Mshairfeh, Jerash, Jordan
I’d forgotten how much time Jordanians spend cooking! The women, mostly, but even Abu Tareq got involved in filling the qatayef I brought along in response to Wijdan’s reply as to what she’d like me to contribute: Bring something sweet like you!
I arrived in Mshairfeh around noon, laden down with juice, dates, cigarettes and the fixings for qatayef. Wijdan is always asking me when I’ll be coming back to visit, and I had promised her I’d come during Ramadan, because it just doesn’t feel like Ramadan here in Amman, without my Jordanian family to break the fast with. I know, though, that she can barely afford to feed her own children, so I always try to bring something along. Fruit juice because I know they never get anything but Tang. Dates because it’s sunna to break your fast with a date. Cigarettes because she always asks for them (though this time I didn’t think to bring a lighter, which she also needed). And qatayef because I love to eat one or two, but can’t eat a whole batch, and although I know how to make them, I’m not very good at it!I hadn’t even been there an hour when everyone gathered in the kitchen. Wijdan was making bread dough to be baked in her new oven later. Abu Tareq and the girls shredded dates, added them to the raisins and coconut I’d brought, folded them into the little pancake qatayef, and pinched the edges closed to make little half-moon pastries.
Then we all napped. There’s a lot of napping during Ramadan, especially in these hot, long summer days of fasting. The other common way of passing the time and taking your mind off your stomach is to read Qur’an, but I chose the napping route!
Then, around 4 o’clock, we gathered back in the kitchen and spent the next 3 hours on cooking. Salad, siniiya, kufteh, qatayef, bread, rice…. And all the while watching little Taqwa (18 months) wander around the kitchen and take one bite of every vegetable (even raw potatoes!), bowl and plate, while Ghadeer (18 years) asked every 10 minutes, “Ya Maryah! What time is it?”
That said, there is no better seasoning than hunger, and when we finally tucked into the meal, I tucked away so much delicious food that it hurt for an hour!