Living without a television has increased my hunger for books. I seem to be cradling two categories: those from which I am seeking knowledge and those I want to entertain me.

I received Crescent for Christmas and have recently finished devouring it. It’s setting and plot of an Iraqi-American chef’s love story nicely fit Crescent into both of the above book categories. While its heroine was a bit too naive in the love dept for me (the book sometimes slips into high school like descriptions of romantic woo-wooness -yuck), the cooking descriptions offer the perfect voyeuristic view into her spice cabinet.

As characters in the story spilled their favorite comfort meals from Iran, I couldn’t help but begin to seek out any meal mentions and began annotating them in the book’s back cover. The more Arabic the name of the food the better.

Diana Abu-Jaber's CrescentHere’s what foods Crescent alludes to:

Additionally my copy of Crescent contained recipes in the back for:

I am inspired. i want to have roasted meats with yogurt sauces, and spinach dishes and stuffed pastries…
sigh
My poor kitchen- it will never get clean at this rate.

8 Comments

posted June 1st, 2007 at 6:08 pm

First let me say, I love your blog and have been reading it for about a year now… I know you can appreciate what I just did…

So what I just did in the kitchen is probably illegal in some places.

I put an 8 oz can of whole oysters, juice and all, into the blender and blended it smooth. It looked like guacamole. The smell was intoxicatingly delicious if you like oysters, and I do. Then I poured it into a bowl, added 20 oz of lean ground turkey, a scant cup of oatmeal, about a tsp each of hot powdered indian chili, salt, turmeric, fresh black pepper, and fish sauce.

I fried half of it in bite size (or smaller) pieces and served it with rice. The remainder, i got lazy and made into 4 hamburger patties and fried on low heat till crispy on both sides.

The rice was made in my Tiger brand rice cooker. I put 1 Thai chili, salt, butter and fish sauce with the rice.

Served with the oyster balls, it was a very savory meal and one that I will happily repeat!!!

Wow- oyster fritters. It does sound great.
Thanks for sharing this morsel Joe.

–McAuliflower

- Joe
posted June 1st, 2007 at 6:09 pm

oh, and 1 egg!

- Joe
posted June 3rd, 2007 at 7:35 pm

I read her book “The Language of Baklava” and had to try several of the recipes. Not only is she a gifted writer, but she can cook! Definitely worth trying.

posted June 4th, 2007 at 10:32 am

I just visited your blog for the first time. There was a link for it in one of the Seattle papers. Anyway, I wanted to say I agree with you about TV. I still have one, but do not have cable, just 4 lowly little channels. I have started reading again, greedily. And I’ve taken to knitting with a passion. Closer to the theme of your blog, I also want to start cooking more complete meals for myself. Your blog on cooking for a single person really hit home for me. I look forward to reading more as you post!

Kathy

- Kathy
posted June 5th, 2007 at 9:29 pm

This book sounds like good fun. Persian food is really fantastic (I’m a bit biased), but I definitely enjoy many of the Arabic foods you’ve listed also. The desserts and snackish items are my favorites! I’m surprised that the book would call those foods Persian. Same basic region of the world but two different cultures (and languages) for sure.

Oh? What different cultures do you see- I want to know more…

–McAuliflower

- xk
posted June 6th, 2007 at 8:10 am

The foods above are native to Arabic cultures, found for example in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and perhaps other Arabic speaking countries.
Iraqi and Persian food do have some similarities in border regions. Persian refers to Iran, Afghanistan, and neighboring areas that share the same language. Persian (or Iranian) food as most would be familiar with, includes lots of dishes using fresh herbs (dill, parsley, fenugreek, mint, green onions) and mostly various stews served atop rice (not Uncle Ben’s!). You will not find heavily spiced dishes as you’d see in other Middle Eastern or Indian/Pakistani foods. There are not very many bread dishes served in Persian cuisine, though in Arabic cuisine you would see many dips or savory pastries.
Of the foods you mention from the book, grape leaves stuffed with an herbed rice mixture (dolmeh) can be considered Persian food and a sweet called Zoulbia similar to Zalabiyya is common (a fried batter that looks like a small delicate syrup-soaked funnel cake).
I hope that sheds a bit of light on the topic.

- xk
posted June 8th, 2007 at 10:48 am

The foods listed are mostly Arabic, Persian cooking is much different, more delicate and more complex.

I am in agreement with the last poster.

Get a copy of The New food of life from Batmanglij from your public library to see what Iranian food is really like.

It really vexes me to have things like baba ganoush mixed in with Persian cooking.

nm

posted June 11th, 2007 at 2:01 pm

I could have written the beginning of this post myself! We too just got rid of our TV and I feel like I have a new life. My thirst for reading has also increased exponentially… I will check out that book you recommend – it looks great!

- Kova

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