Skills and Eating – for Life

October 30, 2009

Asalaam ‘Alaikum:

I wasn’t going to post any more this week. However, sometimes enlightenment hits you – even if it’s not an earth shaking idea. I’ll take what I can get! Well, I just borrowed a DVD from the library called “Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger”. Yes, I’m on a quest to eat healthier foods – but I don’t want to compromise on taste. For those of you who are already bored – don’t worry, somewhere in this post you will find something relevant to homeschooling. Somewhere. Just bear with me!

Anyway . . . I was making Vanilla Spice Oatmeal this morning for breakfast – at the kiddos urgent request (they really love oatmeal, masha’Allah). I don’t know how many of you out there actually take the time to make your own oatmeal (no those packets that you just pour water over is not considered “making your own”). Sorry. I was standing there preparing the oatmeal and I was thinking about how I used to prepare those little packets for the girls (up until this year). After reading that book “Eat This, Not That” I re-examined our use of those sugar laden packets of cereal and realized that even in its “healthy disguise” (we should all eat more oatmeal – right?) oatmeal eaten this way is just not good for you.

Then, I was wondering – why in the heck have I always just resigned myself to making this junk food disguised as healthy food anyway? This is where the enlightenment part comes in – so stand back! In this day and age – the amazing age of fast food and readily prepared food – where we are always too busy running from one place to another – no one has bothered to pass down the great gifts of self reliance anymore because we have lost the way. What – you say? How do you get that from a tiny packet of oatmeal? Well, this thought started there – but it took me down other paths, you see. Don’t look so surprised – I mean, you have read some of my other posts, haven’t you?!?

I made those tiny sugar-laden packets of oatmeal because that is the way my mother made oatmeal for us as children. My mother never made her own oatmeal – and I doubt that she knew how. Mind you, she wasn’t the best cook anyway – but I am sure that even “good cooks” out there may not make everything themselves these days. Think back to the days of Laura Ingalls – Subhan’Allah – I always admiringly look upon those days, wishing for its beautiful simplicity. I know – life must have been hard back then – lots of work too. However, imagine how wonderful it must be to build your own house (can you imagine!) – to sew your own clothes – to make your own cheese, ice cream and yogurt – to milk your own cow. I’m sure some out there still live this way (but not many) – I’m sure though, that many would stare at a cow and wonder where the milk comes from (if they even know milk comes from cows and not the dairy section of their local supermarket). I wonder though, what it must have been like to be a Muslim back then, though. Perhaps I don’t want to know. Anyway, I don’t know about how these things affect other societies or other cultures – although I have even seen changes in Yemen as well (believe it or not). The point is – we have definitely lost our way- we are so out of touch with the world around us – our food – the earth – our history and culture.

We no longer raise the animals we eat – and most people only buy a slab of meat at the market not even knowing where it came from. Yes dear, it just amazingly appeared already packaged in styrofoam – right? Most people have no idea of how the animals they eat are raised – how they are treated, what they eat or how they are slaughtered. And, as a Muslim (might I remind you) this is extremely important. Unless I don’t understand it properly – it doesn’t just make an animal halal to just say “Bismillah” and slaughter it. Mind you, I am no scholar – but in my limited understanding there are ways that things must be done – and most of us are terribly ignorant of that fact (myself included). Most “halal” meat providers slaughter “Islamically” yet they have no idea what that animal was eating prior to slaughter or how it was treated and raised – because they often just bought it at auction. Don’t believe me? Ask. You’ll be shocked at the answer. I have also gone to a slaughterhouse with my husband and seen inhumane treatment of the animals as well (Once an animal had a chain wrapped around its ankle and was raised up high to be slaughtered – dangling by its leg – upside down. Another time the person brought another animal into the same pen where one animal was being already slaughtered) – all against the Islamic rules of slaughter – but you knew that, didn’t you? The problem is, how many of us actually know what is going on? Even while visiting Yemen once I witnessed a man bring his sheep to a garbage bin. The night before, the place next to us had a huge wedding party and their scraps where all in the bin. The man pulled down the sheets of paper filled with leftovers and fed his sheep. Do you think he bothered to take out the meat that was on the paper? No. Wait, I know – perhaps he knew the wedding party was filled with vegetarians. My mistake. Anyway – the main point is that we truly need to wake up and smell the grande low-fat iced vanilla double-shot gingerbread cappuccino! We have to make ourselves more aware.

It’s not just the meat we eat – what about the other stuff we put into our mouths. The drinks – the vegetables – the grains – the fruits. Most of these items are not the same as when we were growing up (Subhan’Allah – just look at the book “Eat This, Not That” and it will tell you we consume way more calories by drinks than ever before). I mean, look at good-for-nothing corn syrup – it’s in almost every packaged food item on the shelves of your local supermarket. We recently ate out (a rare event) and the side-item for the kids was applesauce. The girls usually eat regular unsweetened applesauce (I mean, do you really need to add sugar to everything?!?) The second ingredient – after apples – was corn syrup! That’s just not normal – and it isn’t good for you.

