These days, it’s easy enough for me to fry up, boil, or even poach an egg. I can’t be doing much else, mind you, while I’m making breakfast because I have trouble managing multiple tasks simultaneously. This results in poor timing and cold toast.
About 20 years ago, things were different. I was entirely dependent on my mother for omelettes. To this day, it’s one of those simple pleasures that makes every visit to my parents’ place feel like I’m back at home.
I remember, though, the first time that I ate eggs with a white family. It was with my first girlfriend’s family, while we were visiting them in B.C. I distinctly remember asking if it’d be okay if I were to eat my eggs with my hands, using bread to keep things together. While sitting at the dinner table for breakfast, I didn’t know how to use a knife and fork to get the eggs off of the plate and into my mouth. It was something that I had to learn.
Looking back, it’s curious why I didn’t already know that then. I had been around people who used cutlery all of my life. In our house, we, too, often used cutlery. My dad used two spoons when eating rice and curry. But, that was only when we didn’t use our hands. My mother used to feed me with her hands. I would take food into my mouth from out of the cone she shaped with her fingers.
These days, we don’t often use our hands to eat when we sit down to dinner as a family. In my own house, I regularly use cutlery.
What troubles me most about recalling that one breakfast is that I felt the need to ask for permission. The family was entirely accommodating, and in no way at fault, but I was still out of place. My way of eating differed from theirs and it was not them who asked me if I’d be comfortable eating with cutlery.
These “permission-seeking” moments appear throughout my life.
Is it okay for me to take rice and curry for lunch? Can I listen to a Bollywood song in my car as loudly as I would a song by Stormzy? Is it okay for me to take a shit at work? Are you sure you want me to be your date for this wedding at a country club?
Throughout my life, I’ve been teetering between the cultural norms I know from home and those I’ve learned from outside my home. For too long, I rejected those that came from home because I felt as though they weren’t going to get me anywhere outside of my home.
I’m not dating brown girls. My kids will be beige.
And, unfortunately, the culture outside of my home is the one that dominates my life. I gave in, in some way. I accepted that it’s the right culture because the one I knew inside of my home was too small to be significant.
I don’t like hanging out with other Ismaili people. I’m not going to khane. Why should I? Those kids just go to socialise, they don’t actually believe in anything. I’ve bought them drinks at the bar and they’ve bummed cigarettes off of me. Please, don’t tell me that they’re honest with themselves.
All along, whatever I knew to be true inside or outside of my home, was. It was me who was denying the truth, importance, and value of what I brought out into the world. I chose to drink coffee because all we had at home was tea.
I rarely eat with my hands anymore, unless I’m eating a bag of chips or a sandwich. I carry a set of cutlery in my lunch bag, complete with straws and chopsticks. When I make eggs for breakfast, I eat them with a knife and fork. When I’ve eaten the eggs, I wipe bread across the plate to sop up the runny yoke – my favourite part of the meal.
Whenever I visit home, we eat our omelettes with toast and it’s one of the most comforting meals I ever eat. Nobody ever asks me if I’d like a knife and fork, but I know where they are if I want to use them.