It’s “mother-in-law season” in Dubai – it’s the time of year when BA flights are chocka full of pasty-faced ladies of a certain age, who crawl into the warm sunshine of a Dubai winter positively groaning with the relief a little sunshine provide to their creaky bones.
My house is no exception. My in-laws – although from a hot country – are here.
It’s taken me years to accept that, when my mother-in-law (MIL) is in residence, my kitchen is no longer my own. Not only is the fridge stuffed with mysterious packets wrapped in Uchumi bags, but the counters are piled high with plastic tubs: Jevro, biscuits, kachori, gathiya, dhokla, rotlis – you name the Indian snack, it’s in an old ice-cream tub on my counters. The fruit bowl overflows with lychees, nectarines, mangoes and strange-looking fruit I’ve never even seen before.
And any remaining surface is covered with chappati flour as MIL whips up piles of fresh rotlis and samosas using the granite top as her rolling board (she’s so fast that I sometimes I suspect that, Harry Potter-style, she just points her finger at the flour and commands “rotlis!”).
We used to fight over her dominance of my kitchen. But, once I learned to give up control, to step back and ignore the mess (minding not to tread chopped coriander into the Crate & Barrel rug), I discovered there are benefits of having someone else cook for you. In fact, as I write, she’s brought me a cup of masala chai and a toasted sandwich stuffed with delicious home-made samosa filling as a little afternoon snack… nom-nom.
But it wasn’t always this way. In the early days, I resisted. I fought. I battled to retain control of The Kitchen. I remember a particularly bitter stand-off over what DH was going to eat for dinner that night.
“I’m making [whatever curry it was]. It’s his favourite. I’m his mother and I know!” she told me, once DH had gone to work and the gloves came off. We glared at each other over the saucepans.
“Well, I’m making lasagne,” I countered as FIL ran for cover in the bedroom. “I asked him this morning and it’s what he wants!”
Poor DH, it’s a wonder he came home some nights in the early days. But I’m glad to report that, two children on, things are much easier. Now I positively adore having such an accomplished cook make us lunch and dinner every day, leaving me free to write. For these small mercies, we Housewives are most definitely grateful.