The Secret Book

A couple months ago I got a book out of the library. I was looking for books about Islam. When I first became Muslim, the entire library system had hardly any books about Islam. Now there are over 1,000, but most of them are either the same kind of informational text: “There are five pillars of Islam…” or they are political: Why Muslims are our enemies. There’s not a lot there actually written for Muslims.

So I selected a promising title: Standing Alone in Mecca. The description said that it was about a woman going on hajj with her infant son. The first day I brought it home, my husband said, “From where did you get this book.” I said, “The library. I haven’t started reading it yet. Don’t know if it’s any good.”

My husband said (and I quote), “She’s one of those numb-nuts who thinks that men and women should pray together.” I placidly replied that maybe it wasn’t very good then, but secretly I wanted to read the book even more because I wanted to know what she had to say. I didn’t just want to hear my husband’s opinion on her. Besides, maybe she was just “guilty by association.”

So what happened was I hid the book and read it at night in secret, and, I have to say, that I feel in some way that this secret book reading proves some of her points. I mean, why should I feel the need to read a book in secret?

So far as it goes, it seems like she probably does believe that men and woman should pray together, and maybe she has done other things since the book was published, but what she actually fought for? That was sunnah, that was women’s basic rights. It’s hard to believe it’s even controversial.She argued for the right of woman to attend the masjids, use the main sanctuary, etc. She made a lot of comments about Wahhabis and salafis, but even people I know of who other people consider to be in those categories wouldn’t say otherwise. I listened to a lecture given by Dr. Bilal Philips, in which he explained that having a separate woman’s section in the masjid was contrary to sunnah (in fact a bida), and that the women had to be able to see the prayer. One of the local masjids has actually built their facilities without a separate prayer hall for women, and they reserve space in the masjid for woman. It is a newer building, so this was intentional. At the same time, there are other masjids that won’t even allow women because they don’t have a separate prayer room for them.

I’m not saying everyone has to agree, but I think judging people before you even listen to them is a dangerous thing. We need to listen more, not just be ready to fight our position.





Baking with Dextrose

So I went very enthusiastically into this low fructose diet, bought all the cookbooks and everything. Of course all the cookbooks are basically dessert cookbooks, as those are the main foods that would use a lot of sugar. Of course, I looked through them and was very eager to try out all the recipes, but I didn’t get a chance right away. I mean, especially I’m going on a low sugar diet, I’m not going to use it as an excuse to suddenly start eating more cakes and sweets!

So the first recipe I tried was the cinnamon tea cake. It was really lovely, one of those cakes that has sour cream in it, and the dominant flavor was the sour cream. The dextrose tastes just like regular sugar to me, so I might in the future even reduce the amount. In fact I think Gillespie is a little heavy on the dextrose. They claim it isn’t as sweet as regular sugar, so they use more.

It seems to me that if table sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, that if you are using something that is all glucose, you should actually (from a health perspective) half the amount. I know they say the fructose is the bad stuff, but it still doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea to swamp your body with extraordinary amounts of pure glucose on a regular basis.

Actually, my body doesn’t seem to react well to it. I was a bit hungry, and I didn’t find these desserts so exceptionally filling as Gillespie claims either. I ate two slices. Not two exceptionally large slices, but still two slices.  Very shortly, perhaps within 15 minutes, I started feeling extremely sleepy and then rather crappy. I looked it up online. The best answer I could find is: orexin. Orexin is apparently a hormone that controls wakefulness, and it is shut off by high amounts of glucose in the blood, which suggests that perhaps that I am a bit insulin resistant. My sister thought it suggested more that I was giving my body more pure glucose than it was expecting.

Anyway, I was reluctant at first to eat more cake even though it tasted good because I didn’t want to feel bad, but after that I stuck to eating small slivers, and I was just fine.

The next recipes I tried were the rhubarb apple pie, and the rhubarb crumble ice cream. These were an absolutely perfect dessert. I usually choose chocolate chocolate chocolate everything, but give me more pies like that and I might change my mind. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I halved the dextrose. I read the recipe and it told me to use 10 Granny Smith apples. I thought Granny Smith is very tart and you are pairing it with rhubarb? Then definitely you will have to use more dextrose. I chose to make a mixed apple rhubarb pie, which means that I just went down the bins at the local orchard and took one of each apple. In fact there were more varieties available, but I didn’t make it to all the bins. I was also skeptical about the 10 apples. That seemed like a lot for just one pie, so I only used 8, but I still had a lot of filling left. Apples must be really small in Australia. My reasoning with halving all the sugar in everything is that my family happens to like tart things like rhubarb and lemons to still taste tart. There are so many people who put so much sugar in their lemonade that it no longer tastes tart at all.

The desserts still tasted perfectly sweet to my guests and family, and I’m the only one doing this low sugar thing, so that tells you these recipes used way too much dextrose to begin with. I halved the amount of dextrose and no one could tell it wasn’t regular pie and ice cream (mind you of course you can make perfectly good sugar-free apple pie anyway).


Toddlers and Hijab

If you look that phrase up online, you find all kinds of things about people who are severely disturbed by the sight of a child wearing hijab. They think it sexualizes small children, etc.

