My lack of interest in food was not discouraged in Iran. If anything, it was encouraged. My mother pledged she would bring some “meat upon my bones” a term I have been told exists in the German language as well as my native Persian. Also a term Gaga used to justify her Meat Dress. The justification was so absurd, it shall not be discussed, in this post at least. My mother would jokingly tell me she’ll snatch my passport, not revealing its hiding place until I had gained some weight and she had verified it. Her main concern was that I be healthy, and in her dictionary healthy is not synonymous to the state that I was in. I beg to differ. Yet this blog has no tolerance for yet another weight related post. Dishes and dishes of healthy food, snacks and desserts were put in front of me. My laziness was encouraged. I did not pay much attention to how it got to its current place, in front of me. The shopping and preparing part was forgotten and ignored.
Liver was my father’s personal favourite. Though I had no problem eating the scarlet red sheep organs, I begged him to promise that what I saw was not blood dripping off of the chunks of meat clinging on to the thin spears he was holding on the stove. He gave me the look he would give me anytime he couldn’t believe he was faced with a statement or question coming out of my mouth. From the top of his glasses he stared at me “I’ve also bought a heart, we’ll cook that after this” which meant, yes, there was blood involved.
Because of my previous liver issue, my eldest aunt had advised my mother to give me Khaake-Shir, a drink I liked to call “Fish eggs in water”, every morning. It looks disgusting. It is even reported by my cousin that the mere sight of it gives her goosebumps. Before my breakfast I had to gulp down another herbal drink that was as bitter as a snake’s tail. I did find it rather discouraging that I was not once applauded for my sportsmanship in the eating attitude sense; for holding my chin up and eating and drinking whatever was put in front of me, and sometimes asking for seconds. Yes I was not a spoilt brat at all. (Ironical how dedicating a whole post on how I need to gain weight will be depicted as being a spoilt brat.)
I like to believe that I gained one pound in the month that I was home. The scale in my bathroom was not to be trusted. Its results varied depending on which type of ground support it had. I stuck to the illusion that I had gained some weight and luckily my mother could see it in my face. The cheekbones I had inherited from her were not the only protruding features on my face, according to her, I now had cheeks. My aunt and grandmother confirmed. I had my passport back.
My last night in Tehran was spent celebrating my grandmother’s birthday, with food, cake and laughter. Some footage of it was shown to Kathrin, with her concluding that we had one big happy (loud) family. Little did she know that this was the quiet side. My father’s side was the side where costume parties were not an event but a regularity in family gatherings, where my aunt’s wardrobe was filled with hats and accessories of all sorts ready to be popped on giving its bearer a character. These characters would dance in my grandfather’s living room. His big house surrounded by no other building allowed us to be as loud as we wanted. Laughter in my family was served alongside the colourful dishes of Persian food. Just as delicious, and just as fattening.
Upon my return to Germany I decided to cook my own meals. I took a trip to my local grocery shop this time stepping outside knowing that this was a food shopping journey and nothing else. I had no excuses of being tired this time. I was not running back from a long thread of classes or a study session in the library or any other errand. I had the whole trip dedicated to food. Walking in the aisles I could think of one person and how I wished I was living in the same city as her. My bachelor days’ friend Niusha is a self-declared food junkie. She has an entire blog dedicated to food. That’s how serious she takes it. The last day in Iran included a long lunch date with a few of my friends from when we were undergrads and had no clue what we were going to do next in life. Now, scattered across the globe all writing our masters thesis’, we appreciated a few hours together while gobbling slices of pizza in a pizzeria we had unanimously concluded created the best pizza in Tehran. It was in that pizzeria where Niusha told me she found joy in going grocery shopping, later being succeeded by a cooking session and later a devouring chapter. Her presence was needed. I was surrounded by aisles and aisles of ingredients I did not know what to do with. I took a leap of faith and bought anything that I thought I could make use of.
After my run along the river, with an empty stomach and endorphins making me believe I could do the impossible, I started cooking. Retrieving any vague details I could from my mother’s recipes and her instructions after calling me in the midst of my term paper writing to watch her cook, I dipped my toes in the water. My first meal did not have a name; it was my own invention. Yet I was proud to announce it to my mother that it was one hundred percent natural. I did not even buy processed lime juice; I bought lemons and squeezed their guts out in my invention as well as my Shirazi salad. She was pleased, and so was my stomach. And my conscience.
I have been back for a solid two weeks now and I can confidently say that I have eaten home cooked meals every single day. So Niusha, when I come to visit you in New Hampshire next year, I will have a few freshly invented recipes up my sleeve. Hope you don’t mind me “Sticking my foot in your shoe”. Yes, transliterated…