Muneeza Shamsie

My family’s culinary history across India, Pakistan and Britain: Muneeza Shamsie

(Muneeza Shamsie is a Pakistani writer and literary journalist. The column first appeared in Scroll on December 27, 2021)

  • I grew up in post-Partition Karachi, in a family where cooking was considered an art. My father, Isha’at Habibullah (1911-1991), a company executive at Pakistan Tobacco Company, was a gastronome. Cooking was his great hobby and he loved to prepare meals for friends. The range of his cooking is encapsulated by his famous brunches. The dishes at these brunches ranged from those considered desi nashta such as paya, nihari and aaloo puri, to an eclectic mix of Euro-Anglo-American food including paté de foie gras, waffles, scrambled eggs and several salads. In the centre of the table, there would be a cake prepared by my mother, Jahanara Habibullah (1915-2003): for example, devil’s food cake or Christmas cake in winter. Cake-making was my mother’s contribution to household cooking. Sometimes she would make a pickle or chutney to supplement those created more frequently by my father.

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