When I received an email from the lovely Darina Allen inviting me to the Kerrygold Ballymaloe festival, I knew I couldn’t refuse. She was given Pomegranates & Roses as a gift from our family friends Don and Martha Rosenthal who had visited her from Vermont a few months before.
I had heard of Cork on so many occasions through my mother-in-law Jean (very beautiful and smart and a golf champion in her time), about its magnificent rolling green hills and hospitable people; people who were interesting and interested in you, who have an incredible way with words, people who love life and great food. What better place to visit than Ballymaloe which I hear embraces all these wonderful things.
Now my son Dara is a quarter Irish, part Welsh and Iranian-American. By the way, we picked the name Dara as it is both Irish and Iranian!
I really got to know myself in the process of writing Poms & Roses. I was brought up Iranian-American with a tinge of WASP (my amazing step father Rodman Bundy, no not Al, is from Boston), and I lived around the world, but it was writing this book which made me feel like I was finally home.
I learned about the culture, its incredibly rich history, the hospitality and generosity of its people and about its food, oh the lovely food that melts in your mouth, fills all of your senses with its subtle aroma of saffron and rose water, cinnamon and orange peels. The memories of watermelons left to cool in the icy cold creeks, the sound of tea being stirred with sugar crystals, the aroma of steaming rice with butter, the freshness of fresh herbs being chopped and the onions caramelising with mint to top a hearty yet delicate Pomegranate Soup. I learned about “the Hot and the Cold” doctrine (Garmi and Sardi) which is the yin and yang of Persian cookery, balancing the dishes with sides, all taking into account the body type and the season we are in.
I hope I can bring some of these treasured food memories with me to Ireland and share them with its people. Show them that what they hear on the news can be dispelled, even if only for a moment, if they take a bite of a succulent tender stew or eat a spoonful of cool creamy yogurt soup.