Making the perfect Persian rice is a tall order. (As illustrated in detail here, here, & here!) BUT, despair not. “LET us go then, you and I,” holding hands, step-by-step, and do what it takes to crack this culinary juggernaut.
You’ll Need These Tools:
… AND These Ingredients:
This step is described in exhaustive & illustrative detail here – but in a nutshell:
When is rice al-dente and ready to be drained in the colander? Rice is al-dente when it’s no longer crunchy but still firm – not soft or mushy. It can take anywhere from 6-12 minutes of boiling rice to get this desired al-dente texture. Precise timing varies – depending on: type of rice; geographical altitude & humidity; and a given stove’s heat settings. TIP: A test used by the novice and expert rice-maker alike is to to take a few grains as rice is boiling and either bite into or press grains between fingers to test its texture. If uncertain, best to err on the crunchy side (as it still has a fighting chance to come out alright) than overboiled grains (pretty much done for as far as that whole fluffy business goes.) But ultimately: No Worries! Practice makes perfect and here’s a huge silver-lining even if you make a mistake: the rice will still be quite delicious!
The yogurt and saffron and rice mixture is a good and oft-used base for making a nicely-colored, tasty tadig. It is also common practice to make tadig using either sliced potatoes or lavash bread (a type of flat bread.) Additionally, there are some interesting albeit off-the-beaten-path tadig bases as well. Much more to be said on this topic! The tasty oeuvre and delicate art of tadig-making to be covered with due deference and in loving detail at a later time.
Persian rice is best served immediately – when it is at the peak of its glory. Serving rice has its own set of protocol. Of course it does! Here it goes:
Final thoughts re polo va cholo and the whole Persian rice making business :
I went into excruciating detail so that you know all the ins and outs (what we Persians call “khamoo va cham”) of the intricately-protocoled-method of Persian rice making so as to increase your odds of success. For those of you new to this admittedly technique-driven process, I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you — and would like to reassure you that the learning curve is truly not steep. It’s simply a question of practicing a few times and building expertise and body memory and before you know it, the entire thing becomes second nature to you.
This brings our Persian rice polo making odyssey (my, it was a long journey) to an end of sorts, but not to “The End” — there’s still the matter of kateh (the easy but non-slutty cousin of polo) and an “All About Tadig” post, and a post about how to hack a plain polo into something quite fancy; and finally a post about making rice with electric cookers. But frankly my dears, I’ve had it with writing about rice and need to chillax and take a break from it; and this here is a good place to put up the tent and camp out for a leisurely & thoughtful spell of a “berenj” sabbatical.
Meanwhile, go forth and make polo!
“Persian rice is hands down the best rice in the world. For me it was a revelation, tender, each grain separate, and saffron makes it over the top delicious.” Suzanne
By now I’ve waxed poetic about polo, kateh, and tadig; and have also talked about a few tricks of the trade that would be useful to know before embarking on the Persian-rice-making journey; and believe it or not, this train – slowly chugging along – is getting close to the “Here’s How You Make Polo” station.
But before we choo choo choo to our final (perhaps mythical) destination – let’s linger just a bit at this station and stretch our limbs and get a snack maybe and also quickly go over the first step in making a beautiful polo, namely: properly cleaning the rice.
It’s practically a ceremonial ritual and here it goes:
1. RAKE THE RICE!
I can hear you going: “HUH?” No worries. The animated Gif (bottom of page) should hopefully shed some light. This is an optional step and it goes thus:
2. WASH RICE TILL WATER RUNS CLEAR
But you might be wondering – WHY must I wash the rice? You may be thinking — I have things to do and places to go to – is this tomfoolery truly necessary? In which case, let’s stress that, yes, you must, and yes, this is not a frivolous step. Rice grains are coated in starch dust — the very substance that turns the water murky. Washing rice until it runs crystal clear rids it of this starch allowing for rice grains to keep separated when cooked — thus preventing a sticky-grains polo situation, which as we’ve come to know, is cause for grievous lamentation & dramatic hair-pulling when it comes to Persian rice.
