One of the greatest gifts we have been blessed with is food. In this gift, there is a great power, the power of bringing families together, no matter what faith or ethnicity. Let’s take a look at what families whip up together and how they do it, whether they have a young family, teenage children, or are starting out as a newly married couple.

Mahvesh Fareed Siddiqui has been a chef since childhood. Having lived in different countries, Mahvesh has built her cooking resume to include Pakistani, Indian, Persian, British, and American cuisine, not to mention the American favorites of Chinese and Italian cooking. While growing up with multiple generations, including grandparents and aunts, Mahvesh saw firsthand the unity of cooking together and creating recipes. She recalls, “As a young girl, I was always drawn to strong flavors and spices.” As she grew up, she collected recipes from family members and developed her own to create a family cookbook. She has instilled the love of cooking in her two young daughters. Weekend activities include making parathas (Indian flatbread) from scratch with her three-year-old and five-year-old daughters. Mahvesh is not the only culinary artist in the Siddiqui household. Mahvesh’s husband, Asif Siddiqui, can be seen barbequing steaks every chance he gets, and Sunday mornings are not complete without Asif and his daughters flipping pancakes.

Those with hectic schedules can actually benefit from cooking together. The family prepares their meal and spends time together simultaneously. Huma Ghani and her husband, Ehtesham, are food connoisseurs who share a love for local and international cuisine. Having traveled both nationally and abroad, they have picked up flavors to incorporate in their own food creations. Whether it is Huma’s famous Hyderabadi biryani and Italian baked chicken or Ehtesham’s creative blueberry cheesecake and “melt in your mouth” waffles, both parents have passed down their love of food and cooking to their four children, engaging them to be sous chefs from a very young age. The clan prepares Sunday brunch while discussing their week’s agendas and school projects. “Collaborating on making brunch gets the whole family to create something together, regardless of age or ability,” Huma says. As the Ghani family prepares waffles, French toast, omelettes, and smoothies, there is talk of kindergarten art projects, middle school science tests, college applications, and ACT’s. Of course, this is all washed down with homemade Nutella lattes and hazelnut brownies, made exclusively by the Ghani boys.

What about young couples starting out their life together? One of the best ways of building a relationship and savoring each other’s company as a newlywed couple that is managing work and grad school is by cooking. Former Muslim Student Association president Ali Fiaz and his wife, Sumrah Haider, are the quintessential busy new couple. “Juggling a new move, a new home, and a new career path takes up a lot of time,” says Ali. However, these two make time for cooking. Ali and Sumrah tag team on weekends for brunches that include omelettes, sujuk (Turkish/Middle Eastern sausage), pancakes, and chilaquiles (Mexican fried tortilla with fillings). Of course, no young couple can be without pizza; however, rather than calling in a delivery, Ali creates and makes his own cast iron pan pizza. Even with her demanding work schedule, Sumrah makes time to prepare homemade meals and creates new recipes for a variety of dishes, including Pakistani food, chili, tacos, spaghetti squash, and, of course, everyone’s favorite, lasagna!

As the saying goes, a family that cooks together stays together. Okay, maybe that is not the exact saying, but it’s pretty close. The diversity of the Muslim community allows the coming together of flavors and foods from around the globe, including our all-American barbeque. Ready to get your family excited about cooking?


The kitchen is where people congregate and discuss their lives and the world. It is the starting point of our mornings and our retreat at the end of the day. On weekends and holidays, it becomes the social arena. Here are some tips for getting spouses, children, siblings, and friends involved in the kitchen:

  1. Make it a social center instead of a place for chores. Get rid of the excess clutter and make the kitchen a true stage where the meal is the star. Comfy chairs, cool kitchen gadgetry, colorful cutting boards, and recipes (books, index cards, handwritten notes, or torn newspaper articles) make the kitchen a cozy central hub.
  2. Children have an innate nature to build things (and break things apart). In order to engage younger children, try keeping the recipes simple and fun (preferably less than five ingredients). Young chefs can help with simple desserts, salads, sandwiches, etc. Think of it as edible Legos.
  3. Middle and high school children have a knowledge of science. Relate how cooking is a scientific process that includes stoichiometry, chemical reactions, and physics. Then give them some breathing room teenagers love autonomy and space to do their own thing. Offer to be their sous chef (this way you can make sure it’s edible).
  4. Aprons! Who doesn’t love fun aprons with witty sayings? Whether you are the “grill master” or the “master of disaster,” colorful aprons with phrases make for a great conversation piece and keep all the chefs safe from those tomato and oil stains.
  5. What about spouses? Everyone loves creating something of their own. The challenge is more about the fact that you must eat it (even if it tastes like rubber tires). Do not critique… mildly suggest, if you must. You do not want to deter a budding chef from his or her potential.
  6. A kitchen is the best place to socialize with friends. Host a cooking party and delegate stations for salad prep, appetizers, main entrees, and desserts.
  7. Who doesn’t want to be a celebrity chef? Take a video of your family and friends in the kitchen and watch the laughs unfold. You never know… you could be the next Ina Garten or Bobby Flay!

Husna T. Ghani has an MSEd and an MBA. She has taught health and science for years. When she’s not working, she reads, writes, sketches, and tries to save the world (or something like that).