“Everyone cooks, and that way everyone shares in the blessing!”
The host here in Baghdad smiled at me as if this should make total sense. Then he stepped aside so his neighbor could take a turn stirring the chili. The cooking started at 11:00 pm the night before. By the time we showed up around 8:00 am the next morning, the whole neighborhood swarmed with empty pots to fill and hands ready for work.
Every time they lifted a lid of the huge food pots, huge plumes of steam and the smell of saffron and meat filled the air: thousands of pounds of saffron rice and a meaty stewed Iraqi chili called qima was on the menu today.
All with the purpose of blessing anyone and everyone who wanted to eat.
I asked the host what he meant by “shares in the blessing,” and his response was so beautiful:
“When we eat together, we honor the neighbor and God. It doesn’t matter if they are my own family or construction workers or taxis passing by or old friends. We serve all. It isn’t our food—it is God’s!”
True to his word, all kinds of people turned up for the feast. Several men painting a nearby house came to sit and eat with a prominent businessman. A taxi driver pulled over to eat with the host family. Old friends sat misty-eyed, remembering Baghdad’s good old days in the 1950s and 60s.
That day in Baghdad, everyone really did share in the blessing. And it was one of the most beautiful meals I’ve ever seen.