Cook with M.E.: a glance into an Iranian kitchen

Middle Eastern Student Center’s (MESC) Cook with M.E. event was held inside the Classroom Kitchen of the SRC on Tuesday, Jan. 28 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., the second of four programs held for MESC’s IRANspiration week. As people waited, music played in the background; early visitors nodded their heads to the beat and some even danced. Others chatted in front of the room’s kitchenette in Farsi. The welcoming feeling persisted throughout the event. Alongside the event’s intent to “teach foreigners an easy simple dish outside of their culture,” as the chef for the evening, Kimia Yaghoubi said, it also helped Middle Eastern students feel at home through familiar foods.

“As much as A-I (Aberdeen-Inverness) tries to make Middle Eastern food, it’s not the same as from home. This is the closest I can get to being back home,” said Sahar Hajimolla Alikandi, a first-year cellular and developmental biology major.

Once people started filing in, the staff handed out plates of chicken with rice and Maast-o Khiar. The chicken came with carrots and both were slathered in tomato paste while the rice was topped with barberry, a sour fruit similar-looking to cranberries. The Maast-o Khiar was a yogurt of cucumber, mint and salt, giving a sour taste and an unexpected crunch.

Yaghoubi started the presentation by revealing that she was not a professional cook, simply someone who found passion in cooking and felt compelled to share that with others. She also shared tips that her own mother had taught her.

Throughout the event, MESC’s student development specialist, Ali Saadat, asked Yaghoubi questions about the food as she was cooking. “Can you say ‘barberry’ in Farsi?” he asked as it was passed around. Yaghoubi shared that “zereshk,” the Farsi term for barberry, means “other than the fruit.” From the back was a chorus of laughter as she explained, “Sometimes it is used when you want to say ‘what the hell.’ It’s also used as a kind of exclamation point. Like I’m seeing something and I’m surprised and I didn’t expect it to be that way.”

As the night came to a close, Yaghoubi showed the audience how to make halva, a dessert typically used in religious ceremonies but considered a big part of the Iranian culture regardless of religious affiliation. It was an understatement to call it “dessert.” The way it was decorated mirrored that of a mosaic tile, the base of it a golden yellow and carefully notched waves across. The edges were boarded with sunflower yellow saffron, pistachios and tiny rose buds. The taste of it was as Jihad Shalabi, a fourth-year computer science major put it, “Like Play-Doh, but it tastes good.”

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