WHEN COOKBOOK AUTHOR LOUISA SHAFIA FINALLY VISITED PERSIA SHE DISCOVERED AUTHENTIC FLAVORS, A DEEPER CONNECTION TO FAMILY AND A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON HER IDENTITY
When cookbook author Louisa Shafia finally visited Persia she discovered authentic flavors and a new perspective on her identity.
If I didn’t look so much like my dad’s side of the family, I may have never visited Iran. My father grew up in Tehran but left decades ago, and has never returned. Growing up, my tenuous connection consisted mainly of hearing my father speak to relatives on the phone in the upward-arcing cadences of Farsi, and gathering with other Iranians each spring in the Philadelphia suburbs to celebrate the Persian New Year, Nowruz. But I ran headlong into my Persian heritage when I began cooking at a restaurant in San Francisco. When I was asked to create a new menu item, I wanted it to stand out, and a voice in my head told me to make fesenjan, a beloved Persian stew made from ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. From then on, I prepared dishes packed with ingredients like saffron, pomegranates, dried limes, rose petals and tamarind. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia by the flavors and aromas and felt a strong desire to bring this little-known cuisine to more people’s attention. I needed to follow these flavors to their origin.