When I was growing up, we were fortunate enough to have a huge backyard garden. I also grew a garden as a girl scout and knew where my food came from. I loved it. Now, we live in a house with a small sloped backyard and I wouldn’t want to grow anything there anyway – our neighbors (and dh) use way too much fertilizer to take care of their beautiful green grass. Instead of growing wonderful food in your backyard – you grow useless grass! I mean, my neighbor cuts his grass a few times a week – making sure to make those pretty horizontal and vertical lines just like commercial grass cutters. How sweet, right? Well, I remember when my mother-in-law came to visit us. We’d show her the landscape – the mountains – the trees. She wasn’t impressed. She simply said “in our country, the trees grow fruit.” Enough said. I mean, when I was growing up my grandmother had trees in her yard. She had a lemon tree, an apple tree and a pear tree. We loved to pick the fruit! Living here – with little tree cover and little shade – I still do love trees – don’t get me wrong. However, I can’t help but truly miss those that bore fruit. I mean, when was the last time you just went into your backyard and picked fruit fresh from the tree and ate? We don’t know what we are missing out on! These trees not only provide shade, but they provide sustenance as well. So, (lucky me) instead we have a treeless yard and grass – lots of grass. I shouldn’t leave out that other wonderful trick – lots of rocks to go around the grass so you don’t have to spend all day cutting grass (for those lazier folks out there – you know who you are :0) So, you not only have mounds of useless grass – you also have a wonderful rock garden. This isn’t coming across as complaining or anything, is it?

Well, I’m only in control of what I do and what I can do – I can’t always reason with everyone else. So, some things I just have to miss – and that’s that. Anyway, I can’t stress enough how I miss feeling the soil between my fingers – and the joy of eating what you grew yourself. I remember that a friend of mine – while growing up – her grandparents had a huge garden and they would eat from it all year long. They spent time canning and preparing vegetables and fruits for freezing together as a family. Now, we go to the grocery store and find fruits and vegetables that we aren’t even sure of their origins. Where are they grown? Are they covered with harmful pesticides or other chemicals? Are they genetically modified? Are they safe to eat? How will their consumption affect myself and my family?

I kind of rambled on about the food – didn’t know I was thinking all that stuff. My goodness, what brain I have left is often chasing around the kids all day and I rarely get a chance to stop and actually think – especially out loud. It sometimes shocks me where one idea takes me to another – and another – and another. I am not kidding . . . in normal conversation with friends it usually goes like this “Oh, did I tell you about ….” and then a few minutes later “Oh, that reminds me about …” and then a few minutes later “oh, what was I originally talking about?” I think I’ve signed myself up for early senility unknowingly – must have been while enjoying my morning coffee!

What I was really consciously thinking about this morning while fixing the oatmeal was also the way our lives had changed in other ways. Thinking of the girls, I remember when my grandmother taught me how to embroider (she didn’t actually teach me how to sew – she died before having the chance). She also taught me how to crochet – but she did not know how to knit. What wonderful knowledge used to be passed on from generation to generation. Now, you find few people who still do these things. Women used to teach their girls how to sew, crochet, knit, cook, bake, etc., etc., etc. Nowadays you find many women who can’t do these things and I know a few sisters who don’t even know how to cook – at all. Subhan’Allah – their husband’s have to forego dinners like frozen fish sticks with tartar sauce at least a couple of times a week. We need to get back to the basics of life (at least as much as possible) and share these important crafts and life skills to our children. My grandmother was a home-ec. Teacher and she loved this sort of thing. I remember once she gave me a wonderful book – it taught you the basic skills of living – things like how to fold towels, how to set the table, how to sew, etc. Masha’Allah – how wonderful it is to teach yourself and your children to be self-sufficient. Anyway – I feel that it is high time that we start returning to some of the ways we used to do things – and some of the things we used to teach before we got so blinded by the “easy life.” You know, if you need something – just go to Wal-Mart and get it, right?!?

If you were not fortunate enough to pick up these skills – try to find someone in your family or community that has them and have them teach your child. Hey, while you’re at it – watch and learn yourself too! There are places that teach sewing (I even took some classes, masha’Allah) – others that teach crochet and knitting. I even have a friend who knows how to make her own clay beads to make necklaces. I know that I have heard on the homeschooling groups posts about books available online for learning other life skills – if I get a chance, I will try to post the links here I just can’t find them right now. Sorry. Anyway, the opportunities for growth and learning are endless.

