ghormeh-sabzi

Ghormeh Sabzi with Saffron Rice

We used to get this at a Persian Restaurant in Chicago. It’s crave-ably delicious. This green (and healthy) spinach and kidney bean stew calls for almost a cup each of 3 fresh herbs, cilantro, dill and parsley, along with ground fenugreek, gram masala, and fresh lemon zest and lemon juice. It’s so fragrant and aromatic. I love Ghormeh Sabzi!  You can make this with meat too, browning it in the first step, but the kidney beans have plenty of protein for one meal, so I always make the vegetarian version.

This is my favorite vegetarian dish. If you decide to make this greens stew, and you don’t already have ground fenugreek or garam masala in your spice cabinet, you get to go exotic spice shopping! Yum, I love shopping for spices. It’s fun to take the tops off of new spice jars, inhale the beautiful aromas and get inspired to cook.

For the Ghormeh Sabzi: Wash and slice one large leek in half. Rinse the layers to remove any sandy grit.  Chop the leek and saute in a few tblsp olive oil in a large skillet over med/low heat. Add 1 small onion, chopped. Season with salt and pepper.  Let the leeks & onion soften and carmelize for a few minutes. Add 3 or 4 minced garlic cloves. Wash, stem and chop ¾ cup Italian parsley, ¾ cup fresh cilantro, ¾ cup fresh dill (or 2 tblsp dried dill), and a large bag of organic baby spinach to the stew  pan  with about 1 cup of broth, water or stock, a can of rinsed and drained  kidney beans, and two or three dried lemons or limes. You can find the dried lemons at the Middle Eastern grocery store.

Season with the zest and juice of 1 whole lemon. salt and pepper, ½ tsp turmeric, ½ tsp garam masala, and 2 tsp ground fenugreek.  Cook covered, over low heat.  Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the greens are cooked, the liquid is absorbed and all the flavors come together. Serve over saffron  rice.

For the saffron rice, cook rinsed Basmati rice in vegetable broth or chicken stock, with salt and pepper. Add saffron strands at the very end when there’s still a little broth at the bottom of the pot. Cover and let steam. Fluff with a fork. Your rice will take on beautiful orange and golden yellow hues, and will become infused with a light lemony saffron taste. I usually always make my rice this way, it’s the best. 

Yum!

Non-white passing half-Iranian

My mom is from Mazandaran (a province in northern Iran) and my dad is swiss; we are living in Switzerland.

I was born here, I grew up here, I’ve never known another home and growing up I had always thought of myself as swiss (well, that changed a bit lately, but anyway). The only difference between me and my white friends was the way I looked and my ~foreign~ name.

So naturally it bothered me that it always had to be me who was asked where I was from, or what language I spoke and where my parents were from. It confused me. Could I not be as swiss as my friends, just because I’m overall darker? I already was more of a shy kid, but always being singled out for being ~different~ made me really self conscious. When I started Elementary School, I had already stopped speaking persian and over the years I almost completely unlearned it.

Beauty Standards 

Though by now I am kinda pale-ish (but still not white passing lol), I tan quickly and as a child I spent a lot of time outside, so I had pretty dark skin. Which I didn’t like back then. My other concerns were mostly how hairy I was compared to others. Having very thick hair with a tendency to fluff out, I liked to wear it short during summer so I didn’t get to hot. But combine that with thick eyebrows and my older brother’s clothes I wore (what, they were spacey!), and I often got asked wether I was a girl or a boy, which made me even more insecure, because all my friends just naturally looked ‘girly’ with their long hair and thin eyebrows and light skin.

I still sometimes feel bad because of my ‘middle-eastern’ nose, although it’s actually kinda small? It’s just the hook that throws me off. But I’ve made my peace with it, on good days I even love this hook.

Racism/Microagressions

Being asked multiple times in stores if I work here; from age 14 onwards.

Butchered spellings/pronouncing of my name with people not even trying to get it right, like, it’s not that hard. My name already is spelled as phonetically as possible.

‘O.M.G. you don’t even have an accent!!!!1!’

‘Say smth in your language!!!’

‘Oh so you speak arabic?’ please don’t

'Doesn’t your religion say (insert idiotic thing)??’ Um, my religion? I’m (technically) christian?

