Friday, April 30, 2010

What to order in an Iranian restaurant

(As usual, I spell things in heterogenous ways--as we do not have standards for phonetic transcription of our language)
A few weeks ago; starving to faint; my drunken colleagues and I passed by an Iranian restaurant where my previous group of drunken friends had ordered some food that turned out to be too dry and unsavory. I suggested to my friends to give the restaurant a try. I asked them let me order the food for them.

I ordered (All came to about 80 dollars--tax and tip ncluded, feeding and beering three hungry chaps):

The restaurant also served three different kinds of rice:

They loved it! One of them was sorry that he never knew about that restaurant; and that they didn't know about Iranian food. They had imagined it should be somethings spicy like Indian or sweet and greasy like chinese food. They were surprised that the food had NO spices; that it was refreshingly lemony; that it tasted fresh and healthy because of the herbs and legumes ...

They could not stop admiring the food--although I knew that it was not the best quality they could have gotten. They were under shock influence. I promissed to cook for them at some point, properly.

Iranian food is not a multi-coursed one. Usually, the food is served all at once. You choose what to eat when. The starter is often a few items like Maast (yoghourt), Sabzi (Green herbs like mint, Basil, green onions and parsley), Torshi (mixed pickles, or garlic pickles), and Zeytoon (Olives) all put in the middle of the table--of course you will have to pay for them. If you don't want it, ask them to not put it on the table. These come with flat bread. In house parties in Iran, they are not served separately. But in restaurants (abroad or western-acting ones in Iran) they are. Of course you can ask for soup. My favorite is "soup-e Jo" (Barley soup).

When you go to an Iranian restaurant, you are often presented with a list of 5-6 types of Kebaabs (Brochets). The cheapest on the menu: Koubideh (minced meat, picture) is the most delicious of them all. I go to Iranian restaurant to eat Koobideh. Barg is the best of them IFFF it is prepared well; and you have the option of Soltani, that gives you one Barg and one Koubideh on a mountain of saffron rice!

You will not have seen rice like Iranian rice elsewhere. Rice preparation in Iran is an art and what distinguishes a real Lady of the House from a hack like me :) (In fact, I have friends who lose sleep if their rice goes wrong; or in anticipation of it going wrong.) You will find the rice fluffy and light, very long grained, and smelling saffron (if you have Iranian hosts, you will find them apologizing about the rice, although you will never know what is wrong with it. They apologize even if it is PERFECT!). You may add a bit of butter to it. Actually, if you order Kabab's, do add a bit of butter; and maybe some sumac--the red spice in the salt shaker on your table. It is sour. Butter will melt and get the sumac absorbed into the rice grains. Iranian rice portions look large, but the process that makes it fluffy, actually makes it light. Because you are not rice-loving, Iranian restaurants usually give less rice than they would/should in Iran. Bummer!

One advice: do not ask for half rice; half salad. That is sacrilege. If you want salad, order it separately. The best is "Salad Shirazi".

Fish in Iranian restaurant is not their forte; UNLESS the restaurant has a chef from the north or even better, from the south of Iran. If you find such restaurant, please let me know.

Poultry, if from the Kabab menu is either chicken breast marinated in saffron and onion and lime, or little chicken drums in the same marinate. It is called "joojeh Kabab". I recommend the second one: "joojeh kakab ba ostokhan". You should eat it with hand. Joojeh Kabab is not supposed ot be eaten with rice. Ask them to give you Salad instead.

The poultry that IS supposed to be served with rice often comes in the second/third pages of the Iranian menues. It is considered "inferior" to Kabaab, but it is better, FAR better!

The absolute must have is "Zereshk-polo ba morgh" (picture). I do not know a human on this earth who dislikes Zereshk polo; it is the one item with a very HIGH awe factor. My non-Iranian friends love it so much that they ask for extra zereshk (barberries, little red mountain berries, half the size of red currants, but grow on tall bushes in the cool and mountainy regions of Iran). Zereshk-polo should be only served with Chicken, but people may serve it with lamb shank too. I highly recommend this. The chicken (or shank) is usually slow cooked in a tomato sauce, with no spice added but salt and a dash of pepper and turmeric.

