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Ghormeh sabzi on the plane
An airplane security incident



August 28, 2006

An incident happened to a friend of mine about three weeks ago that might have forever changed the way the world travels. He was returning to USA from a trip to Iran, and he had brought back two sealed plastic containers with him in his carry-on baggage, one with polo, and one with ghormeh sabzi.

The containers remained intact in the first leg of his trip from Iran to Europe, but after all the pushing and shoving he had to do to qualify his carry-on baggage as a carry-on bag, and the force he had to exert on it to fit it into the overhead consoles the container of the ghormeh sabzi had begun to leak.

The aroma from the dish filled the cabin, but with the ventilation of the airplane spreading it evenly throughout the cabin it was hard to tell where the suspicious smell was coming from. Soon the smell began to create an atmosphere of concern in the airplane. A few times stewardesses made unscheduled walks through the isles and seemed to be sniffing around for the source of the smell. By now my friend had become very concerned and decided to eat the food and get rid of the incrementing evidence.

So he grabbed his bag with some fanfares and took out the containers, mixed the contents, and began to eat his ghormeh sabzi poolo as fast as he could. All these commotions he had made arose the suspicion of the stewardesses and they begin talking to each other and exchanging information. Finally one of the stewardesses went in a direction out of his un-obscured line of sight, but appeared to be talking to a man.

A short time later a muscular, tall, brisk, and cleanly trimmed and shaven man approached his seat and observed his feeding frenzy. He opened the overhead console above the seat and looked inside it. Then from his fanny pack he pulled out a cotton swap and took a sample of an oily green substance from the floor of the console.

He then introduced himself, without producing any identification, as an airline security staff and ask him very politely but firmly if he could have a word with him in private, and without waiting for my friend’s answer, as if he wouldn’t have any objection, pointed to the midsection of the airplane where the stewardesses prepare their complimentary condiments.

By then my friend had eaten all of his ghormeh sabzi poolo and quickly began to put the containers in his bag, when the man asked him to bring his bag with him also.

When they went to the stewardesses’ staging area, the security staff closed the curtains and asked him to empty his bag on the counter. As usual he had brought several exotic item with him, such as sabzi khoshk, zereshk, noghl, and tokhma oftabgardon, but when he emptied his bag, the item that the security staff was mostly interested in was the oily substance smeared inside his bag.

So without saying anything he pulled out another cotton swap and carefully took another sample. Once he was done he asked my friend what that oily green substance was. My friend explained that it was the juice from the ghormeh sabzi, but, to make an excuse, he made the mistake of saying he only eats hallal food, which brought more concern. So the security staff asked him about the food, and my friend to the best his linguistic ability tried to explain what ghormeh sabzi was.

After going through the rest of his stuff on the counter, the security staff told him to pick up his stuff and follow him, and escorted him to a new seat and sat beside him the rest of the way, which passed without any further incident.

Two days after my friend’s incident, there was a worldwide security alert, and airline passengers were no longer allowed to carry any oily, liquidy substance with them inside airplanes. I wonder if his ghormeh sabzi incident had anything to do with it.

P.S. the leaking ghormeh sabzi incident happened to my friend years ago before 9/11 era. Back then it caused him some embarrassment, and it only arose mild curiosity when he began to eat his food. With the arrest of alleged terrorist plotters to blow up airplanes with liquid explosives on August 11th in London, I began to think what would have had happened to my friend if it had happened nowadays. Comment

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