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240 pages, Paperback
First published September 4, 2014
"Iranian rice is unlike any other. It isn’t boiled or steamed or thrown unceremoniously into a rice cooker. Iranian rice is first soaked and bathed like a Hindu princess, rinsed in three changes of just-warm water. It goes into the pot with a spoonful of salt, carefully simmering just until it begins to yield, its determined character and bite remaining intact. Finally it is drained and returned to the pot in a footpool of melted butter, over the gentlest of heat, until it is so impossibly light and fluffy it could fill quilts and pillows of Buckingham Palace."
"Tipped out into a wide, shallow serving bowl, each grain of rice is perfectly separate and served piled high like wedding confetti, adorned with streaks of bright yellow saffron and dotted with a final, loving pat of yet more butter. But the best part of all is still to come: the tahdig. A crisp, buttery golden crust of rice left to scorch on the bottom of the pan to just the right thickness, the tahdig is shattered into gem-like shards and scattered on top of the rice. It crunches and crackles and splinters in your mouth as you eat."
I crave food that is important and historical, recipes that have changed little in five hundred years, aside perhaps from the substitution of vegetable oil in place of the sheep’s-tail fat that used to be melted down in pans for cooking. I imagine food smelling of the charred insides of battered cooking vessels and the decades-old smoke of earthenware pots, food cooked by generations of women while their children played at their feet and, eventually, while the world as they knew it crashed in around them. I picture tables graced with the taste of proud, complex lives. Herbs carried in special baskets; bread wrapped in knotted, muslin cloths; thick stews soured with unripe grape juice; carrots boiled with sugar and rosewater; yogurt hung from dripping bags, its whey dried in sheets on trays in the sun. I see the rituals of bread formed by hand, indentations made with fingertips, little hollows shaped to catch pools of oil or broth.This time she decided to visit Yazd in Iran.
Iranian rice is unlike any other. It isn’t boiled or steamed or thrown unceremoniously into a rice cooker. Iranian rice is first soaked and bathed like a Hindu princess, rinsed in three changes of just-warm water. It goes into the pot with a spoonful of salt, carefully simmered just until it begins to yield, its determined character and bite remaining intact. Finally it is drained and returned to the pot in a footpool of melted butter, over the gentlest of heat, until it is so impossibly light and fluffy it could fill the quilts and pillows of Buckingham Palace.If that isn't a love letter I don't know what is, right?
"I seek instead the food eaten behind closed doors. The long-simmered stews of chicken with golden plums and quince that sustain husbands after long commutes of two bus changes and a shared taxi, or children weary from school lessons where maths and biology are fitted around compulsory modules on morality and the 'history of the Islamic revolution.' I imagine the lamb braised with pomegranate seeds to be eaten after days of biting tongues and swallowing impatience, served with fistfuls of coriander, plucked by women who sit barefoot on carpets... I crave food that is important and historical..."Jennifer Klinec is teaching cooking classes in the UK when she travels to Iran to learn more about its food cultures. She is able to take some classes on her own, but a single woman can only go so far in a strict Muslim culture. She finds her way inside a family, and befriends the mother, who teaches her valuable Persian foodways. She learns some of the more subtle behaviors of polite society, often through the mistakes she makes.