Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – XXV. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Food (10 of 18)

Aunt Rachel

Rachel was widowed at a young age. She also never had children. She always said that her nieces and nephews satisfied her maternal instinct. And her actions throughout her life supported that statement.

Uncle Maurice was already married when Rachel’s husband passed away. My widowed grandmother was already living partly with him, and partly with my mother. Maurice, with the concurrence of his wife, Renee, offered to take Rachel in. It turned out to be the best deal he ever made. Whether he recognized that was never clear.

Aunt Rachel played an important role in bringing up his 3 children and running his household. She was well treated, and, as far as I know, was never made to feel like a poor relative receiving charity. She shared a room with my grandmother, and had it to herself when Bida was in Cairo. She was also given a generous allowance. But, there were problems.

First, Maurice had a relatively small house. He could have rented larger accomodations, but, early on in his stay in this apartment, his business developed and thrived. Being superstitious, he was afraid to move and break his good luck. It was, simply put, a crowded household; the worse feature of the house was its kitchen; it was impossibly small and always dark.

Second, Maurice loved to entertain. Aunt Rachel often had to cook a multiple courses meal on short notice. That on top of her regular cooking. True, she had adequate help: two servants, and the rest of the family pitched in. Nevertheless, the stage was set for numerous explosions. And they happened at regular intervals.

She often threatened to leave and go to work for a rich family. And she knew a few of them since Maurice was well connected. The rumor was that, more then once, – very discreetly, of course – she was asked to run the household of a wealthy family. The conditions offered were exceptional. She would be treated like a member of the family, given her own room, generous vacation time, and substantial wages (at the time they would have been given a different name, but it was still a lot of money!).

In the Egypt of the 1940s, such a move would have been unthinkable. But, at least, she always knew she had an option.

Sometimes in 1951, she was introduced to a wonderful man. He was a widower, and was looking for a wife. He got the jewel in the crown!

When they married, I acquired a one-of-a-kind uncle, Daniel. From that point on, we spent our summer vacations in their home.

Tante Rachel was more than a superb cook. She had the potential to be a chef. She could, and did, put together her own recipes, or improve existing ones.

You could also go to her and say: “I ate a dish consisting of meat and artichokes. It had cumin, tomato sauce, and … It tasted …”

Think of a very talented musician to whom you hum the first bars of a piece of music; with that limited information, she can then play – or come close to – the requested composition.

Aunt Rachel can compare to such an artist. She would quiz that person at length. Ultimately, she would reproduce the dish, or at least come close to it.

Comments are closed.