Of Rice and Men| A glance back at Fig & Quince in 2013

A photographic still life with real black grapes and a still life painting of a Persian rug, pomegranate, orange, pear, and a wooden bench with a heart shaped indentation. Painting by brother of Azita Houshiar

There is a Mexican New Year’s tradition of eating 12 grapes and making a wish with each one for each month of the coming year. Isn’t that an utterly charming custom? (ps. The still life painting with fruits and the Persian kilim is by my brother.)

Is it too late to take stock of 2013 and reminisce about the past year? Are we over the newness of this year already? Please tell me it isn’t so — 2014 is only a hint over two weeks old, still shiny and filled with promise and potential and hope, and surely not in need of some botox yet — what, with 349 whole days left till 2015. (Although actually, while that sounds like a lot of time, let’s face it, it may go poof and vanish just like a dandelion caught in a gust of wind.)

Did you make any resolutions? Are you sticking to them? I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but I do have a few mottos I have adopted throughout life that I do my best to live by, and come a new year, I polish them up so that they burnish more brightly on the forefront mantlepiece of my mind. They serve me well, so I’ll share them with you:

Perfect is the enemy of Good. (Another variation of this motto is: Done is better than Perfect. Quilt artists are fond of this aphorism. Understanding this wisdom liberated me beyond measure. Ending a bout of years-long self-fulfillment paralysis. May it do the same for you. Whatever you want to do, just do it. Who cares whether it is perfect or not?)

Hands to work and hearts to God. (A lovely Shaker prayer. I adore it. Heard it when watching the stellar Ken Burns documentary on Shakers. Made me want to be a Shaker.)

Don’t drown in a cup of water. (I forget where I came across this. It is simple yet profound wisdom. I interpret it to mean: don’t freak out, don’t fret over little things, handle conflict and travails with grace, have faith.)

Be Bold. Whatever you do or dream you can, begin it. (Ghoethe said this and I’ve already waxed plenty poetic about it.)

Be kind. (Kindness is a gift to oneself as much as it is to others. I try to remind myself of this and practice it. Even on the subway!)

It is the sign of the times we live in that blogs also have occasion to review and take stock of their performance in the year past. WordPress sends out an “annual report” for all the blogs they host. A nicely designed and engineered report with a fun and festive fireworks animated GIF and interesting statistical analogies that among other things also identifies the 5 most popular posts of the year on one’s blog. A few cool bloggers shared their top 5 blog posts of 2013 list, and I thought I’d be a copy cat (MEOW!) and do the same.

Let the countdown to Fig & Quince’s top 5 posts of the year begin:

Number #5 graphic illustration black & white

A yummy & truly simple vegetarian (can also be made vegan style) eggplant dish from the Northern (shomal) region of Iran. The story and recipe delightfully narrated by Yvonne joon, a most charming racounter, and the very first Fig & Quince guest blogger. I’m not surprised that out of the 60 odd posts on the blog last year, Yvonne joon penned one of the top five. She is witty, pretty, kind and oh so bright and her friendship I count as one of the great bonuses of having started this here blog.

Number #4 graphic illustration black & white

Bearing some resemblance in looks (if not taste) to the Mexican mole, fesenjoon (also called fessenjan), is known as the king of khoresh. Made with a mixture of ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, fesenjoon’s flavor is tangy and sweet and rich and its texture is heaven: soft but granular and thick. It is almost unbearably delicious when served with rice. Trust!

Number #3 graphic illustration black & white

Persian rice is a science and art to itself and the measure by which one gauges the true talent of an Iranian cook. This post, part 1 of a Rice 101 series, is an introduction to the rice (polo) and also to tadig (also spelled tahdig sometimes) or the bottom-of-the-pot crunchy crust of the rice that is the most coveted offering at any Iranian dinner table.

Number #2 graphic illustration black & white

still life with egg cup stones and pretty shovels and a leaf

sprout wheat sabzeh in mason jar for Norooz Easter guide tutorial

Oh, I get so happy looking at these pictures. They bring back fond and wholesome memories! They are from this past March when I sprouted lentils and sprouted wheat and watched them grow. Sprouting seeds, called “sabzeh sabz kardan” is one of the many very pretty customs of the secular and ancient celebration of the Persian New Year aka Norooz. I confess I’m still smiling looking at the photos – they are synonymous for me with spring! I may just rush spring and sprout some seeds right away just for the sheer pretty pleasure of it. ( A step by step guide to grow sabzeh at the full post.)

And, ta da, drum roll, the number 1 most viewed post:

Number #1 graphic illustration black & white

Perhaps not surprisingly, yet another Persian Rice 101 post, this one a pictorial step by step guide to making the perfect Persian rice took the #1 most viewed post. All credit is due to Persian rice itself, which truly, is the best rice in the world. It just is! The directions may seem exhaustive, but give it a try or three, and once you get the hang of it and it becomes second nature, you can make a fluffy pillowy bed of fragrant and perfectly steamed rice with one arm behind your back and win friends and influence people. Promise!

heart black white graphic thumbnail illustration digital

So that was Fig & Quince’s highlights in 2013, according to Word Press. For 2014, I have some theme adjustments (that I hope you’ll like) and a few fun plans for Fig & Quince up my sleeve. One of the plans intersects with my personal life and it is major and so dear to me that just thinking about it makes my heart go: thump, thump, thump! I hope I can realize it. I pray it will happen. I will weep if it does (with joy.) I will weep if it doesn’t (with sadness. And I might just burst.) Hint: its realization involves getting on a plane! ;) Please wish me luck!

