One small step for man, one giant leap for Chef Zahra

August 3rd, 2017

This day should really go down in history. After 21 years, 7 months, and 3 days, Zahra Khozema cooked herself a meal without the help of a microwave, Maggie, or mama.

As someone who LOVES to eat, it’s a shame I can’t cook. It truly is disgraceful, not because I should know how to cook as a person, rather as an advocate for solo travel, I should be able to support my own health.

Once I made chai for my family and instead of just telling me it wasn’t good, they not only refused to drink it, but also vomited it out in the mug, and drained it down the sink in front of my eyes. These days, my mom only SOMETIMES asks me to microwave leftovers.

Anyone who knows me knows the kitchen is allergic to me. It’s just not my thing. I get sweaty and nervous and my bladder awkwardly inverts. How much is one “table spoon of sugar”? Does it look like a big hill or a small mountain? Is “boiled” letting the surface bubble or stepping in just before the pot overflows? When the recipe says “cube”, do you cut vertically or horizontally first?

I’m always the first to volunteer as tribute to wash the dishes or mop the floor or make the beds, just to avoid a possible culinary failure. However, now that my roommates have left, I have no choice but to enter the place that gives me the most anxiety: the kitchen.

When the tummy growls and the fat from take-out shawarmas find its way to your love handles, hunger and low self-esteem become the biggest motivating bitches to push all your fears and limits.

I made coffee two days ago and when it was finally done and my lips quivered for a sip, my shaky caffeine craving hands tipped the ENTIRE Moka Pot over along with my hopes and dreams to have a good morning.

Can we just have a moment of silence here, please?

Ok, that’s good.

Nonetheless, I didn’t let this unfortunate accident stop me. I tried again. It tasted like shit, as expected.

This is why I love travel, it forces us to do things we never would in our normal lives: spark unlikely conversations, learn new languages, fly in parachutes, fall in love, and in my case: cook.

From Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that physiological requirements like food, water, and warmth take priority over all. I tried to satisfy myself by believing Harissa and bread were enough for a meal because travel is temporary and I’d be home enjoying my mom’s biryani in no time.

Boy, was I wrong, I need food in all its groups. The local supermarket in my little town does not sell fruits and vegetables so I ignored them from my diet for a month. When my family called me “chubby” on video chat, I knew I had to change. I asked the students I’m teaching to take me to the street shops that sell fresh produce and bargain in a language I don’t speak.

This morning I cut ALL the vegetables I bought for my pasta and put in a blind eyed version of every spice in my disposable container filled kitchen.


Result? I didn’t die or I burn the place down. I did it. I made a meal. My very first meal was warm and fresh and tasted somewhat decent. I took a thousand pictures of it and sent them to everyone I knew.

As I washed the 5000 dishes I dirtied with a big smile on my face, I thought about how my celebrity crush Chef Ramsay would be so proud of me after calling me a “stupid cow” and ask to marry me soon.

I don’t know what the moral of this post it. So here is me being cheesy:

Do you guys. Don’t let the haters stop you. You got this.

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