Thursday, December 18, 2014

A WINTER'S TALE AND A POMEGRANATE SOUP - SHAB-E YALDA - AASH-E ANAR


Yeky bood, yeky nabood...

'Twas the longest night of the year.

'Twas the darkest night of the year.

'Twas the most magical night of the year.

Soak the rice as the split peas simmer away.  Immerse your hands in the cold water and gently break up the rice into bits and pieces. Feel the familiar beat of nostalgia course through your body.  Memory knocking at your door.  It always begins with a gentle knock. Patiently waiting for permission to enter.  Sometimes you grant it - sometimes you don't. It's a slippery slope - the unpaved road to nostalgia and memory. You often tread those loose cobblestones cautiously. But tonight you are in a generous mood. It's a night of celebration.  A night of light, poetry, food, music, laughter, dancing, stories, family, jokes, togetherness, and a warm and tangy crimson-hued Aash-e Anar - Pomegranate Soup. You gently shake the rice off your fingers, dry your hands and place a firm grip on memory's door. Wildly swinging it open. Welcoming with it a howling gust of wind echoing with tales of  

Shab-e Yalda/Shab-e Chelleh.

Winter Solstice - December 21, 2014.


'Tis the one night of the year children are allowed to stay up all night. 

(Only to inevitably fall asleep at the foot of the korsi.  In the warmth of their grandmother's lap.) 

Giddy with anticipation of outlasting the long and dark night and welcoming a new crimson dawn.

Turn the music up.  Let its joyful rhythm, fervor and urgency draw your girls down the stairs. Add the rice to the aash along with a sprig of mint. Stir, stir and stir some more. The split peas have a tendency to stick.

What's he singing about, Mama? -Luna


I'm not sure. It's in Kurdish. I think it's a love song.

Who are Kurdishes, Mama? -Soleil

Friends and neighbors.

Interlace your fingers with your moon and sun and start spinning.  Orbiting around one another.  Shake your hair out, shimmy your hips, spin, spin and spin some more. Let yourself get lost in the moment.  Catch the sun's light reflect off the moon and bounce around the room.  A magical night, after all.  Spin, spin, and spin some more.  Jump and sing along until your heart can't take it anymore.  Collapse on the floor.  Only to get back up and repeat it all. 



 

'Tis the night of Yalda - birth.  

The birth of the sun.  

As light, love, truth and wisdom prevail over darkness.

Start on the meatballs.  Put the girls to work.  Add the parsley, cilantro, dill and advieh to the mixture.  Now listen - don't get too crazy measuring out the chopped herbs.  Grab a handful and chop away.  What you don't use in the meatballs you can use as garnish on the aash.  Place a small bowl of water next to the girls and show them how to wet their hands a little before forming the mini-meatballs.  Show them how small you want them. Bite your tongue and move away (go stir the aash) as they start forming odd shapes and sizes.  Let them get lost in the moment. 

'Tis a well-told and oft-repeated tale.

Told by ancient Persians six thousand years ago.

Told by George Lucas. In six parts.  Soon to be seven.

Set the Yalda table.  A study in various shades of red. All to symbolize a crimson dawn - the light of life. Watermelon for protection against excess heat in the summer months. Pomegranates and red pears to ward off insect bites.

Just like those patches we put on to keep away the mosquitos when we went camping.  Remember, Mama?

I remember, Soleil.
 
Dried fruits and nuts for an abundant and prosperous harvest. Candles to light the house and keep darkness at bay. Garlic for joint pain.

Mama, do your joints hurt?

Not right now, Luna.  But just in case... 

Divan-e Hafez to stir your soul and look into your future. And a crimson-hued wine to stir your thoughts and reminisce of days long gone.  A magical night, after all.

'Twas a well fought battle.

With no end in sight.

As the night raged on and on.
 
Gently drop the meatballs in the pot. Grate the beet and let its juices drip through your fingers and into the aash.  Chalk it up to more good luck. Hold the bottle of pomegranate molasses high above your caldron as you release its contents. Stir, stir and stir some more, then cover.

But where there is dusk - there is dawn.

And the sun always rises. 

She always rises.

Serve the warm and tangy crimson-hued Aash-e Anar as the girls crack open the walnuts.  Duck as walnut shells ricochet off the walls.

Mama, can we please stay up all night?  Please?

Yeky bood, yeky nabood... 

Wishing you all a very joyful and happy Yalda and Holidays. Please make sure you also check out the wonderful Yalda posts below. Plenty to tempt you with for this Yalda night.