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Tah-dig seeking its essence

By Shoorideh Sanandaji and Moji Agha
July 2, 2002
The Iranian

It is only a few months since I have arrived in the U.S. I am here for a relatively short visit. Being Iranian, I "hang around" the Iranian-American community. This experience has been quite interesting.

To me, you Iranian-Americans are a bit strange. You know, I don't fully understand some of your behavior. Among such behavior the more interesting ones are those whom a friend of mine calls "Super-Iranian".

Some of you seem ashamed to be Iranian, while some others seem way way way too proud of being Iranian. Where did moderation go? Things that in Iran people take for granted, and consider being completely ordinary, here somehow become "historical, mythical," etc. (See the poem below).

One clear example is our good old tah-dig or "pot-bottom". In Iran, like most others, I used to enjoy as much tah-dig as I could get, but it was not a prime symbol of Iranian civilization, as I found it out to be here in America.

Let me tell you what happened recently. I was invited to a potluck dinner, where people from different countries had brought their favorite foods. Being Iranian, I can fully understand why the local Iranians here in Tucson would not wish to be left behind in the race for culinary superiority!

One Iranian friend had brought a dish of baaghali-polo, and of course, it had a delicious crust of saffron-gold tah-dig at the bottom of its pot. I was very amused to see our "Super-Iranian" guest make a huge deal out of his tah-dig.

He gathered everyone around the table, declaring, like a peacock, that it was "show time". He then turned the pot upside down in order to unveil the seductive tah-dig, in the most dramatic fashion possible. I did not know if I should be proud or be thoroughly embarrassed.

Then, this other Super-Iranian -- who wishes to remain anonymous (see picture above) -- started staring intently at the vulnerable tah-dig, with such lust in his eyes, as if he was about, not to eat it, but to make love to it! Look at his eyes! Wow!

Then, there was another Super-Iranian at the party. You readers of know this gentleman quite well. This Tucsonan-from-Natanz is your very own Moji Agha. He too was watching the exciting tah-dig show at the table.

When he saw the eyes of the guy in the picture, and the funny way he was looking at the oppressed tah-dig, rather than being amused, he scratched his graying temple thoughtfully, sat down in a chair, pulled out his notepad, and looking like a modern-day Hafiz, wrote a GRAND poem about the humble tah-dig! Amazing! Moji Agha as Hafiz? Poor Hafiz!

True to form, it turned out that Moji was writing a rather serious poem -- but about tah-dig! You heard it right: A "serious" poem about tah-dig!

He told me later on, before showing me the actual poem, that he had consulted with two of his American poet friends, and had asked them to edit his poetic handiwork -- entitled "Iranian desire!"

I have come to America, only to discover that Iranians here make an incredibly huge deal out of something as ordinary as tah-dig. Granted, tah-dig is unbelievably delicious, but I could never imagine someone making a show out of putting this delicious dish on the table, another person looking at it with such culinary lust in his eyes, and yet another person writing a serious poem about the whole episode -- connecting it with history, mythology, civilization, etc.

I believe that in this situation what our Great Rumi says holds true:

Har kasi koo door maand az asl-e kheesh
Baaz jooyad roozegaar-e vasl-e kheesh

One who suffers separation from his her essence
seeks to return to his/her blissful Union.

I think that the phenomenon of Super-Iranian-ness is a manifestation of the frustrated desire of those souls who use to take for granted the blessings of their homeland. Now, they find themselves separated from the bliss of such connectedness. When they find a sign or symbol of that integrated state, which they no longer enjoy, they try to magnify and totalize that symbol to make them feel whole again.

O boy, I got way too serious here. Now, you be the judge. Look at the picture, read the poem (VERY CAREFULLY, as Moji insists) and tell me what you think.

By: Moji Agha

Iranian desire is historical



Its relationship with reality

deeply nuanced

deeply complex

and yet

deeply simple


Iranian desire

has been sizzling

becoming imaginatively crisp

underneath a heap of delicious fluffy rice

seasoned with

the ancient spice

of the mythical love of


Iranian desire is crunchy.

It is chewed

by the mysterious teeth of

wishful thinking.

Iranian desire

has absorbed

for long

for long

for long

the subtle taste of love

covered deeply

underneath superficial experiences of

fluffy and soft


The desire itself

rather than materializing

and maturing

can burn at every precarious moment

with the perfectionistic fire of

NOT attending

to what IS.

Oh, Iranian desire

I beg thee

I beg thee

Don't be so mythically delicious

moderate your unrealisticness,



even if you have to lose

some of your proud ancient zest,

who cares if the mouth of imagination

does not water as much.

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By Moji Agha

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