3. SOAK RICE IN LIGHTLY SALTED WATER
Why soak the rice? Salt water adds flavor, plums up & lengthens the grains, and helps reduce stickiness. So while some (frankly uninformed) recipes for polo tout it as an optional step, soaking rice is indeed and in fact an essential step in making a good Persian rice by improving the odds of obtaining fluffy, non-sticky, long-limbed beautiful rice.
Tip: Soaking rice overnight is a good way to get a head-start on the entire polo-making-process and a common practice.)
That’s it for washing rice. This GIF should hopefully clarify any ambiguities:
Our final destination — “Making Polo!” Finally! ALL ABOARD!
Choo choo choo choo choo choo …
[PS.The title of this post is an allusion to Eat, Pray, Love -- an exuberant book (kind of the exact opposite of Sartre's Nausea!) and a huge best-seller for a long time so odds are you don't need me to tell you to go read it but if you haven't - then go read it. Really.]
Here are some things to cover before we tackle the holy-grail of Persian rice making — in random no-rhyme-or-reason-order:
RICE: QUALITY MATTERS
Did you know there are 40,000 varieties of rice in the world? Or that the custom of throwing rice at weddings came about because rice is directly associated with prosperity and fertility? I did not know any of that, but I do know that you should use the very best long-grained rice if you want to end up with a fluffy pillow of polo and not a hot sticky mess.
You may be tempted to ignore my sage advice and use the generic rice found in supermarkets or languishing in your pantry, and I’m cautioning you: Do Not! It’ll be like wearing shoes a size too small to go dancing – you may think you’ll get away with it but at the end it’ll hurt like hell and you’ll kick yourself for doing it. Why set yourself up for blistering failure, when you can dance, dance, dance!
So what specific kind of rice to use? In Iran, there are multiple grades and varieties of long-grain rice available, ranging from daily domestic use to the very best fragrant kind reserved for special occasions, none of which (to my knowledge) are available outside of the country. Iranians in diaspora have generally anointed long-grain Basmati as the rice grain of choice – thanks to its length, shape, white color, and fragrance. You should be able to find some in the better international markets and also online. (For those of you in the know, I’d be most grateful if you can suggest other types of rice that you have found suitable for making Persian rice.)
Kaf’gir literally means “foam-catcher” and it is a type of spatula (usually metal) with small round holes that is the traditional tool used when making Persian rice: to loosen grains and skim the foam when boiling the rice; to dole out the rice from colander to pot; to serve the rice when it is cooked; to help extradite the tadig from the pot; and as you will see for yourself in a future post, even its handle has a particular use! (“Kafgir” and “polo” are nouns intricately linked … the very name of “kafgir” evoking, for those of Irooni persuasion, a kitchen imbued with the fragrant steam of rice cooking on the stove top.)
Now it’d be nice if you have a kafgir but it’s not the end of the world if you do not, so long as you have a similar-enough tool to stir the grains and skim the foam.
AB’EH ZA’FARAN = SAFFRON WATER
Iranians love their za’faran (saffron) and use it for all sorts of things from savory dishes to drinks to desserts. Saffron strands are usually stored in airtight containers and ground just prior to use, but it’s not uncommon and won’t raise any eyebrows to also have a small bottle of ground saffron at hand.
Most recipes calling for saffron actually require ab’eh za’faran (saffron water) – which is obtained by dissolving a pinch or two of ground saffron in 2-4 tablespoons of hot water. (I suspect the prevalence of this technique is partially derive by a desire to economize the use of saffron while availing oneself of all the goodness of color, flavor and aroma that it has to offer.)
When making polo, you will need both saffron water and a pinch(+) of ground saffron.
GOSH GOLLY GHEE!
