I noticed this book on my shelf one day, pondering for a few moments how on earth it found its way there, then grabbed it and started reading. A few pages into it, I realized I was holding a gem.
On the plus side:
This book is a joy for someone genuinely interested in Iranian cuisine, culture and history, and by extension, Middle-Eastern culture as a whole. The author, in a scholarly but engaging way, weaves seamlessly between the many cultures of the region, and the many periods in Iranian history, from pre-Islamic times to today’s contemporary society. In this book references to Persian, Arabic or Turkish roots of words (as related to cooking and food), quotes by Marco Polo in the 13th century, or English travellers to Persia in the 18th and 19th centuries, abound. Practical tips and accurate descriptions of Iranian customs and food traditions are also generously provided. The author, who married an Iranian, eagerly shares her deep knowledge of the cuisine, culture and mores of this fascinating country. I was familiar with a lot of the Iranian recipes in her book, but found some sections extremely interesting, such as the chapter on rice dishes or the section on stuffed veggies (dolmeh) with different sauces based on the different regions in Iran. The most interesting part of the book for me was her chapter on meat dumplings, koofteh and kobbeh. I cannot wait to try some of them with chickpea flour, rice or potato dough. I noticed similarities with Iraqi cuisine in some of the recipes, which makes sense since the two countries are neighbors. According to the author, the kibbeh of Lebanon and Syria is derived from the Persian verb koobidan, to pound.
On the minus side:
This book would be a disappointment for someone needing beautiful images to get their culinary juices flowing. This 291-page book contains a mere four pictures, which are stock photos at that, totally incongruent with the work at hand.
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