Key Takeaways:

Eva learned to cook as a child by watching her mother in the kitchen. She has submitted a recipe to the GetSetUp Cookbook Project for koshary, an Egyptian dish made from lentils, rice, and pasta.

Eva, a retired chemist who worked for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, is originally from Egypt but has lived in the US since 1980. She learned to cook as a child by watching her mother. She has submitted a recipe for koshary, an Egyptian dish made from lentils, rice, and pasta.  

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I retired from Detroit Water and Sewerage in 2014. My husband and I have two daughters and five grandchildren. After retiring, I started painting a lot, but I also love cooking. 

My mother was an excellent cook famous for her recipes. All the aunts, uncles, and cousins loved her food, and they all had their own favorite dish they’d ask her to make. She always said that a house that smelled of baking and cooking was a warm house. 

I like to cook good, healthy food for my family. Most dishes I cook are of Egyptian origin. My children grew up eating it, and now my grandchildren eat it too. I’m a Coptic Christian, and we fast a lot. We eat a vegan diet during fasting periods, so I’ve had to master recipes that don’t have meat or dairy. So, we eat a lot of beans and vegetables.

Besides cooking and painting, I’m very busy in my retirement with charity work. I take after my mother, who worked for a non-profit and grew up with that in my heart. I’m involved with the Rotary Club and other charities that help women, children, and the community in general.

How did you become interested in cooking?

I watched my mother cook. She didn’t exactly teach me; I just picked things up by watching her. I remember when I came to the States, I would call her and ask how to make recipes. She would stay on the phone with me while I cooked, which got very expensive because of long-distance charges. She finally said, “I’m just going to send you the recipes. We can’t spend this much time on the phone!”

So, when she came to visit, she gave me an original cookbook that she had handwritten with her own original recipes. When she stayed with me, we would cook together. It was the best time ever, ever, ever! I cherish that time so much because I lost her unexpectedly. She wasn’t old, so that time was so special. I make sure I make time for my kids and grandkids. 

I taught my kids when they were smaller, but the grandkids actually listen, they want to learn, and we have fun doing it. I told one of my grandsons that he would be a chef someday. He loves to make Egyptian bread and cook breakfast.

Tell us a little about the dish you submitted.

It is two things you bring together. The first part is lentils and rice, cooked and topped with fried onions. You can eat this alone, but in Egypt, we add pasta, either penne or elbow pasta, with a garlic and vinegar sauce. You put your rice and lentils on one side of the plate and your pasta on the other side. Prepare a green salad with tomato, cucumber, a little parsley, and a dressing of oil, vinegar, lemon, salt, and pepper to make it complete.

What makes this recipe special to you

We eat it at Lent. Everybody likes it, and it’s filling. During the Lent fast, you can get very hungry because you can’t eat meat. And, it’s not only Copts who eat this dish. The whole country eats it. It’s become fashionable and is now served in high-class restaurants. It’s a beloved dish.

Do you have any favorite dishes or any favorite food memories from childhood?

I love grape leaves, Molokai soup, spaghetti, and eggplant. And, I like beef stew the Egyptian way. It's extremely simple - You sear the beef, then add onions, garlic, broth, salt, pepper, and a little red wine. You let it simmer on low for a long time. 

What’s the most memorable meal that you’ve made?

I think it was my youngest daughter's 25th birthday. Everybody was happy. It wasn’t Egyptian. It was surf and turf at our house. It was a very formal dinner. Her father and I served the dishes. She had just gotten engaged. My other daughter and her husband, the future in-laws, her fiance, my sister and her husband, my nephew, and two grandchildren who were babies were all there. 

What’s the importance of sharing a meal around the table?

It means family. It’s a blessing.

What advice do you have for people just learning to cook?

Cook very simple meals. You don’t have to worry - it’s not a chemical equation; not one plus one equals two. It doesn’t work that way. Just take it easy. Start with a very straightforward dish.

Jun 13, 2022
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Cooking & Nutrition
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