Culture and Identity

Growing up in Switzerland, I am well acquainted with our customs here. But since most of my maternal relatives live in Iran and my mom and I aren’t really close, I’ve been distanced from her culture.  I’m still in the process of finding my identity but I’m pretty sure I won’t identify as swiss anymore, or at least only as half-swiss. I’m relearning persian and I’m informing myself about my mother’s culture -my culture- and I’m also hoping to go to Iran one day soon. I never really was accepted as swiss, I guess I was kind of the only one who thought of myself as swiss, because everyone else, including my own parents (my mom hoping I’d show more interest in her culture and my dad often being asked where I was from or even if I was his child) had always seen me as  a foreigner to some degree. But that doesn’t really bother me anymore. Maybe I’ve really never been swiss, but being persian is more than okay with me now.

I am however very grateful that the fact that I’m not straight (at least I don’t think I am? I’m kinda undecided) is not and will probably never be a problem, as many of my friends aren’t either and my parents are pretty accepting.

Family Issues

My mom and I not getting along all too well sometimes makes reconnecting to persian (and mazandarani) culture hard. I learned the arabic/persian script by myself and I’m doing most of my research alone too. The few times my mother’s relatives come to visit were fun, but the communication was kinda hard with my very limited persian skills. I do enjoy family get-togethers though; my relatives are mostly nice and fun, the food is amazing and i love hearing persian spoken around me; it reminds me of my early childhood, when my brother, my cousins and I used to all sleep together in my room on the floor when they visited.

But I don’t want to deny my swiss family either; which is the main reasons I’m not sure whether I still kinda want to identify as swiss or not. I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents, and though I think they weren’t all too happy at first when their son (my dad) married a foreigner (my mom), they do love having me and my brother around. They also helped me feel better about myself through my childhood, with my grandma always telling me how pretty my dark eyes were, and how lucky I was to have naturally curly hair and stuff. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel sad that I never really got to meet my maternal grandparents.

Food

Persian food definitively beats swiss food. I literally can’t live without rice and ghormeh sabzi. Also the sweets, oh my god. Every time my mom’s relatives come to visit I go up one clothing size and it’s so worth it.

What I’d like to see more of:

Real, diverse  and most importantly, positive representation of ME people!

ME LGBT+ people! Yes, we exist!

ME representation in children’s media!! This is so important!!!

What I’d like to never ever ever see again:

Terrorist jokes.

Fantasy-Villains that are very obviously inspired by Middle Eastern cultures, or rather, by stereotypes about those cultures.

Exotifying us.

Using ME people as barbaric idiots who all die at the hands of the ’“’”“heroic”“’”’ whites in movies.

Illegal immigrant jokes

White people making fun of the misogyny in ME countries when it’s literally just as bad in their own.

ME people being racist towards other POC. Like… why. Esp all this anti-blackness is so sad. Can’t we just collectively decide to dislike the west, instead of each other?

Read more POC Profiles here.

i don’t necessarily feel hmm.. traditionally “””home-sick””” bc i’ve never felt truly grounded anywhere but part of me misses being 19, going to community college and coming home to my mom arguing with one of our relatives back home while i helped her make ghormeh sabzi in the kitchen. i miss being in a band i kinda knew wasn’t going anywhere. i miss the people i worked with at my old retail job because they kept me sane somehow. i oddly miss the traffic in northern virginia that allowed me to listen to some of my favorite songs and space out just a little bit longer. i miss gardening with my baba on monday’s and taking trips to the plant nursery nearby. 

i wish someone told me that i would be just as anxious and full of worries at 24 like i was at 19. maybe i would have been a little more kind to myself then. i’ve been thinking about the past a lot and the ways that i’ll never experience these moments i had living on the east coast and with my family when i was younger ever again. i’ll never experience the small moments of sweetness i shared with my parents because all i can remember now is the yelling and fighting. the pushing and pulling. the guilt that has hung in my throat my whole life. 

i don’t miss feeling so exhausted to the point where i was always stagnant.

3

Poor me. No rain, so we had to do a little swimming & napping. I’m with a friend who also seems to have an endless supply of Persian food, British tarts and cute animals to play with. Rough over here💙

The entire city of Houston feels silly for having cancelled their plans because of the “tropical storm” that was headed our way. I, for one, am enjoying our little rain day!