Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Fridays of my yesteryears


The Fridays of my yesteryears

Friday never arrived early enough, the end of the week, the break from school, the time to rest, have a lie in, have a late cooked breakfast, do the chores and then get ready to go out.

Friday was Beebee’s day.

When we lived miles away and both Beebees were alive it was a whole day’s worth of preparation and dining, visiting the two houses in one day, making sure to stay just long enough with one before moving on to the next, politely refusing the yummies offered by the first, so as not to spoil our appetite, then moving on to the second for the family get together.

Beebee NZ had a larger house, surrounded by fruit trees, with a tuckee tree in the back, and a vast front porch. She was an exquisitely good cook, and spent hours preparing the numerous dishes to be served in her dining room, I remember her sitting on her tiny little wooden stool, and digging fiercely in her pan to scrape out the perfectly formed circle of 7akaka. Her tiny kubba 7alab, and her roasted chickens, a delicacy you had to experience to appreciate.

Beebee NR had a smaller but beautifully positioned house, with a garden that stretched alongside the house in a slope, bordered by a concrete water turret and a motor that brought water up from the river.

In the back garden there was an old fig tree, it carried the dark reddish-purple soft sweet fruit every year, and provided climbing training for three generations of boys and girls.
She was not as passionate about cooking but had her well renowned specialties, her special pasta bake, her kataaif and her chocolate cakes.

On Friday the entire family would gather for lunch, or just a flying visit en route elsewhere, arriving in dribs and drabs from 12:00 noon to after 15:00, and depending on who was available the party would include at least ten, and more often in excess of thirty people, the get together occasionally joined by work colleagues and family friends, journalists, artists and archeologists.

While we waited listening to all manner of discussions and reminiscing I would nibble on the paper thin sheets of regag bread piled up high in the dining room, or sneak a sugar coated almond sweet from the little porcelain dish in the visitor’s room.

We would be shooed out to help fan the menqala from where the delicious aroma of cooking kebabs would emanate. Once cooked on one side they would be very carefully turned over and ultimately gingerly moved along the skewer to land on the bed of bread and be carefully covered by another sheet of bread, with mounds of parsley freshly cut from the garden on either side.

The meal would sometimes and particularly in Ramadan start with soup, followed by the variety of main meals, including the yellow turmeric flavored rice, a vegetable and meat stew in tomato sauce, and occasionally some boiled rather stringy loobya green beans, the meal was completed with a salad, and bread, and followed by a sweet or other my favorite was always poor man’s Baklava.

Very full, and after the ritual clear out, the food all transferred into smaller pots and pans, or bowls for the fridge or as Abu Jassim would put it “reduced”.
The dishes would be washed and carefully dried and returned to their places, and soon it would be four o’clock.

Moving into the sitting room, to station ourselves in front of the TV in time for the afternoon film, if it was good we would all settle down to watch, if not we would go out into the garden, scurrying around, or in my case pace up and down alongside the house under the qamaryia memorizing a verse of poetry or another page of the national education text that were the bane of my student life.

Within a few minutes it would be time for the coffee, black Turkish style with just a hint of sugar, I watched the tiny cups being served for years, and then finally I was old enough to try a sip, then a little more, and eventually my own cup of the bittersweet thick rich sauce like coffee, I can almost smell it now.

Once finished the cups would be turned over and left to settle for a while, the patterns in the bases that held the secrets of our future would be read by my Beebee who took it all very seriously, and who would occasionally get very upset if it looked like bad news, or occasionally by her niece who treated the whole thing like an enormous joke, her readings always included monsters, and the occasional dark handsome man!
For many years everyone of a certain age looked into their coffee cups and wishfully saw planes.

Silence would fall, the television flickering in the corner, concentration lagging, eyelids dropping, and as we counted how many of the adults had drifted off an aunt’s loud snore would jolt them all awake and us into fits of giggling.

At six it would be cartoon time, and then time to head home, to get ready for another day, another week.

I did not always enjoy my Fridays, I often wished we could do something else, go somewhere else, now I wish I could have just one Friday like we used to have.

The picture is a scene from my grandmother's garden, taken sometime in the 1970s. The amateurish modifications are to hide the people in the original photo.

Yasmin (Blanche) said...
helo 3eeraqi medic,
nice memories..
Subhan Allah , yr Beebee's house reminded me of Our house.. the front garden, the design..
a glimpse of the beautiful calm memories of the past..
04 June 2007 09:55

3eeraqimedic said...
I am so glad you liked this, it was inspired some time ago by your post, which I read last thing at work, and your final line about the house / road not being there anymore made be burst into tears at work! It has taken me some time and my pictures to be able to complete it.
It is odd that when I see the houses in the UK I have always thought how ugly they are all identical, our houses are unique and yet I guess they are also all similar in some ways.
04 June 2007 19:56

Little Penguin said...
Your photoshop skills are not to be underestimated ;) I wouldn't have noticed that there had been a modification had you not pointed it out..

il muhim,

I didn't see a great deal of houses during my very short stay in Iraq.. everytime I went to visit a relative I knew that his/her house was going to be something new to me.. the grey gate, the neatly nurtured garden and the sitting rooms.. oh my god.. I fell in love with every single sitting room I saw, well not every single one but the vast majority..

Dr, you describe food so well.. I've just had Indian beryani and yet your intricate detailing of the oil-drenched sheets of bread that sandwiched the kabab made me drool! :)

Allah Ylim il shemil inshallah..

07 June 2007 00:41

3eeraqimedic said...
Little Penguin
Sorry so late! must have been daydreaming!
I know what you mean about the غرفة الخطار
As for the food, I have a life long love hate relationship with food! and spend exactly half my life dieting without success!
11 June 2007 22:13

saminkie said...
Wow 3eeraqimedic that was bittrly wonderful when you talk about those fridays....yeah...when I was a child...i could know from the sunny day that it is friday...from the sounds of birds...and from the smell of my mother's cooking...and father's relaxed tones of voice...sometimes he used to wistle when he woke up late in morning and start to shave slowly...thank for that picture too...
19 July 2007 10:44

3eeraqimedic said...
So sorry I missed this comment
Fridays hold very special memories, a family day we took for granted, simple, relaxed together.
Thanks for visiting again.
25 July 2007 19:27

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