I recently came upon some sholeh zard, given to me by a dear friend, in a 48 ounce, blue color, non-porous, non-reactive, glassware that could go from freezing refrigerator temperatures directly to a microwave, or a conventional stove, without causing food to lose its aroma or flavor. If I did not restrain myself I would’ve eaten the whole content of the dish in one sitting, but I had to stop myself at some point before I was overwhelmed. Allow me to describe what it was that I ate that was so delicious.
From aesthetic aspect of it, it was fully decorated; the top center of it was seated with green pistachios, not crushed but halved perhaps, in the shape of a cart wheel, surrounded by two other cart wheels made from white almond shavings. In between them, circles of cinnamon powder, za’faran stigmas, and topped with an aromatic oil. Below the top layer laid the sa’faran yellow rice with its magnanimous array of different textures, some as smooth as creamy pudding, some still as mushy rice. I marvel at the site of it and contemplated where to began. The thought of disturbing the serenity of it was un-heartening. But began to eat, I must. I started at the one corner, as delicately as I could, not to disturb the beauty of the almond flower too suddenly. I took a small amount at first, too hesitant to take too much at once. I let the first bite delight my tongue and mouth for a while. I gave my taste buds ample time to remember how it was when I was a kid, longing for the days when a person would die so I could eat some of that good stuff. I closed my lips and sucked all the air out of my inner mouth till there was nothing left in there except sholeh zard. I let it stay in my mouth as long as I could bear it. I allowed it to spread over my tongue, on the side of my mouth between my teeth and my inner cheeks. Then, when I lost control over my will, I swallowed it and marveled at the delight.
Soon after I ate some from the top layer an aroma of rosewater, or the memory of it, began to let its presence known. I mixed some of the rice pudding with the cinnamon powder and to my surprise I found more almond shavings mixed with rice pudding inside. I marveled at every bite I took, and took as long as I could, till I could no more. The ecstasy was overpowering. The pleasure unbearable. Either I had to stop at a quarter, or I was going to eat the whole thing in one sitting, which I was willing to do except if I did there would be no more for another day. As difficult as a task it was to stop, I stopped. I even marveled at the pleasure of not eating anymore, since I know there would be another day that when I came home there would be the rest of the treat waiting for me.
I am depressed now. After eating the rest of sholeh zard three more times, it is all gone now. Gone as the days when the news of the demise of a Saint would spread through our street and I would rush to grab a bowl and run to the house where they were giving away the delicate treat. Gone as the days when I was oblivion to my surroundings when I had to wait in line for my turn to get a bowl full of sholeh zard. Gone are the days when I wish more Saints would die soon so I could eat more.
When will it be when I’ll have the pleasure of eating sholeh zard again?