Monday, June 20, 2011

A Very Special Evening with A Young Woman and her Family

Three years ago when our group was visiting a small village in Iran, my friend Sam and I were waiting outside the public toilet for some of our traveling companions, talking with a family about the price of gas and other things when an exuberant young woman rushed up to us saying “I am so happy to make your acquaintance.” She proceeded to ask us as many questions as she could before our companions reappeared. She was delightful, her English was very good, and I gave her my email before we parted. She told me her name, that she was 19 and studying English at a university but that was it.

Maybe six months ago, I got an email from her. She had just found my email address in an old notebook. I replied saying, “You won’t believe this but I’m coming to Iran in April.” We had a few exchanges and she invited me to her house in Tehran for dinner. We determined a possible date and time. I crossed my fingers that it would work out.

I arrived in Tehran at 1:30am on April 25, went through the extensive formalities to enter the country, the hour-long journey into the city, and finally fell into bed at about 4:00am. At 9:00am I get a call from the lobby saying "Your friend is waiting for you." Throwing on clothes and scarf, I dashed downstairs as quickly as possible. And there she was, with a welcoming rose bouquet, looking so mature and grown-up. Over breakfast, we determined that I would have dinner the next day with her family.

And what a fantastic time it was. Her family lives in a two bedroom apartment in east Tehran. My friend had stayed home from work that day to help her mother cook. Her grandmother had come from south Tehran to be with us. She came to my hotel in a taxi to pick me up. I think she was worried that I wouldn't be able to find my way. She was probably correct. Her father finished up his work as a driver in time to join the festivities. They invited me to remove my scarf. I felt as though I was being made an honorary member of the family. What a gracious welcome to their home.

We sat in the living room around a table full of delicious treats. Of course, I had to try everything. But I knew that dinner was coming, that it would no doubt be plentiful, and that I needed to save room. I was correct in my assessment and the dinner was truly delicious. In addition to what I've shown you below, there were three kinds of pickles: cabbage, eggplant, and garlic. So here we go.

Barley soup
Tomatoes and cucumbers
Cucumbers with yogurt, walnuts, and raisins
Fresh greens and herbs with radishes
This combination is more a palate-cleanser than a salad. It was served without salad dressing with many lunches and dinners.
Eggplant with kashk, walnuts and fried onions
This was one of my favorite dishes in Iran. Here's my versionKashk is a yogurt product and is available in jars from a Persian deli.
Dolma made with grape leaves and with cabbage
Isn't that a beautiful arrangement? 
Stew of lamb, split peas, and dried limes decorated with French fries
Here is my recipe for this wonderful dish called Lamb Khoresht with Split Peas and Fried Potatoes. It is so good.
Roasted chicken with green bean pilau
White and yellow rice
Gelatin dessert decorated with candies (like M&Ms)

Mind you, this was dinner for six people. We lingered over dessert and even longer at the door as I was leaving. I felt so enriched by the experience; I knew even then at the beginning of my trip that this would be one of its major highlights. And so it has been.

When I think about Iran, I see this wonderful family and wish so much for them. One the way back to the hotel, I asked her about freedom. She said that she tries to create freedom inside her so that no matter what is going on in the outside world, in her outside world, she will still be free. A wise and thoughtful answer, given circumstances in Iran. I can't help but hope that the outside world will allow her more freedom in the years ahead.

1 comment:

Bibby Moore said...

What a wonderful meal...chicken, lamb, grains, greens, cucumbers and tomatoes...I hope they value left-overs as much as Rick and I do.
Thanks you so much for sharing this tender evening with us.