I believe there are many who are governed by emotions rather than by appetite. That we look to food not only for nourishment but also for the association of a jubilant event or simply to get us into a better state of mind. Even when calamity has stricken, a table abundant with various delectable edibles nearby can be a comforting site.
Do not grieve, anything you love comes around in another form.
Baba’s birthday is coming up and I find myself rummaging through items trying to find bits and pieces of him. Maybe his old Ray ban Aviators bough in Texas over 35 years ago during his flying days and loved so much, or another one of his random spur-of-the-moment sketches; something memory soaked to sooth this longing in my heart. Something that still carries impressions of his fingerprints.
In my mind's eye, I see J’s house, which sits on a suburban Seattle street, tucked away beneath towering 100 year old trees. The picket fence her husband put in a few weeks ago shines with newness, even under a blanket of dewdrops. The home emits a golden glow from the fireplace, visible via the big bay windows on the front side, where last years Christmas lights are still hanging. Through the front door and up the long wooden stairs leading into the sitting room, she sits, snuggled underneath her favorite blanket, somber and sorrowful. Her Indian skin radiating a beautiful butterscotch colored hue brought out by the force of the fire. The usual smile that lights up her face has receded and in its place stands the lines of worry and uncertainty. It has been a rough couple of months and she is in need of some solace.
Up until five years ago, breakfast was one of those wonderful habits that I never fell into. When I was younger, my maman and baba tried diligently to make this all-important meal as tempting as possible for my siblings and I, to no avail. Although they both worked full time jobs, each would wake up extra early in order to make us everything from vegetable filled frittatas to eggy crepes dusted with powdered sugar. I can only imagine their disappointment as the three of us came down one by one, and frowned upon their hard work, walking away sulking, upset by the mere insistence that we needed to eat something.
Though my family and I always have a sit down meal together on week nights, the weekends seem to elude us and instead have turned into a rather hectic, get-all-your-errands-done-as–quickly-as possible frame of time. From the early hours of the morning, we are in a mad rush to mail letters, buy groceries, get to the bank, clean the house, and make sure to check off all other tasks on the ever-expanding to-do list. By dinnertime, with all of our spirit and vigor dried up, we end up at a local family restaurant and lazily crawl into our seats hoping our bodies will hold out just a while longer before falling into a deep slumber.
I wanted to share with you all the birthday cake I made for Armaan. He loves cheesecakes, so I used Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Cheesecake recipe and it turned out beautifully. The rich, silky cheese texture against the crumbly cinnamon laced crust was perfection. Accompanied by a slow simmered blueberry and lemon sauce; bliss in a bite!
Happy Birthday, Pesaram.
Armaan will be turning two soon. Oh, how quickly time has passed. I want to say so much and yet I feel as though it would be insufficient. Being a Rumi lover all my life, I suddenly remembered one of his poems regarding his beloved son. It encompasses all that I want to say...
Armaan swatted the gnats away from his face for the third time, while flooding the atmosphere with the sound of his infectious giggling. The sun stroking his wispy, caramel colored hair with her warm golden fingers, as he ran barefoot through the thick blades of green grass, on a balmy and sticky, Florida afternoon. A delicate breeze was blowing in from the east, rustling the nearby tree branches, but nothing strong enough to help him cool down. Cheeks flush with color, hair damp from perspiration; he darted and dashed from one end of the yard to the other, making the geckos scamper to find a new cool and shaded refuge. Orange and black spotted butterflies flapped their ethereal wings with purpose as he chased after them, making him curious about the new fluttering beauties that teased him so.
The first day of spring brings with it the rebirth of nature and for us Persians, the New Year Celebration of NoRooz. This jubilant festival, which translates to “New Day,” stems from ancient beliefs that an End is always followed by Rebirth, a constant theme weaving itself throughout our ancient culture. It is one of those beautiful instances where it does not matter what faith you are or which political party you associate yourself with, for it is a holiday that connects us all through our national heritage. It is these facts, which have rendered NoRooz the highlight of the year for many. The actual origins are debated, however, it is widely accepted that it predates the Achaemenians, who created the first major empire (Persian Empire) in the region over 2500 years ago.
I cried. I cried for my mom and her future days. I cried for my sister, who was not there. I cried for my brother who had lost his role model. And, selfishly, I cried for myself and the times I will never again share with him, my father, my Baba.
The aroma that envelops your home while you are baking this golden sweet bread, is enough to have everyone demand that you make it part of your regular repertoire. 1 ½ cups of raisins and 1/3 cup of honey would be great additions to the recipe as well, just make sure you soak your raisins for about 10 minutes before adding to your dough.
Seattle, appropriately called the Emerald green city, is where I grew up. A city almost always enveloped in a blue green haze due to the abundance of tall, statuesque trees hugging every street, working as a filter for the struggling sun trying to get her golden fingers through their branches and leaves. She hardly ever wins. A city where its streets are everlastingly damp, evidence of a paused bout of seep-through your clothes rain. And, where a warm but sharp bark colored cup of espresso can at times be described with artistic vocabulary.
There are certain aromas that take me back to my early childhood and to Tehran. Golaab or rosewater is one of the biggest triggers. Smelling the smallest amount of this aromatic powerhouse reminds me of so many different memories, from sneaking a diamond shaped Persian Baklava from my Maman’s silver pastry plate, to the sweet and gooey rose jam that my Maman bozorg would take all day making.
Fortunella, or Kumquats are named after botanist Robert Fortune, who brought it over to the West from China. The most popular variety available in the US is the Nagami, grown in California, Florida, and Texas. Today was the day that I would become familiar with this fabulously fragrant fruit.
Here comes a new year. It seemed appropriate to list a few things that I am thankful for, perhaps to read over during life’s myriad of moments filled with terrible trepidation and anxiety. Therefore, clutching Khayyam’s words: “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life”, I write my list.
“Sight of you each morning is a new year. Any night of your departure is the night of yalda.”
-13th Century Persian Poet Sa’adi.
For one night each year, we Persians have held on to a 7000-year-old tradition of waiting for the birth of light. On the eve of December 21st, we celebrate the northern hemisphere’s longest night of the year or Shab-e Yalda. Yalda, meaning birth, comes from the Syriac language. In the ancient religion of Mithraism, there was Mithra, the god of light and truth. She was born with the victory of luminous light over the black darkness at dawn hailing the arrival of longer days and shorter nights.
I was only seven, standing in my Maman bozorgs (grandmothers) kitchen in Tehran. The aroma of saffron and rose water had enveloped the whole house and spread a certain warmth that was much needed during the biting bitter cold day. To maintain my zen-like state created by the potent perfumes, I kept reminding myself to close my eyes and take a deep breath. With the house being so full of interest-peaking activity, I did not want to overlook any chance to relish all of the smells that were alluding to the opportunity of gobbling up the luscious food being prepared.
One can only want warmth and comfort during these lengthy, cold winter nights. Therefore, Aash-e reshteh would be quite fitting as an inaugural post. Not only is it an amazingly hearty and delicious noodle soup, but within the Persian culture itself, it symbolizes love, family, and friendship.