I was thinking of buying my daughter a hijab. Certainly not because I think toddlers need to or even should wear hijab, but because she likes to play with mine, and I’m afraid she’ll trip on them. I also thought the weather had still been cold and maybe she could wear it sometimes instead of her hat or for dress-up, that kind of thing. I didn’t end up buying her a hijab. My husband and I found some small scarves for her to play with, and she does play with them, but she still takes the gauzy see- through ones from my three pieces and pulls those over her head and drags them all over the house, in imminent danger of tripping, so cute!

The other day, I was in the bathroom, and she took the long, wrist-length khimar that I use for salaat, and she had put it on perfectly, her face in the little hole and everything, never mind that it came down past her ankles. It was adorable!

So my take on toddlers in hijab is that children like to play dress up, and they like to imitate their parents, and what’s so wrong with that?

Not One of Those Bangladeshi Moms

Before Baby was born, I always swore that I was not going to be one of those Bangladeshi moms who was always chasing my children around with food in my hand trying to feed them. I had seen numerous Bangladeshi moms (and older sisters) trying to feed children, even as old as six from their hand while the child ran around playing. I thought to myself, children should sit while they are eating; it’s safer and a better habit.

Yeah. And now I’m one of those moms.

Cutting Sugar and Portion Size

Well so far, we are in day four of the cutting added fructose out of our diet, and I have to say that maybe I wasn’t chemically addicted to sugar after all. It seems that most of my attachment to it is social and associations of that sort. I am not experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. When asked in the Sweet Poison Quit Plan, to list habits related to sugar (especially daily ones) I couldn’t really think of any really definite ones. I like to have a snack with my tea in the evening after Baby goes to bed, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be sweet, in fact it probably usually isn’t. I like eating tea biscuits or toast biscuits, but I think actually more for the way they dissolve in the tea than any sweet taste (my solution was to replace them with crackers). I like sugar in coffee if the coffee is very strong, but not if it is not. And I put sugar in when I made chai (but I don’t do that that often), but I tried it the last two mornings without the sugar and liked it just fine( (On a totally unrelated tangent, I am looking for a more energy efficient way to make my chai that will still taste the same. Basically, I cut off a slice of ginger, give it a few good wacks with the meat tenderizer and throw it into my pot of water. Since I’m making it just for me I measure the water by filling 3/4 of the mug I plan to use. Once the water with the ginger is boiling, I add a scoop of my looseleaf Bangladeshi tea which looks more like coffee grounds than typical American looseleaf tea. Once the water has turned to a proper tea color I add a nice amount of milk (so the color looks good, maybe even a little light) and I reduce the heat a little. Then I leave it all simmering on the stove a good while. Altogether, it probably takes about 30 to 40 minutes for the tea to properly cook. Once I pour it into my mug (through a strainer) the liquid has reduced so much that it only gives me half a cup)).

I realized basically that I don’t really eat a lot of sugar. I feel like I eat more than I should, mostly because it’s just in the food, but I’m not eating or even wanting to eat sweets constantly like is being described in the book. Even as a child, I never cared to have sweets when I was very hungry. I then wanted real food. So sweets were basically a treat. I also don’t want them if I am very full (My mom says there’s always room for ice cream, but I disagree). I was never much of a snacker until I started breastfeeding, and even so I’m not eating sweets all the time because I’m breastfeeding and I’m trying to be healthy. My sister and I did notice people when we were in college used to snack like that, constantly buying candy bars and sweets out of the  vending machines, and my sister speculated that maybe that was why they were so fat because they didn’t even seem aware of their snacking. I don’t like soda. I stopped drinking it sometime around middle school (before that I drank it because it was the only option offered to me in many situations). The book described things starting to taste too sweet to you after you are off of sugar, and they already did. I didn’t care for regular candy bars or chocolates (hadn’t eaten them in years). I likewise didn’t eat flavored yogurts because they were too sweet. There are sweets that I like, but I mostly prefer my sweets less sweet, and I prefer homemade things where my sister and I reduce the sugar by a third to a half. I want to see the recipes and cookbook, and I’m excited about trying the powdered dextrose because I think I might actually like it more than regular sugar if it is less sweet. This isn’t to say I don’t like sweets. Sometimes I get a sweet tooth. I’m just a little particular about them.

Now, on to portion sizes. The book says that dried fruit is unhealthy. The reasoning seems to be that we would eat significantly more of it than we would of the equivalent fruit. I just don’t find that to be true, but the serving sizes suggest at least that other people do. Take prunes for example. I have never when snacking on prunes been tempted to eat more than 2 or 3 at most and that is a lot less than the serving size suggests.  I also would never eat a whole pack of raisins. I don’t think I would eat any more raisins than I would grapes.
This isn’t related to dried fruit, but I bought a bar of dark chocolate a little bit ago, and when I was reading the label it suggested that there were two servings in the package. I was a little shocked, who could eat half the bar in one sitting? To me there were at least 6 servings in the bar, maybe more.

Whether I was chemically addicted to fructose or not, I still think that I’m going to stick to this no sugar thing because I want to be healthier, and I want to be starting good habits with my daughter.