The other MUST have is Khoreshte Fesenjan (or fesenjoon; picture). This is chicken slow-cooked in a walnut and pomegranate sauce. No spices. People in the North of Iran serve it sour and watery; people in the South sweet and thick. A good chef should generate a balance between sweet and sour. The dark colour results from long slow cooking; the merging of walnut and pomegranate essences. If you order this, you will not have gone wrong.

The quintessential of Iranian stews is "ghormeh Sabzi". This stew is hard to prepare well because it is made of several fresh herbs that are very thinly chopped; fried, and slow cooked with lamb (oor beef), red (or black eye) beans and dried lemon. Not everyone makes it well, so I cannot guarantee you will like it, but it is worth a try.

If you are vegetarian, order from the starter's menu:
Kashk O bademjan is a very delicious meal on its own. It is made of roasted, and then fried eggplants, a condensed yoghourt sauce, garlic and in some placed wallnuts. Ask for two portions of it with bread.
Mirza Ghasemi is also a great choice. It is from fire-roasted eggplants, tomatoes, garlic and eggs. I love it.

So, how to find an Iranian restaurant?
Go to It is smart and from your IP address, knows what to recommend. You can of course search it yourself.

Home sweet home!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Iranium!

Read about it on Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place

Zionists are funding an Anti-Iran film that will star an Iranian fraudster: Caspian Makan, who claimed (and whose claims were later debunked) to have been Neda Agha Soltan's fiancee!

The zionists seem to be trying to kill two birds with one stone:
-Discredit the green movement of IRan by trying to forge connection/alliance to it. Let's face it, Mousavi or a Pacifist government like Khatami's is a nightmare for Israel!
-Use their fraud to up the war momentum against Iran--which seems to stimulate their war-mania and get them, simultaneously, more attention from uncle Sam who has been slapping them recently for stealing from the cookie jar; and also help the weapon industry which might suffer stagnation if the world powers insist on diplomatic actions.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rest in Peace Blog of Revelations

Two of my oldest blog companions, Nunya and Pen name had left a comment. They took me on memory lane, on the right bar of my blog where my favorites are listed. Many of those blogs have gone off line, I was sorry to find out. But I was SHOCKED to find my Brother Tim gone ...

Brother Tim was one of the 5 co-bloggers who are dear to my heart and thus on my facebook. He sent me gifts; and popped on the rotating friends list often. He was there in my daily e-ventures, close, taken foregranted ... he was there a safe friend to fall back when one needed peace of soul and peace of world, when one needed a chuckle or a passionate cry for a cause, he was there going head on at the face of adversity because he, a man of faith, refused to subscribe his Christianity to the bigotry of religion clowns ...

I am grateful for our digital age to have given me a friend, who shall remain eternal for me, living in the memory of this intricate net that connects our brains and hearts ...

I have never believed the death of people who touch my memories ...

Brother Tim is not dead for me ... but I will miss his reactions to the world ... I will miss him ...

Here's his last post on Iran. After the election, unlike many Leftos, he didn't join the choir of "Greens are American Imperialist Worshippers". He stayed silent--letting us grief/fight our cause--to not have joined the bomb-bomb-bomb-Iranian dictators choir either ...

He is in peace now ... and here we are, facing a world in hope of more like him to join our neo-resistance ...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Naj 'n' Mice

These days life is rough on me. A little less than two weeks ago, right after the Easter Holiday, which I had spent fix 'n upping my new apartment, decorating it to my taste and making it a home, I dropped off my "mouse" at the airport, went back teary eyed, sat in my bright and beautiful living room, and picked a book on Film Noir to enjoy a moment of solitude.

Just as I was sinking in my moment, I saw a noir mouse traverse my house, from the far right edge of the new Old French cabinet I had just bought towards the far left where my modern i-stuff played some Maike music. At that moment, I think, all the happiness of past and future ended for me; for ever!

"Pray I have become schizophrenic, and this is just hallucination", I announced to my facebook watchers. But to my dismay, I was no schizophrenic, the mouse, which was perhaps disgruntled by my screams, rushed back to the far right and disappeared. But this was not the last of our encounters.

