with the author of The Joy of Persian
August 24, 2004
There are few dining tables in the world that are as decorative,
elegant and tasty as those prepared by Iranians. With an impressive
background boasting a rich cultural tradition of thousands-year-old
recipes and dishes that have been passed around from generation
to generation, Iranians not only have mastered the art of cuisine
supreme, but also that of entertaining and dazzling guests with
multiple and generous portions of their large variety of delicious
An Iranian table is a true feast for the eyes, and
now, as more and more Iranian immigrants populate the West, Persian
cuisine is quickly establishing itself as an important and
addition to the Western palate as Westerners frequent the large
number of Persian restaurants or gain knowledge of the wonderful
traditions of this cuisine through their Iranian friends.
A number of Persian cookbooks currently are available for those
who are interested in mastering the art of Persian cooking, but
the best by far is written and compiled by Mrs. Pari Ardalan Malek
in The Joy of Persian Cooking. Dubbing itself as “Persian-American
cuisine,” the book cleverly combines the best of both worlds,
offering recipes that combine the most elaborate Persian dishes
coupled with bits and pieces of American and international dishes.
Mrs. Malek’s vast interest and knowledge of excellent Persian
cuisine dates back to her childhood when she became fascinated
with cooking while watching her mother prepare delicacies in the
kitchen. I remember as a child that when Mr. Malek had been appointed
as Ambassador to Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, and my own father
was also serving an assignment at the embassy in Stockholm, that
we always looked forward to dining at the Embassy Residence, where
the luncheons and dinners were a true feast for the eyes - the
menus always prepared under the expert direction of Mrs. Malek.
Offering more than 200 pages of elaborate recipes, The
Joy of Persian Cooking details elaborate yet simple directions as to how
to prepare, step by step, a slew of appetizers, soups, meats, poultry,
the traditional Persian rice, vegetable dishes, desserts, and a
large variety of accompanying condiments. The recipes are written
in such a manner that even novices who are interested in learning
all about Persian cooking and have no prior experience can easily
follow the simple directions, and prepare an elaborate Persian
feast in no time.
From Piroshkis to cutlets to Kabab to the a vast section of Khoraks
(meat and chicken stews) to Kookoo to pasta dishes and a huge array
of Persian and American sweets, the book offers such a variety
that should please any palate, and serves as a one-stop must-have
cookbook which can be used for any cook’s everyday needs.
In addition to the excellent recipes that Mrs. Malek has collected
and perfected throughout her cooking years, she also offers a number
of special home recipes offered by friends and relatives who have
also contributed their own personal specialized recipes to the
In a fascinating preface, Mrs. Malek also offers a personal history
of her history of cooking, her own professional life (including
stints at the United Nations and the U.S. Aid Program to Iran),
and that of Mr. Malek’s illustrious career as an esteemed
Ambassador and former Chief of Protocol of the Imperial Court.
The Foreword also details a brief history of Iran itself and
the native cooking, and explains the transformation of Persian
cooking into an acknowledged and widely recognized international
cuisine as a result of immigration migrations in recent years.
In an additional section, the book also lists all the famous celebrations
and ceremonies in Persian tradition which are marked by special
feasts, such as Nowruz (Persian New Year), Chahar-Shanbeh-Soori,
and wedding ceremonies.
Joy of Persian Cooking is truly a joy in that it serves
as a unique, very well-written and fascinating book which not
pleases any cook’s essential needs, but also teaches an important
lesson about the glories of Persian cooking and the history and
traditions steeped in this fascinating culture. This is a must-have
addition for any cook, Iranian or American, or international, expert
or novice, who is interested in having a complete reference to
which to refer for their everyday cooking needs.
Interview with the author, Pari Ardalan
How long did you plan and research the book?
It actually took me six years. This is something
that I have wanted to do all my life, so I had been collecting
recipes all my life, but to choose and revise them again took six
How important of a role do you believe that food
and cooking play in Persian society?
I think that food and cooking play a very
important role. Like Fridays which are the only day in Iran which
you find families gathered around the dining table, or all the
other various holidays and ceremonies, there is always food involved.
Are there any particular foods that are favorites
The Iranian foods that are my favorites are
Shirin Polo, Albaloo Polo, the various Khoreshts that we have such
as Fessenjan and Ghormeh Sabzi, Ash Jo is one of my absolute favorites,
cutlet, Dolmeh Barg Moh, and the various Kookoos (frittatas).
Your book has been very successful and popular.
In addition to Iranians, are Americans also purchasing your book?
I have sold the majority of my books to Iranians,
but for example, when I went to my college reunion, a lot of my
classmates also bought copies of the book. My publisher has also
sold a lot of copies to bookstores. Most of my customers have been
Iranian, but I have sold a number of copies to Americans as well.
The book is a collection of recipes that I have gathered throughout
my life as a diplomat’s wife, so they reflect all regions
of the world and all the recipes I have gathered from friends as
a result of my travels.
Do you think that Persian cuisine will always enjoy
a popular place in Western culture and that the second and third
generations of Iranians will carry on the tradition?
I don’t think that Persian cooking
is ever going to be forgotten by young Iranians because as I look
around me, all the friends that I have, their children have bought
my book and they’re all cooking. Everywhere that I go where
the hostess is young, I see that they have served at least one
Iranian dish - particularly the traditional rice; be it white
rice or rice served with vegetables or meat or chicken - which
is always on the table.
I also know that Americans love our food, since every time that
I go to a Kabab place, everybody is always American or some other
nationality, so I believe that Persian food is definitely here
To order a copy of The
Joy of Persian Cooking, please call 703-790-1928.
Tara Taghizadeh is a Washington D.C.-based writer and editor.
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