The Way We Eat: Author and Illustrator Huda Fahmy in Houston, Texas

Name: Huda Fahmy
Location: Houston, Texas
Who eats together? 3 — my husband, our 3-year-old son, and myself.
Avoidances? For religious reasons, I don’t eat pork or alcohol. For personal reasons, I dislike fried foods, mushrooms, and eggplant.

Huda Fahmy is the illustrator and author behind Yes I’m Hot in This, a hilarious and educational book about life as an American Muslim woman who wears a hijab. Originally from Michigan, Huda now lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and their almost-3-year-old son. Here, she talks about her love for Rice Krispies treats and how having a kid has changed the way she eats.

Let’s start by talking about your comics (which welove!).A good portion of them are centered around Susan, who is this ignorant, non-Muslim woman. What misconceptions does Susan have about halal?
She would probably think Muslims are the only ones who can eat halal, and I don’t think she would understand or appreciate how humane or healthy it is. And I also don’t think she’d know it applies to more than just meat — like alcohol and gelatin. We always have to look out for things with gelatin because it’s made from pork.

You’ve mentioned gelatin in a couple of your comics.
Yeah, it’s so frustrating because gelatin is in so many things! It’s in the sour cream at Taco Bell!

Wait, what! That’s wild. How do you find stuff like that out?
There are websites that will tell you stuff like this, but you always have to check. You call up the company and ask if it’s true, and they’ll confirm or deny. For the longest time my husband and I have loved Frosted Mini Wheats, but we couldn’t eat it because the frosting has gelatin in it. So, we call every few months to see if they’ve changed their recipe, and they finally did! But yeah, it’s in a lot of stuff.

Some Muslims don’t like being told if there’s pork, or gelatin, or wine, or whatever in their food, and they’ll get mad when other Muslims tell them. Recently there’s been this huge thing about M&Ms, because the red M&Ms use crushed-up lice to get that red dye. So a lot of Muslims are like, you can’t eat that. That’s a little too far for me. I looked into the religious thing behind it, and I decided it’s not applicable to the way that I interpret it, but yeah it’s wild. Crushed-up bugs in our M&Ms.

  • Biggest challenge in eating? Finding something easy and quick to make that’s also healthy.
  • Percentage of meals you cook at home every week? About 85 percent.
  • 5 things on your grocery list every week? Eggs, cheese, bagel thins, tortilla chips, and milk.
  • Where do you shop, primarily? HEB.
  • What’s the last food thing you splurged on? Gummy bears.
  • Top 3 default dinners? Chicken fajitas; chicken tandoori with lentil soup and half salad/half tabouli; and turkey burgers and baked fries.
  • Favorite thing to eat while watching TV? Chips.
  • Best tip anyone ever taught you in cooking? Don’t buy a knife set — all you need is one really good knife and you’re good to go!  
  • Favorite kitchen tool? Vidalia Chop Wizard!

Whendo you find time to work on yourcomics? Walk me through what a typical day looks like for you right now.
I wake up around 7:45 a.m. and I take care of my son until about 6 p.m. when he goes to sleep. Normally it’s just me and him, and we’re either at home or we go to the museum or the park. From 6 to 8 p.m. I have dinner with my husband, and then from 8 p.m. to midnight I’m drawing and working and planning. Hopefully when my son starts preschool thing will be a lot easier.

What are your struggles in feeding yourself and your family?
I definitely struggle to cook healthy foods on a regular basis. And because I work from home and take care of my 3-year-old, finding the time, energy, and motivation to cook is also a factor.

That makes total sense. Do you meal plan to help with all that?
Right now I try to meal plan for lunch and dinner two weeks out. It helps with grocery shopping — I just don’t want to have to shop every single day, and I like knowing exactly what I’m cooking so we know exactly what we have ready to cook. It’s a time-management thing. My general philosophy when it comes to cooking is it can’t take forever. I usually make fajitas, chili, chicken tortilla soup, or lasagna — those are big meals I can make in bulk and that last a few days. My son eats a lot of rice with vegetables, ground turmeric, and spices.

But sometimes we don’t plan, and I’ll have to go to the grocery store that night or come up with something creative. There’s this website where you type in the ingredients you have and it gives you recipes to make. That helps a lot.

What about breakfast?
Breakfast is very easy. It’s oatmeal for my son, and I make an egg and cheese sandwich for myself and husband. Sometimes I’ll make my husband a mini burrito with eggs, turkey, sausage, salsa, and cheese. It’s quick and easy and we always have those ingredients. We don’t need to think about it. Those are our staples.

Tell me the last thing you cooked that you truly loved?
I cooked my favorite meal, a dish called Molokhia. The recipe varies depending on which part of the Middle East you’re from. My version — the best version — is the Egyptian recipe. It’s a thick, soupy dish made from dried, ground leaves, called Jew’s mallow, and chicken stock. It’s my absolute favorite dish.

My husband actually hates it, which is perfect for me, because I’ll make a whole pot and just eat it myself. It’s so good. I always have the ingredients at home, because you never know when the craving is going to hit.

You’ve made it pretty clear in your comics that you have a thing for Rice Krispies Treats. Do you make them yourself? What’s your secret?
They’re very nostalgic to me; it was always that treat that I wanted but could never have, because there’s gelatin in the marshmallows. I make my own now with halal marshmallows. It’s hard to get the ratio right with these marshmallows — it doesn’t taste like the commercial brand. They’re a little harder, but I love them.

Let’s talk a little bit about how cooking looks like now that you’re a mom. Has having a kid changed the way you and your husband eat?
Sometimes I will skip meals, because I’ll want my son to eat and I’ll prioritize that over my eating. By the time he’s done eating, I’m just too tired to eat. I’ll just snack on tortilla chips. I hate being in the kitchen for too long. Sometimes he won’t eat what we eat; it’s just hard.

My general philosophy when it comes to cooking is it can’t take forever.

Is there anything special from your childhood that you like to cook for your son?
Besides the Molokhia, there’s this cookie thing that my mom taught me how to make, but it’s so unhealthy. It’s like cocoa powder and Crisco and butter and powdered sugar and animal crackers. And you crush everything up and roll it into a log and freeze it and cut it up and it’s the most delicious thing. There’s so much fat in it, so I can’t bring myself to make it anymore. But it’s so good.

The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you about how they feed themselves and their families.

We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. How do you overcome challenges to feed yourself? If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.

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