Whether you are a revert or a Muslim born, once in your lifetime you come across a Muslim that makes you feel bad about what you eat. If you know the different opinions on what’s halal or not, you can defend yourself and make them see things under a new lens that they never considered or never knew about. However, if you have no idea that they could be wrong, that you could both be right, you will recoil, start doubting yourself, and simply start to believe them.
To help you with the daunting task of picking halal alternatives for your originally non-halal recipes or eating habits, we have the resourceful M.K. Bodo today for an interview on her book Halal Comfort Food that sheds some light on the matter.
We, at HAYATI Magazine, hope you can get some knowledge from her expertise in this domain.
Papatia: Assalamu Aleikum Mindy, welcome to HAYATI Magazine!
Wa Alaikum Assalaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh!
1. What made you write your book Halal Comfort Food?
As a revert to Islam, eating halal can be kind of confusing. Obviously, we all know we can’t eat pork, we know what it says in the Quran, but there’s really a lot more to it than that. A lot of people don’t realize how many potentially haram ingredients are snuck into processed foods, and what they need to look out for. To further complicate matters, there are so many different opinions on what is and isn’t halal. I remember reading one book that said you could eat a hamburger from McDonalds and say “Bismillah” over it, and that would make it halal. Later on, I read other books and spoke to other Muslims who really emphasized the importance of eating certified halal meat, which had been slaughtered following zabihah guidelines. Then there are seemingly little things like vanilla extract—haram or halal? It can really get very overwhelming. So I thought it would be helpful to write a book on the subject, which would be easily accessible, especially for reverts. I also tried to be very careful to present all views on what foods are halal/haram so that the reader could make an informed decision for him/herself, rather than dictating my own opinion of what is/isn’t halal.
2 . Do you get a lot of people thanking you for writing it?
As the book is still fairly new, I have actually not received much feedback from readers.
Let’s hope we can change that!
3. How long did it take you to write Halal Comfort Food?
That’s a hard question to answer, because I actually started developing many of the recipes years before I even reverted. Originally, I had intended to write a completely different cookbook! I found Islam while in the process of developing recipes for the original cookbook and was faced with the prospect of scrapping the whole idea. Instead, I started working on coming up with halal “makeovers” of the recipes I had already developed, and adding in halal versions of other recipes that are traditionally made with haram ingredients. So if you count the time spent developing recipes for the original cookbook, then this book was about five years in the making!
4. What were some challenges you faced writing it?
I think the biggest challenge for me was finding really good halal substitutions for haram ingredients. I wanted to be able to offer a really comprehensive guide for halal substitutions in addition to the recipes so that home cooks could do their own “halal recipe makeovers” too. There are a lot of very simple substitutions that one can use, like swapping grape juice for wine; there are also a lot of really great products out there, like halal beef bacon and halal turkey ham. The difficult part was tracking down all of these items so that I could test them out. I live pretty far away from any kind of halal supermarket, so tracking down the ingredients I wanted was sometimes pretty difficult!
5. What is your favorite comfort food in the book?
I was really pleased with how some of the recipe makeovers turned out: for example, the halal Bolognese sauce and the Red Beans & Rice turned out just as good, if not better than the original versions. But when it comes right down to it, my favorite recipe was one that didn’t need a makeover at all: the Baked Mac & Cheese. Besides being my all-time favorite comfort food, this is also my most requested recipe. It’s what my family asks me to bring to every get-together, and what the kids at the masjid are always requesting when we have potluck lunches (which is pretty much every week). You just can’t go wrong with Mac & Cheese!
6. You look stunning in your picture masha’Allah by the way. Do you have a rigid workout routine? I am a foodie *smiling smiley* . Can I assume you’re one?
Well thank you! Actually, it’s funny you ask…no, I don’t work out at all. I actually used to be very, very thin (unhealthily so) before I reverted because I was a smoker. I quit when I decided to accept Islam, and wound up gaining about 50 pounds! And testing out all the recipes for this cookbook didn’t exactly help matters…Also, to answer your next question, YES! I am definitely a foodie (which also didn’t help with the weight gain)! There are very few foods that I don’t like, and I always like to try new things. I also tend to spend a pretty significant amount of time watching the food network and trying to figure out how I could make a halal version of whatever delectable treat they happen to be featuring at the time!
Ah, don’t feel bad. I have a little of baby weight to shed too. Let’s encourage each other to drop these few pounds haha!
7. What are you working on now?
I have been tossing around a few ideas, but at the moment I am really leaning towards a cookbook that features halal potluck recipes. We have a LOT of get-togethers at my local masjid, which always involve food. I know my masjid is not unique in this respect, of course, so I have been playing around with recipes to see not only what are the most crowd-pleasing, but also what are the best methods for transporting, keeping foods hot/cold, etc.
Also, I am planning on releasing Halal Comfort Food in print sometime this summer, as it is currently available only on Amazon Kindle.
Mabrook to you!
8. Please tell us how readers can connect with you via social media
and Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mkjohnston81/
Papatia: Thank you for being with us Mindy. The Team at HAYATI Magazine wishes you all the best with your book and all other future endeavors.
Jazak Allah Khair!