passion pas·sion | \ ˈpa-shən
– a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
My passion for food stems from a desire to learn more about my culture.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio with an American mother and a Persian father had its challenges. I understood my town, my city, and my country, but had many questions about my dad’s heritage. He grew up in Tehran, Iran and spent the first sixteen years of his life there.
After graduating from a French university, he moved to the US, became a citizen, and met my mother. As each year went by, my dad felt he lost more of his heritage. He felt he was losing a piece of himself.
As I grew up, I asked my dad “What do you think of when you think of home?” He replied with a story of cooking dinner every night with his mom, waiting for his dad to return home.
All of his strongest childhood memories revolve around food. He is able to close his eyes and smell, taste, and feel the textures from the traditional Persian meals his mom used to make. His passion for food was tangible.
Growing up, Sundays consisted of my dad trekking to Jungle Jim’s (don’t ask what Jungle Jim’s is, just go experience it if you visit Cincinnati) to get the ingredients to create a traditional Persian meal. Thanks to my age, none of the meals he cooked looked, smelled or tasted familiar to me – I was automatically turned off by it and, in many instances, refused to try it. (Hey, I was young.)
Some of his favorite meals are:
- Fesenjān: an Iranian stew flavored with pomegranate paste and ground walnuts.
- Khoresh Bādemjān: a dish catered around eggplant and tomatoes.
- Torshi: the pickled vegetables of the cuisines in many Middle East countries. The word turşu is ultimately derived from Persian tursh, which means ‘sour’.
It wasn’t until college that I was “forced” to understand other cultures. My entire world expanded and it wasn’t long before I realized the foods I thought were bad, were actually very good. I just wasn’t giving them a chance. I’m embarrassed to admit it took going to college to accept different food cultures, when the best example lived under my roof for 18 years.
Over the years, I still come home every Sunday to have food and fellowship with my dad. To his surprise, I stopped complaining and started embracing his weekly Persian meals! He has given me a passion for food and the tools to one day pass down our traditions to my kids, and get them cooking Persian meals every Sunday too.
My biggest food lesson is: try to embrace any culture different than yours – you have nothing to lose. Every culture creates their own meals and specific flavors, and I think you’ll be surprised to find how many ‘new’ foods you enjoy!
Beef Kabob Recipe
1) Marinate the meat: Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the meat. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2) Thread the meat and veggies onto the skewers: Cut the vegetables into chunks roughly the width of the beef pieces.
3) Grill on high, direct heat: Grill for 8 to 10 minutes.
4) Let rest: Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving.