Mrs Ahmed is Pakistan's top chef (photo courtesy: Newsline)
We have a queer mix of neighbours. A kind German diplomat who was quick to act on our complaint and advised his newest guard not to peer into our house “because we don’t want trouble Mohammed”; an elderly Pakistani-American economist who spends most of her time in the US and is friends with “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh”; and a bunch of baker boys who have, most unfortunately, been bestowed a bake-in, sleep-in status on our street by their “madam” – a top chef of Pakistan.
When we moved into this neighbourhood about two years ago, I remembered staring at the ugly, unkempt house of “madam”. Our landlord was quick to tell us that the house was unoccupied. We believed him.
As I settled in, I noticed that someone loved baking in that house and baked 24/7. Cakes. Bread. Everything. And when that someone was not baking in the front of the house, he/she would be cooking/barbecuing in the backyard.
The constant smell of fish and prawns and the cling-clang of utensils gave me a headache. I decided that a middle-class housewife was trying to make a living by catering for private parties. I just so wished that she would make it big and move out of the residential area. Or till such time, at least move her army of bakers and cooks to another address.
Months later as I was leisurely scanning the Sunday papers, I read about my “middle-class housewife”. She was Shahida Ahmed, a star chef, who ran one of the most expensive restaurants in Islamabad.
Newsline, a monthly magazine, praised Ahmed’s “lobster with garlic and lemon, stuffed with fresh asparagus and fresh mushrooms, Thai fish tucked in herbs and chilli sauce, seafood ravioli with chilly crab sauce, Mediterranean chicken with olives, feta cheese and basil and Arabian salad platters”.
More recently, the newly-launched daily The Express Tribune wrote: “Shahida Ahmed, the owner of Tiramisu, has been in the catering business for the past 20 years…”
“....I baked a four-tier birthday cake (which was sold) for Rs 65,000,” Ahmed told the daily, adding that she supplied accessories for themed birthday parties and charged up to Rs 500 for a goodie bag.
I am sure if Ahmed was in India she wouldn’t have been allowed to run a bakery/kitchen in a residential area. Sadly our Pakistani neighbours have been indifferent; so have our neighbours from the diplomatic corps.
Mrs Ahmed, we wish you well in life, but could you please move your kitchen and your kitchen boys, especially your super courteous chowkidaar, to another address? I am sure you can more than afford it.