Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kashk and Barberries: Food-related Slang

I had been wanting to write about this word for some time now, but it wasn't until Friday when a student of mine used it that I thought, ok, no more putting it off. We were playing a review game, and as my class gets quite competitive and a few people tend to dominate, one of the quieter ones turned to me and joked, "I guess I'm just kashk here." 

If you have had Iranian cuisine, this word may be familiar to you. Kashk is made from sour milk or yogurt and is shaped and dried. It's initially salty, so it's common to soak it first and then liquify it to put on bādemjān, eggplant, for the popular dish kashk o bādemjun. It's also common with āsh. In fact, for me, a good āsh is directly related to how good the kashk is. I've had an addiction to this stuff ever since I was a kid, popping pieces like candy. And growing up in Alabama, my next door neighbor and best friend always used to ask me to sneak her a piece of "that white stuff". Because we had to bring it from Iran, my mom didn't want me giving it away so readily to someone who couldn't fully appreciate it. But I needed to feed my addiction, and, well, I had evidently become Laura's dealer. 

Kashk o bademjun

These days they have the ājeel version of kashk which are in little stick shapes and have cumin in them, but nothing beats the original pictured below- the big chunks that still have the mold of the fingers that shaped them. You can imagine how happy I was to receive this bag as a gift. That's all I really need to be happy... just a couple of kilos of kashk.

Pure Kashk
"Ajeel" version of kashk

But enough about kashk the food. What did it mean when my student called himself kashk? Well, as slang it just means that he was useless/worthless/unimportant. Someone could be prioritizing things and end by saying baghiyash kashke!, the rest is kashk! Or maybe you know someone who talks a lot of nonsense. You could say that anything that guy says is just kashk!

All this talk of kashk got be thinking about zereshk, barberries. Again, you may be familiar with zereshk from Iranian cuisine, most notably zereshk polo bā morgh, barberry rice with chicken. 


Zereshk polo

As slang, it means that you aren't buying something, so go fool someone else. If someone makes a grandiose claim, you could respond by saying zereshk! I wouldn't say it's rude or offensive, but it is informal and the usage should probably be kept within the realm of your friends or others you are close with. In this clip from (what else?) my favorite Shahgoosh, the character, Lida Mokhtar, has problems with her father, a prominent figure in society. She claims that he is an irresponsible, lying kolāh bardār. The police officer, on the other hand, says he is known as law-abiding to which she responds Zereshk! According to her, the father has everyone fooled, but she's not buying it.

For some reason, I can see kashk meaning something is worthless, but what the poor tart and crimson barberry has to do with you not being fooled, I really don't know. 


  1. I could swim in your blog. It's that good. Thank you for being such a great teacher.

    1. Wow! You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you so much!!


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