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Curse of the torshi
I may have started World War III

By Simin Habibian
October 29, 2001
The Iranian

My mother, God bless her soul, never liked to make torshi (pickles). She was into making lemon juice, aabghoureh (sour-grape juice), sharbat e albaalou (sour-cherry juice) and all kinds of preserves -- anything but torshi. I remember that making any of these was a big family project, especially lemon juice and ghoureh. Photos here

During the summer when schools were closed we would all sit on the carpet in the hallway of the second floor, which was cooler than the rest of the house. Some of the neighbors' kids would join us too. All of us five sisters would help my mother make lemon juice. My brother would not participate, of course. But my father, who was retired, always helped my mother with household tasks.

Some of us would squeeze the lemons with a little device and, when full, would empty it into a big glass bowl. Someone else would use a cheese cloth or strainer to take the pulp and seeds out. Our hands used to get all wrinkly from the juice. The good part was making fresh lemonade with the pulps. Then my father would fill the bottles and put the corks on. He would make some dough to put on top of the bottles to make them air tight.

Of course, we had something to look forward to. My father would send one of us to the Tabrizian store -- which like Safeway, was in every neighborhood -- to buy ice cream. It had not been that long since Western-style ice cream, like Paak, Pastorizeh, Choobi, and Alaska, had been marketed in Iran. My favorite was Kim, which was chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream on stick.

My mother married when she was 15 and a few years later my father had to go to war and leave her with two small children. My father, whom I am very proud of, fought against the Soviets who had invaded northwest Iran in 1941. He was a young patriotic lieutenant. Richard A. Stewart, an expert in the U.S. Army, dedicated a couple pages in his book, Sunrise at Abadan, to my father and his bravery.

Anyway, back to the torshi...

My mother did in fact know how to make torshi. But when asked why she wouldn't make any, she would reply: "Baraay e inkeh beh maa nemyaad!" (Because it does not suit us!) I guess I wasn't old enough to fully understand. A couple of years later, I heard her telling a family friend, "If I make torshi something bad will happen! The first year when I made torshi, World War II broke out and my husband, had to go to war."

Wow! I realized this was nothing to toy with; the power of these vegetables soaked in vinegar, salt, and spices could not be taken for granted. The whole world fell apart just because my mother pickled some vegetables. I never told this story to anyone. Even my husband and children are not aware of it. But now I cannot hold it any longer.

Having shared that, let me tell you how I think I might have started World War III.

I had been planning to remodel our bathrooms. We had them redone but every time I called someone to come and paint them, something bad would happen to one particular person in my family, whom I love dearly. Unconsciously, perhaps, I had the torshi story stuck in the back of my mind and it kept me from having the bathroom job completed.

After a few months, I could no longer bear looking at the with ugly, stained walls in the bathrooms. I picked up the phone to call the guy to come and paint them. But there it was again; my loved one would become ill in some way. I finally decided to overcome the fear and just consider these incidents as coincidences and have the bathrooms painted. The day before, I prayed and kept my fingers crossed that things would go well.

The day finally arrived. I got up early in the morning and tried to be calm and rational. I kept negative and superstitious thoughts out of my mind. But every once in a while I could not help remembering the nightmare I had the night before: jars of stuffed eggplants and liteh and hafteh bijar pickles were parading amidst the roar of explosions and... Thank God the doorbell rang. The painter was at the door.

That day passed and, thankfully, nothing happened to my loved one. I was glad that the curse was broken; I no longer had to think about what my mother could have possibly done to the world with her torshi. I felt relieved and free. Every time I looked at my bathroom I could not help but laugh at myself for being superstitious.

But the enjoyment did not last long. Before I knew it, Boom! September 11 came along. And the rest is history. Now, I think I owe the whole world an apology, just in case my bathrooms or I have caused, God forbid, World War III!

By the way, the bathrooms look really good!
Photos here

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