In my grandmothers’ time, people could avail themselves of a type of cooking lard called “rooghan kermanshahi” — nicely fragrant and considered to be of superior quality. It came in a big tin – and portions would be doled out, heated, sifted, and the clarified liquid then saved for cooking. The custom fell to wayside once ready-to-use cooking oil became widespread and the choice of populace. But according to my mom, who remembers what food cooked with rooghan Kermanshahi tasted like, it made for food with a superior quality of flavor by far.
It is possible to somewhat replicate that flavor by making ghee – an integral part of Indian cuisine – or as Radhika calls it: “Sunshine in a Bottle!” (What a great and apt title!) Ghee mixed in with a bit of oil would make for a decadent touch when making polo – particularly when it comes to making a succulent tadig. If you’d like to give it a try for yourself, do check out Radhika’s clear and concise step-by-step pictorial tutorial.
At the last step of Persian-style rice-making, the pot is covered with the lid, the lid itself wrapped up in a kitchen towel. The purpose of this technique (an iconic symbol of down-home Persian rice-making) is to trap the steam in the pot and absorb the condensation that otherwise would trickle in and turn the rice sad and soggy instead of perfect, perky and fluffy. That’s the logic of it, and here’s how it is done:
Bundling up the lid when steam cooking the rice is one of the factors ensuring success, so do not skip it for the sake of lazy convenience. But please put in the minute or two it takes to securely bundle the lid, otherwise this technique could prove a fire hazard which is no joke. You could always use a rubber band to further secure the knot on top as an additional security measure, but so long as you make proper knots, there’s no reason to worry as the practice has proven safe throughout thousands of years of use.
Next Stop: Washing Rice! (Yes – there’s enough to be said on the topic to warrant an entire independent post.)
Until then, have a rice … I mean nice day.
Baba is Persian for “dad.” You could also say pedar which means father – but it’s more formal and not often used in everyday intimate parlance. When we first moved to the U.S., I got embarrassed to call my father “baba” when out-and-about in public (another story, another day!) and took to calling him pedar instead and it became a habit that seeped into my ordinary private address of him as well, but it always felt prickly on my tongue – so I finally got over it and went back to baba right-fast. Because when one’s an irooni, one’s father is baba or baba joon — simple as that.
As for Baba Bee, that’s a nickname we made up for the word baba bozorgh (big baba!) which means grandfather in Persian.
Baba is a man of moderation when it comes to food – I’ve never seen him over indulge, not even once, no matter how small or great the temptation, BUT, he must must must have 3 meals a day whatever-may-come-rain-hail-or-shine — the idea of skipping a meal tantamount to sacrilege and cause to be crestfallen; and by golly, he wants, nay, needs his torshi and sabzi and salad at every supper. The existence of these culinary accoutrements at the dinner table possibly a testament to an order of a type that as a disciplined, organized person he finds reassuring? One can only conjuncture – but there’s also the simple matter that they do enhance the pleasure of every meal! So there’s that.
Baba knows how to cook - a secret talent revealed to us the first time Maman was away on a long trip back to Iran – he cooks while often raising an eyebrow in quizzical concentration as if trying to remember something essential, but still, he cooks well. And possibly because it is a rare occurrence, I am always charmed by his cookery. In general though, Maman did all the cooking, although when it came to making fereni and shir berenj, she defered to Baba, saying “that’s really your father’s specialty.” Speaking earlier of torshi (Persian pickles & tangy preserves) that’s something Baba likes to make, sometimes by himself, sometimes Maman and Baba together.