And in conclusion and as I bid you adieu till we read again, I hope the new year has been treating you kindly thus far and that it will coddle and pamper you till the next one and I hope that you are either keeping up with your good resolutions or have the good sense not to beat yourself up if you have not. Fig & Quince drawing pencil color illustration on plate thumbnail graphic by Azita Houshiar

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46 thoughts on “Of Rice and Men| A glance back at Fig & Quince in 2013

  1. Azita dear, I follow your blog, I am mesmerized by your gift with the pen, your words and your amazing artistic talents. I look forward to each and every post, I learn and while I am learning I am entertained by your wit. I truly look forward to 2014 and what fig and quince has in store for us.

  2. I echo eloquent Suzanne. I have a good feeling about 2014. I look forward to the new things you are cooking for the theme of your blog and for our palate. Keep writing and entertain and amuse us. Hooray to Persian Polo! :D

  3. lol – 2014 not in need of any botox yet? and if it were, would it not be mutton dressed up as lamb…..anyway I agree the year is new, the air is sharp with the tang of winter and the promise of spring, and you can quite happily still write about 2013!

  4. PS – I must have deleted the wordpress email with best of 2013 – when I got up at 4am one night and decided to spring clean my in-box. Woe is me, oh well. Interesting that making perfect persian rice is such a hit, the Persians I know (which is admittedly only one family but a very big one with many branches) own a rice cooker – and make sure to wash rice loads of times, soak in water for a long time, use good quailty basmati and then let the rice cooker worry about it. Find this the most stress free way of making it too. Although as already blubbed about in the past, I am still not Tah-Dig capable and the thought of a wonderful crunchy Tah-Dig with a khoresht e gheimeh I had when I once left Washington DC and stopped at a persian place on the way to the plane, still makes me lust after it. I must try to source that saucepan you recommended.

    • Thank you for reminding me to do what I’ve meant to do but so far have neglected to write a post about using a rice cooker. My family doesn’t use one but many people do and it does definitely do the bulk of the work. And thank you for making me hungry for khoresht e gheimeh! lol! :)

      We must meet and review the tahdig making techniques together.

      • look forward to reading your rice cooker article. I only just saw this response : ) going through the archives! Tah dig, oh if only i was so accomplished to be able to discuss techniques and not just cry when the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan….:)

      • That’s the rite of passage with tadig! Crying when it comes out burnt or sticks to the pan. Ha ha. It happens! Even to my mom! :) noosheh jan anyhow xo a

  5. Azita, what a lovely post to say a fond farewell to 2013, while warmly embracing 2014, the year to come! I hope very much that all your wishes and hopes can be realised! I love reading ‘Fig & Quince’ and look forward to all the recipes and stories that are still to come! Margot :)

    • Margot, we got a freezing cold spell again with snow flurries that come down sideways and it made me think of you and dealing with scorching heat! Funny haven’t met but I was thinking of you. I’m truly happy to know you and thank you for reading Fig & Quince!

      • Quite amazing Azita, as I’ve just spent this evening thinking of you too! I know you’ll be as excited as I was to know that I’ve just dined out at my first ever Persian restaurant! I’m in Sydney for a couple of days catching up with friends and this lovely little restaurant called ‘The Persian Room’ is not far from where they live! It was an absolutely delicious and magical evening, made all the better from having been introduced to Persian cuisine firstly through you and your wonderful ‘Fig & Quince’! I hope very much that one day we get to sit down and share a meal together. :)

      • I feel like a proud mama! You had your first Iranian meal! Hope it was “nush e jan” and I’m adding a trip to Australia to meet you and a few other similarly awesome bloggers on my bucket list. xoxo

  6. “I polish them up so that they burnish more brightly on the forefront mantlepiece of my mind.” – A lovely phrase and sentiment. Your mottos all resonate with me as well.

  7. I used to believe the “Done is better than perfect.” Then I had a boss who explained to me that if it is done, but done incorrectly, then it not only is not better than perfect, but it’s not even done! Thus I have modified my stance: “It doesn’t have to be perfect because it never will be. Do the best you can with your knowledge and skills, and done will be just fine.”

  8. It is definitely not too late to reminisce on 2013! I have made resolutions in the past but none this year. I feel throughout the year I make constant goals for myself and I sometimes find it silly how many people make New Year’s resolutions. BUT I do like to reflect on the past year :) Thanks for sharing your top posts!

  9. Azita, you are amazing. Your recipes are incredible, your passion is contagious and you (and you brother and son–have i seen his pics on your blog too?) are so visually talented. Your design is great. I agree with the other comments, I look forward to your posts because of quality of the content and the writing. Lovely post. I don’t think i got a year end report from wordpress.

    • Amanda I swear I was thinking of you (as in, make time and go visit Amanda’s blog) and lo, I hear from you! Thank you thank you for the kind words. The little boy is my darling nephew. He’s the cutest.

      You must have missed WP’s “your annual report” email to you. But if you go look at your stats, right on top under the date you should find this line:
      Fig & Quince (WP.com)

      January 22, 2014, 7:38 pm
      “Check out the fireworks you created on your 2013 Annual Report.”
      And the annual report is a link that will take you to your full report. It’s fun reading. You should check it out and if for some reason you can’t find it, contact support because from what I know, they create one for every blog.

      xoxo

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