There I was; a 4 decades old woman; in a foreign country, on a sofa, SCREAMING my lungs out, in the hope that a neighbor would call the police, or knock on my door, and save me from the big black mouse. But it didn't happen.

Thanks to facebook, it didn't take long for some of my artist and psychiatrist friends to rush to my counseling: 'it's all in your mind', 'they won't eat you', 'get humane traps', 'guide them out of the door', 'get a cat', 'if you must kill, buy fast-killing products'. Their advice, and my husband on skype, keeping an eye on the rat-hole, helped me pull myself together enough to descend the sofa, put on gloves and get a broom.

Weaponized--but still trembling in tear--I got into action: email all friends and colleagues in 5 miles radius to HELP me; and call some sisters 5000 miles away to see if they have ever encountered mice in their married lives. They had; and that was reassuring. But just as the reassurance peace was beginning to befall me, I saw TWO of them, criss-crossing: one left to right and the other perpendicularly along the L- edge of the kitchen ...

I was pitiful: screaming blue, in fact screaming rainbow, and flooding myself in tears ... if I had poison in that moment, I will have taken it myself without hesitation. It wasn't the mice that was depressing me, it was my uncontrollable fear, my phobia, the gut wrenching disgust, the mental breakdown of feeling they were crawling on my body, the imagination of their smell, and it was the ANGER about their audacity to come to my space, although I had made it known to them that I was there, with a broom, ready to kill ... and yet, they seemed unimpressed, they, the two of them, one thin and small, the other one big and fat, darker than any mice I had seen before (the science ones are white or gray, I had never seen black mice) ... and the fact that they PAUSED, paused to stare me in the face and return with a posture of "annoyance" because I screamed ... screamed like AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA with the highest pitch my chords could muster, with the strongest anger and agony I had EVER experienced in life.

I have been reflecting on that agony:

Was it perhaps because of having come face to face with the "desire", to kill, kill a mammal, that shared with me if nothing else a hippocampus, a memory-emotion regulator?

Was it the disgust of imagining the scene of "killing" with a fatal blow delivered by a broom--as I had seen my brave mother do once--or the disgust of having to deal with the dead remains--as I had seem my brave mother do once. ?

Fear was making me a mammal killer.

Throughout my life, I can be charged with spider and insect slaughter, but I always had men do it for me; I would run in fear to the arms of a lover and seduce him to kill them for me, and seduce them out of nature, out of camping, out of fun because of my spider-phobia. But now, here I was alone, lovers an ocean apart, face to face with "enemy", the fat and thin black mice!

"intellectualize, intellectualize", I told myself; while scrambling to figure out what "exterminator" means in Germanic!

It was Easter weekend and no one was there to come to my rescue; and definitely no one to desire mouse-killing as much as I did! Even the exterminator, whom I succeeded on catching on the phone, wanted $1000 to come. He would charge three times less to come in the morning; and I didn't have money to pay him in that evening; and I hoped my intellectualization would help me out of pocketing out that much money in the morning after--which I need for traveling and movies and books.

To intellectualize, I had a PhD that was granted partly on my clever understanding of the neurophysiology of the mouse brain and translating it to humans! Theoretically, I knew what to do and what not to do to handle stressed mice: I needed to frighten them enough to remember I was dangerous; but I also needed to not frighten them so much that they forget the way the came from, and become neurotic and anxious wanderers in my home for good!

But my theories, were good for nothing. Because interacting with those theoretical factors was my own fear, my tangible phobia: the gut twisting nausea that made me cry for one evening straight, that made me shake and scream shamelessly-despite my stiff-upper-lip personality.

"The mouse HAD to die", I had concluded. I couldn't intellectualize myself into accepting a co-existence. Maybe I would have conjured enough courage and naturallism to accept, if they were not such filthy, pushy, reproductively prolific species. Maybe I would have been able to like them, if I had grown up with a hamster. Maybe I would have been able to live with them if I had looked them in the eye, and had found some inter-mammalian intersubjectivity. But none of that had happened, and none of that was going to happen.

The last time I had come face to face with a rodent, was in a neurophysiology laboratory: a beautiful friend of mine, who happened to be a green-eyed veiled Iraqi woman, anesthetized a white rat with some fume, and guillotined it and shipped it to the slicing department. I still smell the blood of the dead white rat. I intellectualized the process then, kept a scientifically stiff upper lip--but then never went back. How could I? And now, here I am "intent" on klilling mice, and at the same time dreading the deed.

48 hours after my initial encounter with mice, I had a complete anti-mouse arsenal in my possession: I made duct tape balls and stuck them in the one hole I found in the kitchen cabinet--a really sloppy cabinet making job! I had my landlord's wife buy poison and traps, which she bravely installed in front of the hole (because she is not afraid of mice, but her husband is!). And I hired a much cheaper exterminator who brought me enough poison for me to stage a bio-war against any species--my family was not too pleased with the notion of poison in my possession :). In addition, I made duct tape barriers between the kitchen and the livingroom and installed vertical items that would fall if touched by mice, so that I can monitor their movement! I had some sense of "control". I could sleep at least, although I decided I would stay in the office until sleep hours!

Every day and night, I closely monitored the traps and the poison; and everyday I sighed in relief that the poison and the traps where untouched! The exterminator told me they will come for the poison after 5 days. 5 days came and left; and no sight or sound of mice I heard. I spent a peaceful weekend, with attention acutely spent on the slightest noise in the cabinet area! None!

I started singing in my house again; and even cooked and bought a cake. 10 days had passed and my contraptions and poisonous installations were untouched.

Until today!

I found the poison in front of my deadly trap consumed ...

Soon a mouse will die ...

stupid mouse ...

It will stink ...

It may struggle to die before my eye ...

I will be forced to deal with the remains ...

I may have to end its life so it won't suffer ...

Nausea ...
Nausea ...
Nausea ...

I must accept that mice and men have co-existed for ever ... but how can I keep them at an arms length without killing them ... how can I limit their reproduction and droppings in my space ...

I am suffering a moment of the life of pi

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Free (Gratuit) Screeing of Jafar Panahi Films

Brazil(São Paulo)
Unibanco Arteplex (Shopping Frei Caneca) ,april 15, thursday: 14:00 - The Mirror - Room 4; 16:30 - Offside - Room 4; 20:00 - Ouro Carmin - Room 5; 21.40 - The Circle - Room 1

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Academy of Performing Arts and Association of Filmmakers showing OFFSIDE on 15th... See More

Spain (Madrid)
"Offside", April 16th on the University of Getafe (Uc3m), Madrid, Spain

Germany (Munster)
arthouse cinema "Cinema & Kurbelkiste" in Münster, Germany ( on April 15th at 6 pm

Netherlands (Rotterdam, Amesterdam & Hague)
The Circle will be screened April 15 from 17.00 hrs at the Filmhuis The Hague and from 17.15 hrs at the EYE Film Institute Netherlands in Amsterdam. Panahi’s Offside will be screened April 15 from 21.00 hrs at film art house Lantaren/Venster in Rotterdam

UK (Birmingham & Manchester)
Offside, Venue: Maison Mayci,148 Alcester Rd, Moseley,Birmingham B13 8HD
Wednesday, April 21, 2010, Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Thursday, April 15, 2010
8:00pm - 10:00pm
An Outlet, 77 Dale Street

INDIA (Kolkata)
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 at VIVEKANANDA HALL, JADAVPUR UNIVERSITY, Kolkata (Calcutta, INDIA)
11.15A.M. - INAUGURATION and Screening of THE WHITE BALLOON..
1.15 P.M. - Screening of CRIMSON GOLD..
3.00 P.M. - Screening of OFFSIDE..