Also, way back when, boys were also often taught things like wood-working skills or mechanics (either things like fixing cars or fixing machines around the house). My brother was really good at taking things apart – he just never could put them back together again. Imagine my parents surprise when the tv was sitting there – all taken apart! I still remember my dad puttering around either in the garage or in his basement workshop. I just wish he had actually taught me something! Unfortunately, I never gained these skills. I really regret that – but I doubt I will ever have that chance now – and dh definitely has never been taught these skills. I had to teach him how to use a hammer J I have to admit – whenever I see someone actually make something for themselves out of wood, like a deck or cabinetry, etc. – I still get that “I wish I could take a class for that” yearning . . . However, I really doubt I will ever actually go through with it – so sad. Anyway, if there is anyone in your family – anyone in your lives that do have these skills it would be a wonderful gift for your child to involve them. Ask the person to let your child be an apprentice. If worst comes to worst – at least let your child sign up for those neat kids’ classes they have at Home Depot or Lowes. I’m sure your kiddos will be grateful.

Well, if you actually stuck around and read to the end of this post – congratulations! To reward you for your patience with my rambling, I’ve decided to add that recipe for the Vanilla Spice Oatmeal I was making this morning.

Boil 3 ½ cups of water. Add 2 cups oatmeal. If you like plump raisins, add ½ cup raisins while boiling. Otherwise, add them afterwards. Boil for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up, add ¼ tsp. vanilla, 1 pinch of nutmeg and 2 tbsp. brown sugar. Sprinkle toasted walnuts on top. If you like your oatmeal creamy, drizzle a bit of milk on the top of the oatmeal. Eat and enjoy!

I bet you never knew making oatmeal could be so thought provoking! Make some today and see what thoughts you come up with.. .

Asalaam ‘Alaikum,

Sumayyah Umm SAA

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6 Responses to “ Skills and Eating – for Life ”

  1. kanadiyah on October 30, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    MashaAllah I love this post… again very inspiring for me 🙂 Jazaki Allah khair for the recipe too

  2. umm abdurrahman on October 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Wa alaykumussalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. MashaAllah, I agree with you about those life skills. When I was younger I wanted to be a home economics teacher, or work as a home economist. However, when I realised that it was about looking after/maintaining the home I was put off. Now many years later, Alhamdulillah I’m glad for the training that I received at school. In england, uk it is no longer taught in school although I think there was a campaign or some kind of activity to teach children how to cook. Our home economics lessons were two part – the first part of the year was spent cooking (my favourite part) and the second part was textiles (I didn’t enjoy this part so much – only years later it’s come in handy, Alhamdulillah). I believe home management skills are sooooo important (male/female, married/single) knowing how to sew, knit, cook, clean, – Alhamdulillah, my mum taught me how to clean, cook, sew, knit. We did woodworking and metalwork at school but I didn’t take it seriously then. Wasalaam

  3. Fruitful Fusion on October 31, 2009 at 1:15 am

    Assalaamu ALaykum,

    Ma sha Allah a great post! What your mil said about trees bearing fruit reminded me of my mil in Algeria and how her garden is big ma sha Allah, but not fancy. It’s just full of fruit bearing trees ma sha Allah!

    BTW, I make my own oatmeal too (but we call it porridge 😉 )

    Umm Hibaat

  4. educatingthemuslimchild on October 31, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Asalaam ‘Alaikum Umm Hibaat:

    Jazak Allah Khair – glad you liked it. Yes, my mil’s garden is just dirt with plants here and there (not as nice as what I have seen here). However, everything is fruitful and bountiful. Masha’Allah, every day they take some limes down from the tree and make aseer. My backyard may have grass and all – but I would gladly trade it for something so fruitful, masha’Allah.

    When you get a chance – please send me your recipe for porridge. I’m having trouble as I would love to eat oatmeal or porridge, but I just don’t like it (at least so far). My kids love it though, masha’Allah. I want to find different ways to cook it in order to start eating it myself. I have heard there is also a difference in how the oats are cut? I have heard that some like one method of cutting over another – but I am truly clueless about oatmeal. I only know it would be a good addition to my breakfast.

    Asalaam ‘Alaikum,
    Sumayyah

  5. veiledservant-Khadija on November 6, 2009 at 6:23 am

    i came on to your blog by accident, and mashallah it was the inspiration I needed, the words it seem to me, came rigth out of my month! My mother taugth me to sew, and I have been thinking last few weeks how much I want to teach my boys (my 10 and 5 year) how to sew, as its just one of the best life skills. Thankyou for your post, I have added you to my favourites.

    Khadija, perth Australian

  6. Fruitful Fusion on November 7, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Assalaamu Alaykum Sumayyah,
    When I make porridge I toast the oats a bit. Something I picked up from my mum. I put them in the pot and kind of dry fry them until they just start to take on a light brown colour. This prevents them from being slimey when they’re cooked. I then add water to cover them and let the water boil away really, just to cook the oats. Then add milk and bring to the boil. Ocassionally I add butter to the oats before adding the water, but that gives you a richer, more of a treat, type of porridge! I also add a little sugar, honey and/or cinnamon. The kids like it with stewed apples too! I know there are quicker methods. But I like it this way and actually prefer the oats to stay a little firm.
    I hope that helps sis!
    Wassalaamu Alaykum,
    Umm Hibaat

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