One fun food-type thing Maman Baba do every summer is that they trek to a sour cherry orchard (bagheh albaloo!), often times with a few friends, and return home with buckets and buckets of bright red juicy tangy albaloo, and together — like good busy bees, in perfect harmony — they make fast work of prepping the bucket-loads of sour cherries:
De-seeding a whole bunch to store and freeze in ziplog bags ready to be turned into yummy sour-cherry rice in the future; making sharbat albaloo (sour cherry syrup- the base for making a super popular Persian summertime beverage) and moraba albaloo (sour cherry jam – my mom’s quickie version of it) with another whole bunch of sour cherries; and gobbling up the rest of the albaloo – fresh, sprinkled with just a hint of salt. I hope to accompany them this year and document the process properly. Inshallah! Until then, I do have some wonderfully-blurry (pre Pinterest/ Instagram/ blogging days) of this albaloo-processing escapade to share:
Baba has so far given me two recipes (with super-cute names) for this blog — specific to the Kermanshah region of Iran whence he hails from. They are among my very favorite recipes- making for simple, fun, bright, delicious food that I had not tasted prior to his introduction. In honor of Father’s Day, I asked him for other recipe ideas and he did not disappoint – suggesting a couple of interesting dishes. Alas, I have to defer those to another day, another time, as I kind of have to wrap-up this post today. So, instead, I’ll just re-share the two Baba-given veggie/vegan Kermanshahi recipes – and encourage you to try them, as they are easy and GOOD:
Wishing you all a very Happy Fathers Day!
Hip hip hooray for all the wonderful fathers – those we are fortunate to have around and those who are alive in hearts.
There is an amusing rice-centric Persian proverb, the story of which goes like this:
A newlywed bride, a novice cook, wanted to make polo (fluffy steamed rice) but did not know how so she reluctantly turned to her mother-in-law (MIL) for help. “First you wash the rice,” the MIL instructed. The bride nodded and said: “Yes, I knew that part already.” “Then you soak the rice in lightly-salted water for a couple of hours.” the MIL continued. “Um-hum, I already knew that too,” said the bride. “Then you cook the rice in boiling water until the grains get tender.” To which the bride replied: “Yes, I knew that part as well.” And so on, and so forth! Whatever instructions the MIL gave, the bride, who was loathe to reveal her inexperience, replied: “Oh yeah, I knew that already.” Vexed, the MIL decides to teach the bride a lesson and says: “And lastly, put an adobe brick on top of the rice, cover, and cook for an hour.” And the bride says: “Yes, of course, I knew that part already as well,” and goes off and prepares the polo as instructed and makes a disappointed fool of herself when the disintegrated brick ruins the rice!
The story is reduced to a punchline of “yeh khisheh ham roosh bezar” or “put a brick on top” — used when someone is faking it till making it.
So here’s the first lesson when it comes to making an awesome Persian fluffy rice: Do NOT put a brick in the pot! There! You’re already one huge step ahead.No, but seriously, rice dishes are considered by Iranians to be the domain of and masterpieces of the Persian cuisine; and mastering the method and technique to make the type of Persian rice that is fit to be placed in front of discerning guests at a dinner party is what separates the rookie from an accomplished and seasoned ashpaz (cook.)
So what exactly constitutes a fit-to-be-served-in-company polo? The standards are exacting and precise: the perfect polo is fluffy and pillowy and billowy and it is doon doon (each grain is separate from the other, none sticking, heavens forbid, to each other) and the grains are rosht kardeh (each grain fully grown & lengthened in the process of cooking) and textured so that it is neither overcooked nor even the slightest-bit crunchy, perfectly seasoned and fragrant with saffron of course, AND, with the perfect golden crispy crust of tadig. Verily, it is a skill one can rightfully boast of once one masters the technique.
(I recently found out that making a truly good sushi rice is a protocoled process – no breezy matter – the degree of success of which distinguishes a true master sushi chef from one who’s merely run-of-the-mill. Speaking of sushi chefs, you really *should/must/have* to do yourself the immense favor of watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi – it’s on Netflix too – one of the best films ever! If I remember correctly, Chef Jiro makes his apprentices practice for years before they’re entrusted with the momentus task of making the sushi rice. And here I thought Persian rice was a mountain to climb!)
