Tuesday, May 22, 2007


(African Proverb)


After months, nay, years on my “want to read” list, I finally got hold of a copy of Minaret by Leila Aboulela. I am intrigued by the new genre of fiction that seems to have sprung up, all rreflecting young Muslim, Sikh, or Hindu lives in modern Britain; and this, Aboulela’s 2nd novel,
falls squarely into that category.

Minaret is the story of Najwa, twin daughter of a senior government official in Sudan. Her home life is luxurious in the extreme, however there is some dubiety about her father’s business dealings and his relationship with the corrupt post colonial government. Whilst studying at Khartoum university in the 1970s she meets a very wild and radical young socialist, Anwar, and feels a definite spark of interest grow between them.

Without any warning signs to the politically naïve Najwa, there is a coup d’etat in Sudan; and she, her twin brother Omar, and their mother flee the country and end up in London. Her father is tried and then executed by the new regime. London, instead of being a temporary place of refuge, becomes all in all to Leila and her family. Omar, her twin, and an incredibly spoilt young man, continues to indulge his drug habit and ends up jailed for four years on a charge of drug dealing; and then her mother falls ill and dies. Out of the blue Anwar appears in London, he too is now a political refugee. Leila helps him with money, clothing, a computer, and more importantly by editing his political articles and translating them into good English. She and Anwar start having an affair as she fully believes they will soon be married, and so she is devastated when he discards her and embarks on an arranged marriage with a very conventional Muslim girl. Desperate to get out of the house, Najwar takes a job with the wife of an old family friend; then, when that friend moves to the coast, she finds a position working for a young Arab couple primarily as the nanny/ maid where she starts to fall in love with the younger brother of her employer who is considerably. Alone again, and now with her capital severely diminished Najwa is slowly sliding down the socio-economic scale. From loneliness, and from a genuine interest in her own religion, she joins a women’s group at the Regent’s Park mosque, and adopts the hijab and style of dress of a devout Muslim woman.

This complex book has a delicate, almost dreamlike quality and, and Najwa’s yearning for a sense of who she is follows a journey from prosperity and pride to humility and eventually a sense of peace.


Oh hell. I’ve been tagged. And after months of avoiding such things. The evil tagger is aberdeenquinie whose blog Chez Teuchter is always worth reading. What I have to do now is list 8 random facts about myself that you may not know. How boring is that??
Well, sez she grumpily, I better get it over with:

1. I don’t like avocado pears – this dislike sprang from being served them mashed up between two slices of commercial white bread as sandwiches at boarding school. Yuck.

2. I broke my right ankle twice in the past four years – don’t ask, it was a long and sorry story, but I managed not to spill a drop of my G&T the first time, and the second time I drove home very, very slowly and only using the handbrake, letting out a scream every time I had to put my foot down. The orthopaedic surgeon was not amused.

3. I have the same colour and style of hair as my Cairn terrier, ie dirty blonde; only mine is from a bottle.

4. My husband is from Aberdeen, need I say more?

5. I love Country & Western music, the cheesier the better (my family call it Cry & Die music).

6. I hate emptying the dishwasher – I don’t mind stacking it though.

7. I prefer wearing trousers to skirts – in fact I haven’t worn a skirt for about 6 years. Note to self: do I HAVE any skirts now?? Must check wardrobe.

8. I have had a driving license for nearly 40 years, and until I did 48mph on a 40mph stretch of the A40 which is 3 lanes wide, I’d never had any points on it; now I have 3, boo hoo. Bloody speed cameras.

Riiight, here is where I get my own back, I tag ash, and Around My Kitchen Table


It's May; like the swallows, the first visitors from Southern Africa appear (in our spare bedroom). In this case it is one who shall henceforth be known as BFCT (my Best Friend in Cape Town) and who I am absolutely thrilled to see. Today we went to the Chelsea Flower Show, and tomorrow we will sit around doing a great deal of chatting and drinking white wine spritzers. To ensure we are not completely legless, I am getting up early to make something that can be dipped into whilst we put the world to rights. It is from somewhere in the Middle East,(I believe at least 3 countries lay claim to it) and is utterly delicious. My recipe comes from a small book of recipes by Claudia Roden the famous writer on Middle Eastern cooking; the book is one of a series produced for Sainsbury's in the 1980s. What can I say, this recipe is foolproof. Give it a go, you won't regret it!


Serves 4

1 large aubergine
Juice of 2 lemons
3 Tablespns tahini
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tablespns cold water

A few sprigs of parsley, chopped finely, to garnish.

Roast the aubergine under the grill, turning it a few times until the skin is black and blistered and the flesh feels very soft when you press it. Peel the aubergine, and using your hands (which you have washed!!) squeeze out the juice. Place the flesh in a blender or food processor with the lemon juice, tahini, garlic, salt to taste and the 2 tablespns of water and purée until smooth.

Put the Baba Ghanoush into a small, shallow dish and sprinkle with the parsley.

Serve with hot pitta bread or vegetable crudités.


Bybee said...

You're my hero. I have given up skirts as well. The last one I wore was on November 23, 2004. (Job interview!)

Re: your foot -- you're one tough girl.

The eggplant recipe looks great. I love the way the vegetable itself looks, that lovely blackish purple.

realdoc said...

Driving on a broken ankle beats Gordon Brown having root canal work without an anaesthetic.
If you don't mind I won't try the recipe as I have the same problem with aubergines as you do with avocadoes (and they look like haemorrhoids).

Aberdeenquinie said...

I do enjoy your 3Rs, herschelian; another interesting book to add to my Mount TBR - and another good recipe - and eight interesting random facts too, good sport that you are.
V impressed by the non-spillage of G&T, even under extreme circumstances.

Got your tickets for the Hampton Court Show yet? I'm taking aged Ma and No2 Daughter on the Tuesday.

She's right about the hamorrhoids, btw.

healingmagichands said...

Babaganoush is GREAT stuff! If you haven't tried it, follow the recipe and enjoy. We like to put some roasted garlic in it as well, yum yum. I've never actually seen a haemorrhoid, only experienced them, so I'll have to take your words for what they look like. I'll still eat eggplant.

I find it interesting that you don't like to empty the dishwasher but don't mind loading it. I thought my husband was the only person with this peculiarity!

And C&W music being called Cry and Die! I just love that term.

Ash said...

I also dislike emptying the dishwasher - it seems like such pointless work! I'll be doing your meme tomorrow probably. I already did a weird things meme, but I'm sure I can find a few more :)

Ash said...

Just wanted to tell you that I've put a very interesting youtube clip on my blog about Zimbabwe. I watched it once and I can't bear to watch it again - all that wasted hope.

Anonymous said...

That sounds so delicious!
Did you post your recipe allready at http://daily-cook-book.blogspot.com?
It really sounds like the kind of recipes they are looking for!
I will try it this week!

herschelian said...

Thanks to you all, bybee, realdoc, aberdeenquinie, ash, healingmagichands and DailyNew for your comments - it may be childish but I get a real buzz when I see someone has commented!

Jeanne said...

Great random facts!! I think I feel abotu banana the way you do about avocado... I also put it down to childhood trauma with a mashed fruit ;-) And I actualyl love both stacking AND emptying the dishwasher. Even after I had moved out of home, I'd come to see my parents and you'd find me unpacking a steamign dishwasher. My mom and I had a phrase for it - "Jeanne is fulfilling her calling". I think it appeals to the same little pocket of OCD in me that dictates strict chronological order for all my photographs...!

Kelila said...

Interesting to know.

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Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!