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  • Writer's pictureHifza Farooqi

Spices, the gateway to a happy heart

Hifza is a freshman at U.C. Irvine majoring in chemistry and is interested in medical research and medicinal chemistry. In her free time, she loves to journal, explore, read, write, and do crafts.

After eating the charred remains of the Thanksgiving turkey I burned when I was 13, my family made a pact to keep me away from the kitchen. After multiple attempts met with flat refusals, I learned to hold my tongue.

Among science workbooks from 4th grade, in the garage I found a treasure: A Decade of Cooking: The Costco Way. Taking a chance when I went grocery shopping with my mum, I wrote down the ingredients for recipes I wanted to try on my palm in Sharpie.

My mother was suspicious, but said nothing as I piled vegetables, herbs and spices upon the cart. A week later, I took out the ingredients and began cooking.

When my mother arrived home, she was initially upset that I was cooking alone. However, after a tiring day at work and having to pick my dad from LAX, the prospect of not having to cook was a godsend to her and the smell of freshly baked goods reduced her anger. Once my family tried my chicken torta and au gratin potatoes, they were impressed.

The next time I asked to cook, there were no objections; I began to cook more frequently. Once I finished the marked recipes, I turned to a new cookbook: the Internet.

I looked for recipes for things I always wanted to make as well as recipes for things I’d never thought to make. I looked for mysterious recipes with no regard to the ingredients. Steadily, I learned that I don’t need a recipe when I know what works together.

Cooking, though one may not know it at first, does not require fanciful ingredients or precise measurements. If I didn’t have string beans, I’d use snow peas. If I didn’t have all the spices, I’d compensate. It is a steady hand, a happy heart and lots of enthusiasm that’s most important.

As a Pakistani raised in the United States, I don’t know all the Urdu words, but I’ve come to know the tastes. The food of our Pakistani culture: salans, biryani, korma, keema. I’ve learned them all from my mother and from my family, but I have added my own spin. My biryani is always blue; my salan is always spicier.

From recognizing only cinnamon in my mother’s spice cabinet to naming all of the spices and adding some of my own, I began a family recipe book with my mother where I’ve written twists and tricks to serve as the A Decade of Cooking: The Farooqi Way for my children.


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