to spreading culture you actually believe in
I once forced my Mexican mother to get lessons on how to make Tahdig from the Iranian moms at my middle school. As it appears, the art of Tahdig takes a lifetime to perfect, so I continued luring my friends into playdates on Friday afternoons, scheming a sly entry into the flavor forge that is a Persian kitchen during Friday night dinner prep.
The hierarchy of the Persian kitchen unfolds intuitively. The great grandma being the Executive Chef, of course, observing her team intently while sipping an endless deep brew of the blackest tea out of the daintiest Turkish crystal glass. She can flip a boiling pot with her eyes closed and her hands don’t burn. You don’t fuck with grandma, especially not on a Friday night.
The perfectly panfried crust at the bottom of a rice pot is a painstakingly intricate process heavily reliant on fire and physics — the shape of the pan, the intensity of the flame, the formation of the rice and impact of the flip. The level of attention given to making sure the Tahdig has the perfect buttery, burnt flavor hinted with saffron, a medium thickness, and a dry crunch takes an entire village.
And it doesn’t go unnoticed. Seasoned guests know to make their way to the dining room table just in time for the big reveal. There are far more relatives in proportion to the surface area on the bottom of the pot, not to mention that one guy who disguises his double portion under a large mound of white rice and stew, classic. If there’s one thing you should know before attending a Persian dinner on a Friday night, it is that Tahdig waits for no one.
So when I was working my first job at Frida’s Mexican Restaurant on South Beverly Drive and saw a massive pot of accidental, perfectly crispy Mexican rice soaking in the sink, I was horrified. I took a moment of silence to mourn all the pots of crispy rice that were left to soak at Frida’s over the years before schooling Chef on the importance of crispy. The following week he served Mexican rice Tahdig for my last family meal as a hostess, thankfully.
Tahdig aside, what fills me up the most is getting to be a pro-bono ambassador for the flavors, traditions, and philosophies where I find inspiration. All this sponsored influence make me want to make one simple request: keep spreading culture you actually believe in — gift a good book, give a tourist your best recommendations, have your friend hand draw temporary Tahdig tattoos to hand out to fellow enthusiasts — because influence with integrity is a powerful act of love, and when love comes in the form of cultural appreciation, it vibrates far beyond our time and place.