Muslimahs, Recipes and the Blogosphere

One of my favorite hobbies is reading food blogs. I am passionate about desserts, and I spend much of my time baking and taking pictures of my creations. When I was growing up, baking was something I picked up from my step-mother, who loved all kinds of “women’s work” such as cooking, baking, sewing and knitting. While my mother identified as a feminist of a generation that broke away from housewifery and did not pick up any “womanly” crafts, my step-mother saw cooking and baking as “food for the soul.”

Some of the things I have been baking – cream puffs.

Today my mother regrets not learning anything “housewifery” from her mother and has learned to enjoy having me baking every week, although she also complaints about the lack of “healthy options” when it comes to sweets.

In my reading of food blogs, I have found that they are attracting large audiences not necessarily defined by gender. Unlike sewing-blogging, which remains predominantly female, food-blogging has become less of a “womanly” thing; for instance, now there are by and for men, dedicated to convincing men that they can cook or those which cater to men who already like the craft. Since I have been entertaining the idea of having a food blog, I have been shopping for ideas on how to merge my multiple identities as a Muslim convert, as a Latin American woman and a feminist, without being cheesy or preachy.

Muslim women from all around the world have been writing for years about recipes and food. Today you can find plenty of blogs featuring Muslim writers discussing recipes from all over the world. Last Ramadan, MMW featured post by several of our writer who shared their favorite Ramadan recipes. While Anike invited us to explore Nigerian cuisine, Merium took us back to her childhood in Buenos Aires through Pakistani food. Likewise, Tasnim, who enjoys blogging about Libyan food, presented us with her iftar menu, and I brought back an old Mexican-Lebanese recipe for the holidays.

Muslim foodie bloggers these days seem to be trying a variety of things, mixing and matching from various cultures both within and outside the Muslim world. From Muslim Indian recipes to English cooks preparing “Muslim mince pies,” recipe bloggers are more willing to open up and try new things that resonate with their particular lifestyle (i.e. those who follow halal rules). Thus, we find everything from Western bloggers discussing South-Asian recipes and bloggers finding ways to reinvent “halal” cuisine to those who are trying to recover the culinary glory of Muslim Spain or explore vegan diets while being Muslim.

While there are numerous well-established Muslim recipe blogs, many other Islamic blogs or pages will occasionally feature recipes (like in here, here and here) or food discussion forums, particularly if the site features a large female audience.

Something that I constantly find in some of these blogs is the common link between cooking, womanhood and housewifery. Family is also thrown in the mix, along with fashion and parenting, as if all these things were links to Muslim women’s broader purposes in life.  I also find that Muslim converts are particularly strong in making connections in their blogs between their cooking and their roles as wives, mothers, Muslims and as converts.  I don’t know why this is, but perhaps these converts are better in articulating their experiences and choices through food.

Fatayer – My fiancé’s family recipe.

At the same time, the food blogosphere is also attracting Muslim men. Part of this phenomenon seems to be that Muslim men are now leaving alone either as a students or expatriates; thus, cooking becomes a necessity. Guy-cooks are participating online not only by commenting in blogs, but also by having their own outlets; for instance, A Cooking Guide for the Single Muslim Guy or Youtube videos teaching men that  Muslim Men Can Cook.

Unlike sources specifically targeting Muslim men, many female writers often identify their blogs as portals to the lives of mothers and wives who can not only dispel misconceptions about Islam but also teach and direct others towards the “proper” ways of managing a household.

 

I don’t think much of this. Call me crazy, but frustration with the association of the “domestic” with the “womanly” is something I think I may have inherited from my mom. I do not see cooking as “my” role as a woman and I definitely don’t see myself as a perfect prospective wife just because I enjoy greasing baking pans and frying stuff. As happy as I am to “recover” the lost “sciences” of domestic work in the modern time, I see it more of a skill that we could ALL use rather than a gender-prescribed role. Moreover, I definitely don’t see it as a gender role that Islam has brought along to my life. While this is not the place for theological discussions, few Islamic sites often refer to men equally sharing household responsibilities based on the Prophet’s Sunnah (i.e. here, here and here).

I am continuing my search for the ideal blend of Muslimness and Latin-Americaness with just the right touch of feminism and femininity. I am hoping to find and create a cuisine blog that caters to an audience broader than wives and mothers while still caring for those who are looking for halal recipes and multi-cultural cuisine ideas.

  • Izzie

    Lovelyyy Blog. I am a new wife, always CAUGHT UP, in between wanting to not be a servant class to men, yet learning to cook good dishes, and not be the “educated” stuck up wife. Considering that I spent this weekend, slogging in the kitchen,(thus again delaying my MMW deadline twice for the same reason) due to overnight guests, I can so relate to you. I am always wondering why a vacation, turns out to be work*2 for women.
    And so looking forward to your foodblog, Insha Allah. All the best

  • http://usgorikakhana.blogspot.com/ luckyfatima

    Nice topic.

    I also have a food blog, though it is totally amateur in design and rarely updated. I am a big foodie and I love reading food blogs.

    The idea of global “Muslim cuisine” or “halal food” doesn’t sit well with me since there is really no such thing. I like blogs that are very specific in focus with the origins or inspirations for their recipes, be it New American, South Western US, or Hyderabadi Indian. I do like the idea of adapting various traditional recipes that would be made with haram ingredients to suit requirements for halal ingredients.

    About converts: I have noticed among a lot of convert women of various backgrounds that when we marry native Muslim men, we often find ourselves compelled to learn our man’s home cuisine. For some of us it may be a way to connect to his culture, and it also may be because we get a lot of pressure and scrutiny from him, his friends and his local ethnic community, and especially his family members who are skeptical that we could ever cook his cuisine properly as foreigners. I noticed a lot of food blogs are penned by married-to’s in addition to people who are actually from whatever culture. The focus of my own food blog is mainly my husband’s family’s style of North Indian-Pakistani Muslim cuisine, too.

    BTW the link to “Muslim Indian recipes” is not authored by a Muslim, that is just a single North Indian Muslim style biryani she gave on her Indian food blog.

    I’m very interested to see what you come up with for your food blog. Very nice concept you have to start out with!

    I hardly share my food blog and always link to my wordpress blog but today I’ve linked to my food blog for this post :)

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    I pray your cuisine blog endeavor is successful and I would love to learn how to make fatayer!


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