For those unfamiliar with making Persian-style rice, don’t let me scare you off, because while technique-driven, the steps entailed (once learned and practiced a few times) allow for facile adoption in a second-nature, no big-whoop way. My mom can throw together a rice dish – that is so pretty and delicious it will make you weep tears of gratitude – with perfect nonchalance, and in an almost time-defying Matrix type of way … so to speak. I, on the other hand, … let’s say I am still working on being cool and carefree when making polo. But hey, practice makes perfect, and this is one of those things that’s fun to practice, right?
My proposed plan-of-attack in helping you master the method of making the perfect Persian polo and kateh and tadig is to cover the actual nitty-gritty techniques of it all in exquisite detail in a couple of future posts. But for now, first steps first, let’s take a quick explanatory spin for those of you not familiar with Persian cuisine.
Polo is steamed Persian rice – fluffy and fragrant – made with the best quality rice one can find, following a multi-step process that includes: washing, soaking, boiling, draining, followed by steam-cooking — each step with its own traditional rules of engagement. (By the way, polo is pronounced thus: “po” as if you’re saying Edgar Allen Poe + “lo” as if you’re singing: “Her Name Was Lola.” ♫ At the Copa, Copacabana … ♫ … Such a catchy tune!) Ok back to our regular programming.
Polo is either:
Here’s a visual-aid infograph to make sense of the whole thing, because as they say yek picture is worth yek hezar words:
2. kateh (sometimes called polo-kateh)
Polo is what you make for guests, for special occassions, for a good dinner at home when time permits. If pressed for time, or just not in the mood, it’s Ok to make a version of Persian rice called kateh that is much less fussy – dispensing with the whole parboiling and draining and steaming rigamorale. Kateh is basically a humble, hurried poor cousin of polo. It’s not as “fancy” but you still end up with rice that is not sticky and also has that indispensable golden tadig crust.
Ah, tadig. Glorious, glorious tadig.
What is it? Well, dig is pot and tah (shortened to “ta” in daily informal speech) means bottom — so tadig literally means “bottom-of-the-pot.” But as the unique invention and pride of Persian cuisine its place is top notch. Iranians LOVE their tadig. And honestly, so do most people once they get a chance to give it a try. It’s pretty awesome.
And now for your viewing pleasure, some specimens of the magnificent and coveted crispy crunchy crust at-the-bottom-of-the-pot that is served with the rice and swiftly disappears:
And let’s leave it at that for now. Future posts will cover the following grounds:
All to be posted in due time. Hope to see you then!
Persian halva, sometimes translated as “saffron cake” (don’t ask me why, it makes no sense) not to be confused with halva ardeh (more on that below) refers to a sweet, aromatic, pasty type of concoction that is made with browned flour and a syrup mixture of sugar, rosewater, cardamom and saffron. (Lentil halva is an uncommon type of halva – belonging to a genre of lost/forgotten dishes. I found its recipe in my very favorite Persian cookbook, written by a wonderful gentleman, Najaf Daryabandari.)
Halva is sweet but not considered a dessert in that it has doleful associations and is intricately tied-in with bereavement. When someone dies, close friends and relatives make and distribute halva to the needy in the name of, and for the sake of the soul of the deceased – a gesture practiced by the religious and secular alike. (This idea of paying personal, emotional, respect may explain why halva, unlike most other Persian sweets, is almost always made at home and not purchased.) Halva is also foremost amongst the food customarily served at wakes and memorials. Which makes sense when you think about it: halva is a comfort food and thus a solace; and it smells good and tastes sweet, which can momentarily brighten a bleak occasion by delighting the senses; but it is also a mild food in flavor and sedate in demeanor – nothing too flashy or jovial about it despite the pistachio sprinkles – perfectly suited to the tone of a somber occasion such as a funeral.
