Add a Little Lemon is Saveur Awards Finalist: Best New Voice 2017!

photo by  Zeb Smith

photo by Zeb Smith


When I started this blog it ended up being more of a vulnerability challenge than anything else really. I had been notoriously shy with my writing, afraid of revealing anything personal about myself and those close to me. Godfather status. Everything in my life was somehow a secret, always. And then that changed for me. I began learning how to be unapologetic about my own opinions and thoughts, something I labored over in a sort of self directed self-compassion training. I would practice saying what I believed in even if it often times upset others; and in a surprising effort to refrain from keeping the peace, I found that it wasn't actually so scary, after all. I was showing up for myself. Telling myself that it was okay, that I was safe, that I would take care of myself. 

That's when I started opening up here. 

It was uncomfortable, certainly. For a recovering people-pleaser most everything is uncomfortable. Yet being uncomfortable isn't so terrifying; and in fact, proves to be vital in the development of both integrity and authenticity. 

Whenever I posted, I would call my brother and my oldest friend in a panic, afraid that I did something too bold, too opinionated, too unpleasant. And each time they assured me that my fears didn't actually come across in my writing, that what comes across is my integrity, not the trouble maker I imagined myself to be. It's uneasy for recovering people-pleasers.

And then something happened. One day I stopped worrying. I stopped making those late night panicked calls. I felt stronger, bolder, and more self-assured. The practice of coming here and writing for all of you has changed me incredibly and given me not only an opportunity to be more authentic and confident, but has also taught me how to recognize the bravery of being, as Brene Brown says, face down in the arena.

You have all been so kind and generous and brave. I've received so many messages letting me know that you identify with and appreciate my stories, recipes, and photos. It's been especially moving to hear from other Iraqis in diaspora, like myself, who have been wanting a space like this. Something that speaks to those growing up in the diaspora and who have struggled with identity, like myself. Many have sent me messages telling me how this space has inspired them to share their own Iraqi recipes and stories, too. When I first started here there were no other Iraqi food blogs in English. I, like others my age, worshiped Nawal Nasrallah and her cookbook because she gave me the gift of something comprehensive that I could actually read; she gave me a way to connect to Iraq that I desperately needed. Add a Little Lemon was something I was hungry for; and so I thought I'd just do it myself, for myself, showing up for myself with self-compassion. And I am so grateful for what it has given me. My voice feels new if only because this space has allowed me to grow into it. 

Thank you all for your continued support! 

chai and breakfast.jpg

Bil Afya | Bon Appetit