooked as desired. Then add a little boiling water, put the lidded pot in the basket, and cover instantly.
The basket will cook the food and keep it hot for a long time. You don’t need to watch it for fear that it may get burnt, as there is no flame or live fire. Don’t open the basket to check the food before passing the minimum cooking time has elapsed.
You cannot fry, grill or bake with this method. You can sterilize juice, food, and bottles in the basket. Take it on safari or picnic, or the office or the farm.
Bibi Sally has been an advocate for nutrition and nutrition education in her community for decades. She has always been passionate about women’s rights, human rights, children in poverty, self-reliance, and having a good hearty laugh! She is also a phenomenal translator, having translated many of the Baha’i Holy Writings from English to Kiswahili, as well as other independent translation assignments.
If you have any questions about the Wonder Basket, please do ask.
*all recycled materials: Sometimes you might have to buy the basket, box, or other materials.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by ThinkSayBe. Photo credit to the author.
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
It happens every night when I lay my head on the pillow. I replay many of the day’s events back over in my mind. “Was I good friend, wife, sister, daughter, etc.? Was I good mother to my children? Did I set a good example?”
However, the events which have been playing over in my mind more and more frequently are the times I am not sure if I really listened to my children. “What was it my daughter was telling me about a friend of hers at school as I was hurriedly sending a text to my friend? What was my son showing me that he learned on his new video game as I nodded and pretended to see him play it while I sent an email?”
I know we all get caught up in this thing called life, but are we really present for our children?
At any one minute during the day, I feel like I have a laundry list of things to get done. A lot of times, I find myself sitting listening to my daughter read, and I am making a mental list in my mind of what I need to get from the grocery store. When I’m driving the kids to school, and they are in the backseat laughing, I am thinking of the things I need to get done that day while they are in school. What were they laughing about? I don’t know because I wasn’t really listening. And, that makes me a little sad.
I know one day, I’ll look in my rear-view mirror and they will be in junior high and then high school and they won’t be my little children anymore.
I have read so many articles and talked to so many friends about our kids being able to pay attention to what we, as parents, say. We have talked and discussed how too much time on electronics isn’t good for their attention. What about us as parents? It became crystal clear to me a few weeks ago when I took my children to the park. My son was on the swing, and I received a text from a friend. I was replying to her text while my son was saying something to me and I remember nodding and saying “Okay.” It turns out that he asked me if I would pay him a quarter for every time he jumped off the swing. You can imagine how surprised I was when he told me I had to pay him $4.50 for jumping 18 times!!!
These past few weeks, I have been thinking about how I have approached mothering, and I think I had something wrong. For some of you this may not be earth shattering, but for me it was ground breaking. And here it is…I will never be done with a grocery list, laundry list, cleaning, cooking, etc. There will always be broken things which need fixing and plants needing to be watered.
I was approaching things in my mind as things to check off like a list. I was thinking of my days as a destination, and that just isn’t how life is. In my head I thought if I get that grocery list done, then it is complete. If I finish this load of laundry, then it is done. But, the truth is, neither of those tasks are ever done, and unfortunately, I feel that I have wasted some of my precious time with my children using that approach.
I have started to look at my life as a journey and to try to enjoy it more along the way.
Coming to this realization has freed me to sit with my daughter and just listen to her read for 20 minutes without my phone right next to me. I don’t have to answer texts right away. I am able to watch my son play his new video game and show me his new trick because the laundry will always pile up, and I can get to it after I take 10 minutes to listen to him. I am waking up 10 minutes earlier to get lunches packed so I can talk to my kids in the morning while they are eating breakfast. I am taking a little of the pressure off myself to get everything done. I am getting most things done, and the things I don’t get to can wait until tomorrow if it means I can have some extra special moments with my kids.
I have found that slowing down my mind and my “to-do” list have made me a bit more calm, and in turn, it has helped me to be in the moment with my kids. Every night, we have dinner together and there is a “no toy and no electronics rule” at the table. It’s a time for our family to really listen to each other and make sure that we have a few minutes to “check in” all together as a family.
The one thing that won’t always be there are my 5 and 8 year olds. They are only like that for one year and then they just keep growing and growing and there isn’t anything I can do about it. As I look at them in my rear-view mirror, I want to know that I have really enjoyed them and not regret not spending precious time with them.
Do you have a way to really be “in the moment” with your children?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can check out Meredith’s life in Nigeria and her transition back on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.
Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.
Recently, my Gram passed away at 92 years old. She was remarkable in many ways, but her cooking is one of the things that stood out to anyone who knew her. It wasn’t just what she made, which was always delicious, but it was also how she made it.
My Gram was very much the matriarch of our family, and for years she hosted most of the holiday meals in her half of a double block home. She would get up at 3 AM to start cooking everything from scratch.
She was Polish, so many of her dishes came from that influence, although she could also whip out an amazing lasagna or cheesecake. Whatever was on the menu, she would work for days preparing and then serve us all in her dining room while she ate in the kitchen. (more…)
Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!
I’m about 35 week pregnant and on Monday the 19th my pre-term labor started, also known as Braxton-Hicks. We weren’t sure if that was labor but after 24 hours of consistent and regular contractions my husband and I decided to go to the hospital.
It seemed we made the right decision. I was in labor but because my doctors wanted to keep that baby inside me for at least one more week they gave me a shot that stopped my contractions and advised me to stay in bed for the next few days.
Though, it’s really hard to stay in bed or sit on the sofa while there are still so many things to do and with the laundry basket is calling my name.
Since we came back from the hospital I’ve had a few minor contractions but nothing really big and painful. I try to do less. I try to be more lazy. I try to enjoy this time. (Even though I’m having contractions now and then while writing this post 🙂
The only thing that I haven’t changed in my schedule is making my morning spinach smoothie.
A month ago, my doctor prescribed iron supplements, and since then I’ve also increased iron in my diet a little. I tried to bring some of these changes into the family diet but my husband is too stubborn and spinach or beets are too much for his taste buds. (more…)
Ewa was born, and raised in Poland. She graduated University with a master's degree in Mass-Media Education. This daring mom hitchhiked from Berlin, Germany through Switzerland and France to Barcelona, Spain and back again!
She left Poland to become an Au Pair in California and looked after twins of gay parents for almost 2 years. There, she met her future husband through Couch Surfing, an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals.
Today she enjoys her life one picture at a time. She runs a photography business in sunny California and document her daughters life one picture at a time.