Letter from Kermanshah

by Rosie Shepperd

If you do not feed yourself, your hunger will eat you; remember
to attend and your food will make itself so that you
can stand back and watch how it wishes to make you.
There is nothing that cannot be cured with cardamom.
It will listen to the way you imagine
and it will taste of its own expression of you.
Not much can be learned without limes.
If you become afraid, cook Sohān-e-Asali and while
you taste the scent of rose water, close your eyes
to imagine Madar Borzog, shelling pistachios and pouring
warm honey into butter. As a child, you were always
inventing; my smoked red cinnamon came from inside
that lovely wondering head and when I take a warm pinch of it,
I think of you and how you needed to explore. There will be times
when you feel alone without being alone and for this
I send you a memory of Khoresht-e-mast. Before you cook it,
search out two blood oranges and remember to run your nail
down the skin – this oil should stay in your hand for a night and a day.
Otherwise this orange, it is just an orange. And that reminds me
to remind you about strangers. Strangers are only made and a place
is only made strange. Before we imagine a welcome,
we must imagine ourselves welcome. The way to welcome a lamb
is to soak him in whey with saffron and pink sugar. He will become
familiar with these things and they with him. And this brings me
to Mokhallafât. What is a friendship if small gestures go unnoticed?
I have heard the people where you are; they lean, they lean to reach their food.
This is a mystery as those thin arms and sharp elbows will hide
the pattern of the Sofreh. Do they really separate Naahaar va Sham,
and with what? How can a meal unify and become part of us if we separate it
and ourselves? Parsley is not sweet mint and neither is wild thyme
but they are not apart; they touch and they talk when mixed
to form something new – Sabzi Kordan – sprinkled bitter green
on fresh strained Panir as it waits;
white and soaking its patience in a fine fresh muslin.