In Iran it is the family which holds these people together with strong values and a cohesiveness that we rarely see in the UK. Due to the intensive heat between midday and late afternoon, the family work during the morning, then gather for lunch and a catch-up including some sleep before returning to complete their working day in cooler conditions coming home for evening meal at around 10pm. This sounds a long day, but the benefits are such that families who work and live locally have the chance to get together during the day, see their younger children and enjoy a relaxed sit-down meal rather than a snatched sandwich purchased and eaten on the run. An enviable work/life balance.
Usually, 8-10 people gathered for lunch, and in the evening this could easily double so that between 16-20 were fed. Meals are eaten on the floor. Iranian food is delicious and, apart from a fairly high sugar and salt content in some of the drinks and dishes, is very healthy. Iranians drink a lot of tea; a mild form of Earl Grey, never with milk. This is very refreshing but anyone watching their weight or wants to keep their teeth intact needs to avoid the many different types of sugar products which usually accompany the tea. Another traditional Iranian drink is “dogh”, a chilled mixture of natural yoghurt, iced water and chopped mint. Many home-made versions include salt, but I prefer the sodium-free version which again, is very refreshing on hot days. Well worth a try. You can buy a large selection of western-style soft drinks as well as bottled water here in Iran. Pepsi and Fanta are popular.
Iranian food. Whether you eat everything in moderation, are a “carb-freak” or enjoy your high-protein diet, there is something for everyone. The food is tasty, seasoned with herbs rather than spices, and a variety of meat and meat-less dishes are served at every meal. Rice forms a huge part of the diet.Dill rice, saffron rice, lentil and sultana rice, to name but a few. Sabsi (greens) are served in small dishes at every meal with chunks of raw onion. Greens Iranian style consists of herbs, freshly picked or collected every morning, washed and prepared on the day. Tarragon, basil, purple basil, chives, mint all mixed together and shared out. This is not something that we usually sample in the UK, preferring to use our herbs in cooking. Try them raw sometime and get the full benefit of the flavours.
With the huge variety of stews and dishes made with vegetables, chicken, fish and the favourite meat lamb, you don’t miss pork or bacon. It’s sad to see however that even with all these wonderful traditional dishes, tomato ketchup is used extensively on rice; hamburgers and chips are popular and we even sent out for pizza. For me, a real shame but it’s hard to deflect the influence of the West when the world is becoming a smaller place each minute……