People’s love for food is an incredibly powerful force, one that unites individuals of differing beliefs and ideologies. While forces such as politics, religion and race can be dividing forces in society, food is an area that does the opposite, instead bringing people together. Whether it is trying a new ethnic cuisine as a group of friends or breaking bread during a business meeting or introductory meal, food binds individuals from different walks of life and encourages intra-cultural communication. It leads individuals to explore cultures with which they may have limited familiarity, and drives people to meet people of different backgrounds whom they may otherwise never have crossed paths with.
Food is also often one of the greatest identification factors of a culture and nation’s history. For example, many of the dietary staples of the Mexican diet are as a direct consequence of the Spanish conquest of that nation centuries ago. Similarly, Persian food serves as a long-standing symbol of Iranian culture and hospitality. The richness of Persian food has led many to explore Iranian history, a topic that may otherwise not have garnered much mainstream interest. Persian food has also done a good job of spiking interest given the secrecy involved in the cuisine. As Zagat mentions, “if the food of Iran has remained somewhat of a mystery to diners in the U.S., that may be intentional. Unlike, say, the French, who’ve created a culture of dining out, the finest examples of Persian cooking are showcased privately, in the home. It also doesn’t help that Persian cooks are notoriously secretive. They’re the best hosts in the world and will feed you until you burst, but you’ll rarely get to see what goes on in the kitchen.”
As a result of this secrecy around their cuisine, Persians are often identified strongly for their warm hospitality. When a Persian host sets Persian food on the table, it’s rude to deny their offer of a spoonful of basmati rice or ghormeh sabzi. Even if you feel as though one more bite will push you over the edge, you’ve got to say yes. And yet, despite how much you’re required to eat during a Persian meal, the dinner table never looks empty. The plate of basmati rice looks as full as when it was first set (with the only thing missing being tadig, given that it’s the first thing to fly off the table). Persian food just keeps flowing without limit. To a Persian host, there is no worse outcome than have an empty table, even if it is at the end of the meal.
As Anthony Bourdain mentions from his Parts Unknown episode in Iran, “‘I am so confused. It … wasn’t supposed to be like this. Of all the places, of all the countries, all the years of traveling, it’s here, in Iran, that I am greeted most warmly by total strangers. The other stuff is there, the Iran we’ve read about, heard about, seen in the news. But this … this I wasn’t prepared for.’” This sentiment that Anthony Bourdain feels is largely due to the hospitality that he experiences from the Iranian people. And this hospitality that he senses is during his dinner at a Persian household, in which he gets to enjoy Persian food at its finest. As you can see, it all goes back to food. Food is a unifying factor; one that changes preconceived notions of a people or country. And Persian food in particular - Persian food has the magical power of showcasing an entire culture’s hospitality and years of history.
The Remarkable Diversity of Persian Food
Persian food is unmatched in diversity, not only because of the significant different number of dishes, from kabobs to stews to rices, but also because of flavor diversity, through the incredible use of herbs, vegetables, and dried fruits. For example, fesenjan, one of the most famous of the vegetarian Persian stews, is both sweet and tart at the same time as butternut squash, slow-cooked pomegranate molasses, Medjool dates and toasted walnuts all work together to make for out-of-this-world flavors. Additionally, there are over twenty different types of basmati rice based dishes.
Just as how Persian food is an extremely diverse cuisine, those who love eating the cuisine come from diverse backgrounds as well. Persian food is not only for Persians to enjoy. It is a cuisine that wins over people’s hearts the first time they enjoy it. Unfortunately, however, it is not a cuisine that is readily available, as Persian restaurants and Middle Eastern grocery stores are only presents in a select number of cities. Baaz Bites’ nationwide shipping allows all to enjoy modern yet authentic Persian food.
The Uniqueness of Persian Home Cooking
While there are remarkable Persian restaurants throughout Los Angeles (check out our list of the Top 5 Persian Restaurants in Los Angeles here), there’s just something incredibly unique about home-cooked, authentic Persian food. As Bourdain mentions, “Persian cooking has to be experienced in the home. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation, and the sheer cost and energy it takes to prepare Persian dishes as they should be made make it impossible to prepare them in a restaurant.” He’s absolutely right. The preparation of Persian food is an incredibly time-intensive one. And not only is it time intensive in terms of each prep session, but also because it requires years of practice before achieving a level of mastery. For example, tadig needs to be timed just right to get that perfect crispy layer of basmati rice to form at the bottom of the pot. Additionally, fesenjan can take hours and hours to prepare because of how long the ingredients need to cook and mix together to get the perfect texture.
Fortunately, Baaz Bites takes all the time-intensive work out of preparing Persian food, but stays true to the authenticity of the cuisine. Our three different vegetarian Persian stews, including ghormeh sabzi, fesenjan and gheymeh, make it easy for you to try for yourself why Persian food is often considered one of the most delicious ethnic cuisines available.
Prepare Yourself for the Unexpected
As mentioned, Persian food is truly a cuisine like no other. While all ethnic cuisines do a terrific job of providing a glimpse into a culture’s history, Persian food uniquely showcases Iranian history, hospitality and warmth. Persian food offers a glimpse into a culture and nation which is often misunderstood or misrepresented. It is a cuisine that will win over your heart, if you are willing to give it a try.