Canada (Toronto)
"Offside" on Tuesday April 20th at 7:30pm.
Cinecycle, 129 Spadina Ave. (website for more info)

Italy (Rome)
Asiaticafilmmediale on the 17th of April, at 11.00,
Quattro Fontane Cinema, Rome

The Circle is op donderdag 15 april vanaf 17.00 uur te zien in Filmhuis Den Haag en vanaf 17.15 uur in EYE Film Instituut Nederland, Amsterdam.
Offside is op donderdag 15 april vanaf 21.00 uur te zien in Theater Lantaren/Venster, Rotterdam.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ramin Jahanbegloo

For personal (and rather silly) reasons, I had shunned him in the past and had not bothered to really study him. (I am extremely sensitive to people's accents and manners of speech and if I detect arrogance, I just stop listening). But, listening to some of his interviews I find him reflect many of my beliefs. Here's a mini-biography. It is really ironic the IRI had put him in Jail!

The tenets of his argumens are clear:
- No violence, at all cost--because to EVOLVE those who stand to tyranny must adopt a higher moral ground.
- The "non-violence" principle is not dictated by the Western think tanks; it is an integral part of the Iranian culture--not just the educated elite, but the common men.
- The Iranian problem is for the Iranians to solve and the Iranians have "matured" through the ordeals of the past 31 years to know full well how to do that at minimum cost.

Listen to some of his ideas (hope you can ignore his George Costanza intonation: bache tehrani-e nonor-e khaliband. :))


I listen to radio; glance at news headlines, listen to interviews, to rumors, to puntifications; open this page to write, to debunk, to comment, to warn: stare at the screen, and change my mind.

Sometimes, silence is more informative--especially when getting tangled by the web of dysinformation and propaganda is a serious risk.

Currently, there is certain level of nuclear bickering exchanged by international clowns and criminals: Ahmadinejad and Clinton/Gate! There is the usual cat and mouse play of Russia--what we call in Persian "shol kon seft kon" (tie it up, tie it down)! There are all sorts of NEO-this and that institutions, the [another persian expression] "bowls that are hotter than the soup" that are trying to plant our green in their peepot--may it bear future fruit for their meddling imperialist cause--by endorsing, awarding, patronizing, glorifying and etc. There is also [another persian expression] a "goldsmith's row" in the higher echelons of the Iranian rulers: Ahmadinejad and Larijani biting eachother; Hashemi and Khamenei flirting; parliamentries raising accusations of Ahmadinejad Cabinet's economic corruption; and teh judiciary thanking the parliament opposition while at the same time threatening them with legal action. There are high profile prisoners relased on bail and loads of pictures of their visits and solidarity flooding facebook. There are high profile prisoners sentenced to long jail terms. There are international artists such as Jafar Panahi, the filmmaker of humanities that shine through darkness who are locked up. (A note: I WOULD have blogged about his ILLEGAL imprisonment, had he not made it explicitely known that he didn't want any special treatment that his less known co-prisoners could not enjoy!)

So there is much to say; but at the same time there is little to say. Much that is happening now is political noise! Things worth saying and analysing are not for now. Iranians are doing what they are BEST at: adapting in order to circumvent the goons; in order to adapt the goons and turn them into soldiers of their cause. This is not a process that needs my English blogging; this is not a process that people who are not Iranian or live outside Iran or do not read Persian can understand--or frankly should care to understand! It's kind of private. We all deal with our internal infections privately. And this is what Iran is doing. This is why I am not translating, why I am not updating political 'stuff'. There are plenty of blogs out there that do these kind of stuff--and to be honest, most of them make me slightly sick.

This year, our artists, my main source of neo-resistance have been silent. I don't want to present reactionary art--unless it withstands test of time. Some art is like wine; it needs to sit in a dark and cool cellar for a while to be enjoyable. I am busy looking into the cellar though; for old wines ...

This is my method of neo-resistance.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

All you wanted to know about Iran but were afraid to ask

Encyclopedia Iranica!

The project started in a little office in New York's Columbia University, over 40 years ago. Its founder, Ehsan Yar Shater, is an Iranian linguist: 90 years young and going strong. Here is a recent mini documentary about his work for Persian speakers--others can look at the modesty and vitality of his resolve; it transcends language. He trained with Walter Henning. For his English thesis, he chose a book that was a German translation of a book originally in Pahlavi language and scripted in hebrew--four languages of which he knew nothing. "Impossible" doesn't seem to mean much to him.

Not all their articles are online; but many are forthcoming.

This is a non-profit organization mainly supported by Columbia University. Learn what support is welcome.