Review Snippet: Stirring the Pot by Quraisha Dawood

This may be a work of fiction, but it doesn’t mean that there are little truth or facts herein. What started out as an academic thesis for Dr Quraisha Dawood, turned out as an intriguing fictionalised account, mainly centering around the relationships between Muslin women and their domestic helpers (the ‘madams’ and ‘maids’ dynamic).

It results in a story as colourful as the cover of this book. We meet the inhabitants of Summer Terrace, a block of flats on Durban’s beach front. The story is all about relationships – relationships with religion, relationships between family members, relationships between the members of this close-knit community, relationships between husbands and wives, relationships between ‘madams’ and ‘maids’, as well as the relationships between the domestic helpers themselves. It is about dependency and co-dependency, with a few political, moral and religious dilemmas in-between.

And amongst all the happenings, the presence of food – the nourishment, the ritual, the richness thereof – almost like a very strong supporting role in a movie. Each chapter ends with a recipe, a delicious and decadent treat that takes you back to the centre of it all.  Something divine that I’m dying to have a taste of. Seriously, I want to try it all.

It is a gem of a read, and specifically as South Africans, some may see it as a tad controversial and uncomfortable. I valued the unique insight I gained from this read, some things I knew, and some I didn’t. I found it a rich, cultural journey – and found the fact that the last part of story culminated in Ramadaan, which is currently happening, fascinating. It is almost like a clean slate, a full circle. Only to begin again.

I think that “Stirring the Pot” is such an apt title.  For me, it refers to the act of physically preparing food – caring, feeding, serving, nourishing, ritualistic meals, the traditional.  But also stirring up emotions, not accepting the status quo, asking moral questions, disrupting what is.   It was an emotional journey – frustration, curiosity, happiness, heartache, laughter, celebrations, devastation, acceptance. It is definitively a 5-star read for me! And the divine recipes is an additional bonus.

*With thanks to Penguin Books SA for the copy, in exchange for an honest review.

Here is an extract from this book.



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