Cooking is a love that transcends time, distance, and generations. For me, cooking has been my ticket back to my homeland every time I step into my kitchen. Hi, my name is Rana Yaldoo and I am a Chaldean born mother of four with an intense love for cooking and America. My parents were immigrants from Iraq. They both came here to live out the American dream and the Christian lifestyle. My love affair with cooking started with my mother, aunts, and late grandmother.
Year after year, my knowledge about Chaldean cooking grew. Each family gathering was accompanied by food that was carefully prepared by the women in the family with love. My mom brought her signature dishes to the gatherings, and I did the same when I became an adult. Over time, my specialty has become middle eastern food with an American flare that can delight the taste buds of almost anyone in the world.
I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in business finance. Understandably, graduating college is a key part of the American dream for immigrants, but my passion has always been culinary. It is a combination of faith, food, and family that inspired me to start my blog. Since then, my motto has been “Chase after the dream, not after the money.” My dreams smell like allspice and I am chasing after them relentlessly. I realized the true American dream is about living a passionate, spicy life and making good use of the freedoms and liberties that built America over 200 years ago. I am grateful everyday that I get to live out my dreams of being a wife and mom and everything that comes with that. As the daughter of working class immigrant parents, none of this is lost on me. I remain forever grateful.
The traditional foods that I have loved since childhood date back over 10,000 years to the Babylonians and the Sumerians. To me, Chaldean and Mesopotamian cuisine has played a key role in keeping the memory of these ancient people alive. Did you know that some of the first cookbooks were written on clay tablets in Iraq? These recipes were used to prepare traditional meals inside the temples. Iraqi cooking reached its peak during the Islamic Golden Age, a prestige that has lasted for centuries.
Chaldean dishes are still extremely popular today. Kebob, mezza, falafel, Guss, Bamia, and Maqluba are just a few of the foods that have been mainstays in middle eastern and Mediterranean cooking. The influence of the culinary golden age is reflected in Chaldean cooking to this day. I have taken these traditional dishes and transformed them into my own creations, adding a little American-style zest to appeal to my friends. Keep in mind that many of these dishes are healthy and rich with everything the body needs to feel amazing. The healthy nature of these foods adds to their popularity.
As a mother and a wife, cooking is not only a necessity, it is my sweet escape from daily life where all decisions rest in my hands. After moving to America from Iraq when I was eight years old, cooking became my way of bringing my two worlds together. This culinary bridge only grew stronger as I got older and was strengthened by my love for God and my family. My love for entertaining and desire for fellowship was always matched with my love for cooking. This combination of passions made for some very tasty nights with my friends and family. With a family as large as mine, cooking is no small matter. I can only imagine how hard life would be if I hated to cook!
I was very fortunate that I had so much support and guidance along my cooking journey. However, I know that not every foodie has a team to back them up as they learn and grow. I wanted to create something that anyone could use to get started. I’ve learned that you can learn almost anything on the internet nowadays. I got the idea to start a cooking blog after my girlfriends asked me to make a video of me cooking for them to mirror. Each time they asked me for a recipe, they always came back saying that they couldn’t get it quite right by just reading the instructions. I decided I needed to create quick tutorial videos that were easy to follow. That’s when my blog was born.
This project stems from a desire to teach others the techniques they need to expand their passion for cooking. As a visual learner, I know that watching my mother and following along taught me far more than a recipe book alone ever could. Recipes and techniques weren’t the only things being passed down during those cooking sessions with my female relatives. As I stood by their side, they passed down family values that I hold near and dear to my heart. These are the same values that I practice with my husband and children. Cooking seems to have a special way of bringing people together. It brought me closer to my family and closed the distance between America and Iraq.
This mixture of old and new shows up in my recipes. It is important to me to place a modern twist onto old world recipes. I love to use sumac, allspice, and cumin in my dishes along with other international spices. My videos are designed to show off the colorful nature of middle eastern cuisine. From my kitchen, I can create worlds on plates, and I guarantee you will be able to recreate them too. While my focus is on middle eastern foods, I love to cook pretty much anything!
Remember, the point of learning to cook isn’t to have your dish turn out exactly the same as mine. Take what you learn in my videos and add your own dash of this or sprinkle of that. Cooking is an art that has no right or wrong way. Just as I developed my own twists on traditional Chaldean foods, you can take what you learn in my videos and create something that’s all your own. I hope you enjoy learning from my tutorials. Welcome to Rana’s kitchen!
“Cooking is the spice of life.”