When I was a kid I cared less than little for halva, no doubt in part due to its melancholy not-fun associations, and preferred the more vivacious sholeh zard, but I have new-found regard for this simple dish, that if partaken in a few spoonfuls, is a wonderful amuse bouche, satisfying the sweet tooth; and if accompanied with flatbread, as it is possible to do, makes for delicious bites and a fulfilling meal. I’m fond of the texture of halva as well, which ideally should be soft but not gooey, sticky but not chewy, a melt-in-your-mouth pasty consistency reminiscent of the type filling found inside some Japanese pastries or Chinese red bean buns. (If one is successful when making the halva that is, ahem, cough, cough.)
Now there’s another (entirely distinctive) type of sweet that we call halva ardeh in Iran but which is widely known as halva everywhere else: a block-shaped confection with a dense dry texture that crumbles when you cut into it; popular in Turkey, Greece, all across the Middle-East, Eastern Europe and a whole bunch of other countries besides. Iranians don’t treat halva ardeh as a dessert either and have it for an occasional breakfast treat or an afternoon snack – usually with some bread.
How did halva ardeh come to be – you might wonder? Remember how the entire genre of Persian borani came to be thanks to Queen Porandokht and her finicky tastes? Well, it turns out that halva ardeh is another example of a type of food that owes its origin to the demands of Persian royalty, the royalty in question this time being the 17th century Safavid Dynasty ruler of Iran, Shah Abbas Bozorgh (the Great.)
It is said that Shah Abbas tasked one of his trusted advisors (Sheikh Bahayee: a philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, and poet) to concoct a compact, nutritious and portable food for his army. After due diligence, Sheikh Bahayee came up with the original halva ardeh recipe: ground sesame (rich in protein and iron) mixed with grape syrup – end result being a durable, palatable, highly-caloric food that traveled well. (Speaking of the grape syrup part of the recipe, a Persian proverb, preaching perseverance, goes like this: “With patience, we can make halva with unripe grapes.” Indeed. Indeed.) So! It turns out halva ardeh is an early iteration of … SPAM? That’s kind of … amusing!
I can’t pass up this opportunity to chat just a tiny bit about Shah Abbas the Great – one of the more significant rulers of Iran. On the glittering bright side, his reign was a true golden age for Persian arts and humanities — calligraphy, miniature painting, mural making, carpet weaving and design, illuminated arts, book binding, and architecture all flourished under his rule – a brilliant and enduring legacy, which includes the poetically beautiful city of Isfahan. On the downright horrific side, he killed one son and blinded the other two due to ill-proven suspicions of their usurping his throne, terrible acts which apparently threw him into a depressive funk. Which, no kidding … dear God! And on the facial-hair-side, which may just become a de-facto theme of this blog (to wit: see that other fabulously-mustachioed king) Shah Abbas shaved off his beard at the age of 19, keeping only his mustache, thus setting a fashion trend in Iran in his time.
Recipe for lentil halva (oh yeah, that’s what we were talking about!) immediately following, but please indulge me with a final detour – a brief reverie induced by studying this beautiful, richly detailed (Wiki-sourced) wall mural from the Chehel Sotoon Gassr (40 Pillar Palace) in Isfahan – depicting a festive scene of Shah Abbas receiving visiting dignitaries (a defeated rival Uzbek leader and his people) at his court, offering what seems to be a plate of food to his guest of honor:
Note the 3 separate cloth-spreads of food (or what we call sofreh in Persian, used to set/serve food before the Western dining protocol became commonplace) set in front of the seated guests. Also note all the hipster mustaches (but no beard for the Persian guests – per the fashion trend of the day set by the king! The Uzbek guests have not received the memo and still sport beards.) The fruit served seems to be a mixture of apples, pears and plums and … maybe pomegranates? The woman at the bottom right is pouring a beverage for a guest – I wonder, what kind of beverage? This was 17th century Iran, well after the conquest of the Persian empire by Arabs and the advent of Islam, but m’ey (a poetic and generic term for “intoxicating drink,” i.e booze) is all over Omar Khayams’s poetry and … let’s just say I would not be shocked if the woman is a saghi offering a libation that is more potent than juice. To have been a fly on the wall! Someone invent a time machine already!
