Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's in Your Fruit Bowl?

If your are ever invited to an Iranian's house, the first two things you will be offered are tea and fruit, miveh. Iranians are big fruit eaters. My parents and relatives always talk about having grown up on a baagh, large plots of land usually containing many fruit trees, and having easy access to vast amounts of fresh fruit. My aunts, in fact, attribute their stellar health as children to the fact that they would pick and eat fresh fruit all day long. A midday and afternoon snack during my summers in Iran as a kid always meant a plate full of my favorites: champagne grapes (which are for some reason very popular, though I've never seen them in the U.S.), pears, nectarines, the juiciest peaches with skin that just effortlessly came off, and varieties of melons famous in the Khorasan province. 

Perhaps because I didn't grow up around any farmer's markets in the U.S., I always loved going fresh fruit shopping. It was only in Iran that I learned what fruit was really supposed to taste like. In Kramer's words from Seinfeld, "It makes your taste buds come alive!" And the true test of freshness? The fact that it actually rotted after a couple of days, unlike the flawless looking apple that I found sitting at bottom of my refrigerator in the U.S. a month after I bought it.

Farmers's market, Neyshabur


Here's another thing to know about Iranians and fruit. If you ever have any doubt as to whether or not a person is Iranian, just look at their fruit bowl. Iranians are the only people that I know of who include cucumbers in their fruit selection. Along with the plates, forks and knives, there will also be a salt shaker for the cucumbers (and/or albaloo and goje sabz, of course). Here's what a typical table looks like:

Some people prefer to cut the skin off the cucumber, then slice it in half length-wise and top it with salt; others just eat it with the skin, putting some salt on top after each bite. If you go to the trouble of peeling a cucumber, it's always nice to offer half of it to someone. 

And in case you still aren't convinced of the importance of fruit in Iran, check out these roundabout sculptures in different cities dedicated to, what else, fruit! Notice the cucumbers?

Saveh- famous for its pomegranates

A while back, I wrote a Persian idiom related to watermelons. Today, I'll leave you with a proverb, also related to melons- this time the kharbozehan elongated football shaped melon famous in Mashhad. 

هر کی خربزه خورد پای لرزش هم می نشیند
Har ki kharboze khord, paye larzesh ham mishine

Literally: He who eats kharbozeh must take the risk of shivering too.
English equivalent: If you play with fire, you'll get burnt.

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