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  • 2/27/2005

Iranian culture and medicine

Persian Cooking for a Healthy Kitchen

by Najmieh Khalili Batmanglij, Najmieh Batmanglij

Healthful variations have been developed by Batmanglij for nearly 100 traditional Persian dishes, providing low-fat substitutions for such ingredients as butter. The book is a feast for the eyes and an inspiring invitation to sample Persian cuisine, with full-page color photographs illustrating the recipes and a French flair enlivening their presentation. Among beguiling combinations of spices and herbs, saffron is often the dominant flavor--in a dessert pudding as well as in many specialties, such as eggplant kuku, baked lamb, and sweet and sour stuffed quail with rose petals (an exotic-sounding ingredient that is easy to obtain these days in many markets). Easy-to-follow instructions make this a fine introduction to Persian cooking.

Persian cuisine is exotic yet simple like a poem by Omar Khayyam, healthy yet colorful like a Persian miniature painting. It combines rice, the jewel and foundation of Persian cooking, with a little meat, fowl or fish; plenty of onion, garlic, vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs; and a delicate, uniquely Persian mix of spices such as rose petals, angelica seeds, dried limes, candied orange peels, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and saffron to achieve a delicious and balanced diet. Drawing on her 15 years of experience collecting and adapting authentic Persian recipes, and inspired by her years inSouthern France and the United States, Najmieh Batmanglij has brought about a marriage of ancient Persian cooking, French Provencal food presentation, and contemporary American eating styles. The result is Persian Cooking for a Healthy Kitchen, 95 exquisite kitchen-tested recipes that are low in fat yet high in flavor--a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds--that meet the current health goals of limiting the calories from saturated fats. The recipes have been kitchen tested by both American and Persian chefs. They are intelligently written and easy to follow, one per page, each facing a magnificent photograph by the renowned French photographer, Serge Ephrahim.

Persian Cooking: A Table of Exotic Delights
by Nesta Ramazani

If Scheherazade had to depend on her culinary imagination to persuade the King to spare her, she doubtless would have told him about recipes such as these. There is a succulent dish, she might have begun, called Shirin Pollo, wherein rice is enfolded with strips of chicken, sweetened orange peel, pistachios and almonds. . . . On nights to follow she might whet his appetite with Fessenjoon, chicken stewed in pomegranate syrup and walnuts, or Meat and Parsley Soup with Green Plums, Roast Partridges in Cream, Lamb Hearts with Cinnamon or Cranberry and October Bean Soup.

After she had delved into thekookoos (souffls), the kebabs, thedolemahs, the game birds, vegetables, salads, breads and pickles, she might turn to the sweetElephants Ears, Persian Marzipan, Sweet Fingers, the sherbets (syrups) and cold sweet drinks. She would soon have the King eating out of her hand, for Persian cuisine offers something for even the most sophisticated of gourmets in search of new epicurean delights.

The oldest cuisine known to man, Persian cooking is based on lamb, fruits, vegetables and grains, used in subtle and varied combinations. The food is neither highly spiced nor hot but seasoned with herbs. It is very nutritious and very economical requiring minimum amounts of meat. Many dishes are easy to prepare ahead of time and well suited to reheating-they make good leftovers.

As Mrs. Ramazani writes: Here is a culinary art so highly developed that the most lowly vegetable can taste divine, every meal can be a gastronomic treat, every cook a creative artist.

Avicenna: Prince of Physicians
by Reza Shah-Kazemi, Fatima Zahra Hassan

The "Prince of Physicians" started his practice at an early age. Even as a teen in the eleventh century, Avicenna advised royalty and was famous for his extensive understanding of the human body. His beginnings as a child prodigy coupled with his persistent quest for knowledge contributed to Avicenna's reputation as one of history's most prominent physicians. Illustrations from the Indo-Persian tradition complement the text.

Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and Historiography (St Antonys)
by Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi

Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi offers a corrective to recent works on Orientalism that focus solely on European scholarly productions without exploring the significance of native scholars and vernacular scholarship to the making of Oriental studies. He brings to light a wealth of 18th and 19th-century Indo-Persian texts, made "homeless" by subsequent nationalist histories and shows how they relate to Indo-Iranian modernity. In doing so, he argues for a radical rewriting of Iranian history with profound implications for Islamic debates on gender.

About the Author
Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi is Associate Professor of Historiography and Middle Eastern History atIllinois State University.

Nomad: A Year in the Life of a Quashqa'I Tribesman in Iran
by Lois Beck

Borzu Qermezi was the headman and political leader of a group of nomadic pastoralists who were part of the Qashqa'i confederacy of southwest Iran. Proud, complex, strong-willed, witty, and cunning, Borzu successfully led his people on their annual migrations for many years. He regulated their travel; mediated conflicts; intervened in (and sometimes exacerbated) tense situations between his people and other nomads; and dealt with the government police agency. Structuring the account around the four seasons, Lois Beck recounts the day-to-day activities of Borzu during the year she spent traveling with his people. She describes the rigors of nomadic life and the consequences of decisions made in haste. During 1970 to 1971, Borzu and his people were faced with many difficulties. When the expected winter rains did not fall, pastures and crops shriveled. Unable to sell their starving livestock for any profit, Borzu's people saw their debts to urban merchants and moneylenders increase. At the same time,Iran exercised more bureaucratic control over the Qashqa'i by applying new policies over migratory schedules and the allocation of scarce pastures, and by introducing non-Qashqa'i agriculturalists and livestock investors as legitimate land users. All these measures threatened the nomad's way of life and eventually undermined the role of headmen such as Borzu. Lois Beck details the vicissitudes endured by Borzu's people and the strategies he devised to cope with them. Blending ethnographic and historical material, this book contains information unavailable for other tribal and nomadic pastoral groups in the Middle East and central Asia. Through Beck's deft analysis, we come to understand why nomadic pastoralism was once an important part of this vast region, and why tribal society has endured.

About the Author
Lois Beck is Associate Professor of Anthropology atWashington University and the author of The Qashqa'i of Iran (Yale 1986).

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