Sunday, January 09, 2011

question marks and gondi kashi

I think that one of the reasons I stopped writing here was that I've been unsure.  When I look back at the early early posts here, it was all so confident.  I go to rad clubs in Chinatown!  I drink margaritas by the beach!  Barbecues galore!  I attend dreamy dinner parties and pasta dinners!  This is, empirically, the way life should be lived.  A little obnoxious, maybe, but ahh, certainty.

There were lots of exclamation points.  But lately, nothing seems so cut and dry.  There's a lot more grey area.  You look at things more closely, and those exclamation points sure start looking like questions marks.  As much as I try to deny it, there is most definitely a difference between your twenties and your thirties.  Things slow down a bit, and now that you stop to look, what seemed like obvious answers aren't so obvious anymore.

So then there was this one:  I'm going to write a cookbook!  You may recall some grand plans to finally document the recipes passed through the hands of hundreds of moms and grannies in an Iranian Jewish cookbook.  It seemed obvious: this project needs to be done, and I'm the one who needs to do it.  Well, it turns out that publishing a cookbook is not a side project.  And I already have a life, and a career, and a full-time job.  This could be a story of give-up-the-desk-job-and-follow-the-dream (exclamation point), but for now, it's not.  My job is good! Though I didn't get here via "when I grow up I want to be a..", lately there are many moments that remind that there's a reason I do what I do:  I'm good at it, it's satisfying, and I'm really lucky to have the work environment I have. (despite current work schedule of 8-pm days and working every other saturday.  curse you, puss in boots.)

So has the cookbook door closed?  Most definitely not.  I still have that database of 80 recipes waiting patiently to be shared with the world, and as of last weekend I have one more.  Gondi kashi is my absolute favorite food in the whole world.  It's a dish that you can only find in the homes of Jews from the Iranian city of Kashan, and my mom's rendition, developed under the tutelage of not one, but two Kashi grandmas (her mom and her mother-in-law), then perfected on her own over many years, is truly amazing.  People have waxed poetic about this particular dish for generations.  A grandma in our family tells stories of being able to smell her own mom cooking gondi kashi as she was walking home from school.  My grandfather had a little rhyme about it.  And I can eat plate after plate of it (and believe me, I have).

On Sunday, my parents came over to my apartment, and I watched Violet (Mom and I are on a first-name basis) make gondi kashi in my kitchen as I took copious notes.  She mixed basmati rice with ground meat, fava beans, beets, and 6 different herbs.  It's a heady thing -- the scent of the perfectly balanced mix of herbs and aromatic favas, along with the sweetness of beets filled the whole apartment.  And while it steamed, the bottom of the pot creating a perfect tahdig -- crusty brown and crackling with bits of beet caramelizing to candy-like sweetness, Saeed (Dad and I are also on a first name basis) sat down at the kitchen table, opened a bottle of red wine in the middle of the afternoon and started sipping it, with baguette and hot peppers.  Not that this at all dampened his appetite for gondi kashi.  Not that anything in the universe would.

I'd give you the recipe, but you're just going to have to wait for the cookbook.


  1. Not to doubt your cookbook-writing efforts, but I think Violet's gondi kashi kind of transcends being able to be replicated with a recipe. When you write your cookbook, you might mention your gringo brother-in-law's V8 moment when he realized, after 15 years of avoiding it, how much he likes it. Duh.

  2. yeah, t, the real test would be if i could make it on my own, without her over my shoulder. of course this test would involve me chopping 2 pounds of fresh herbs, so we'll see when it happens. and yeah, i was thinking of my brother-in-law as i was writing this, but my mother taught me that if i can't say anything nice, i should just keep my mouth shut.

  3. I love that the blog is back! I love this entry. Such a good one. Also, your super hero talent is reflection so I'm glad the boring, hyperactive 20s are over. Phew!

  4. wowsers, i didn't know reflection was my superhero talent. i just thought i was a dweller. i'm tickled!