Banafsheh, who I like to call B, is a dear family friend, trilingual attorney, witty wordsmith, and (gratefully for me) avid shutter bug. All of the pictures in this post (unless specified otherwise) are hers that she shared with me. (Mer30 Banafsheh joon!) This first pic is of B peering into the viewfinder of a diorama — a 19th century mobile-theatre device invented in France — imported to and popularized in Iran by Mozafar od-din Shah, the then king of Iran, who came across its prototype in Paris.
This intriguing contraption of moving images — the cutting-edge technology of its time, offering the masses peeps at never-before-seen images of exotic people and lands — came to be branded as shahr ‘e farang, which literally means “City of Europe” but is more aptly (thanks to @arefadib) translated as “The Unseen World.” Anecdotal evidence has it that its entrepreneurial operators (who were called amoo shahreh farang) would set up shop on street corners and attract customers by sing-songing: “shahr, shareh farangeh; hameh chish khosh ab va rangeh …” which means: “the city is a European city, and everything there is colorful and beautiful …” People lined up.
Here’s what that early-adopter techie king looked like – photo via Wiki:
Now, this particular shahr ‘eh farang device that B can be seen charmingly peering into in the picture (above) is housed in a shiny, relatively new (circa 2007, I believe) public space in Tehran called Borj ‘eh Milad or Milad Tower.
Here are some pix of it:
Milad Tower seems to be a rather impressive space -jayeh abroomandaneh as B calls it- thoughtfully and tastefully laid out. Apparently, it is a multi-purpose compound — an international convention & trade center with a hotel, restaurant, IT park, etc. — meant for both sightseeing and commerce.
And judging by the pictures, it looks like it’s situated high enough to offer a sweeping vista of Tehran. A vista guarded under the watchful gaze of the statue of Ferdosi, beloved iconic poet, “the Homer of Iran,” the savior of the Persian language:
This place didn’t exist when I lived in Iran. Here I am, with the aid of a modern-day shahr ‘e farang, raptly peering at images of a distant homeland – at sights entirely new to me.
Looking at these pictures, I feel … I feel like Rip Van Winkle. And can I tell you something? … I’m homesick. HOMESICK. Is it alright for me to say that?
[If I was originally from almost any other country, I would not worry about being judged for this sentiment, and I would not ponder -as I have, at some length- about whether it is OK to express -expressly!- that I miss my home country. (I do. Deeply, profoundly.) But "Iran" is such a loaded word - with so many connotations, stereotypes, prejudices and mistrust. Some fair. Some unfair or uninformed. I almost always feel perched on or walking a tightrope up high, when talking about or hearing about Iran. This is not a carefree identity, but it is one that I care for fiercely. With uncompromising, legitimate pride. No fear or need of anyone's permission for that. But that's not the end of the story, because I'm a hyphenated person. The hyphen is the clasp knotting a necklace strung with seemingly incongruous beads - joining Iranian to American. Rumi to Walt Whitman. Not so incongruous, after all. The hyphen is a talisman. But a hyphenated identity is a mercurial one, its strength is its fluidity, fusion, and expansive comprehension; its flaw, the fact that it is learned not innate, and in the eyes of many, on either side of the hyphen, suspect. Maybe that's why I'm a fan of Phillip Dick's Blade Runner. I relate to the plight of the androids. But then again, I remember that there's this globe, somehow balanced in the sky, in space, graced by the infinite mystery and majesty of the universe, and we're all on it, and we're all ... just the same.]
On a less wordy more fun note, let’s end the tour of the tower with a tower of ice cream. I mean … WHOA!
Until next, off I go to dream of electric sheep.
ps. With all the talk of shahr’e farang, I’ll have to link to the fabulous Shahre Farang website. Go take a peek!