Years ago, I spent a summer in Istanbul. When I arrived, I found myself doubly blessed—my host father was Turkish, but my host mother was Persian. I spent almost every afternoon following her from the market to the stove as she prepared our meals and plied me with bowl after bowl of spinach borani. Cooking from Naomi Duguid’s new book, Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan, felt like a visit right back into her kitchen.
Duguid has become something of an expert at opening the kitchen doors to regions that might be less familiar to her American readers; she brought scenes of daily life in Burma to readers with her last book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor. In Taste of Persia, you'll learn about the history of the Persian empire through Duguid's experiences harvesting mulberries in Georgia, having a meal with strangers on a night train across Iran, and eating kaleh poche with the Khamseh near Shiraz. You can feast on Kurdish fried chicken in broth as you read about Duguid's time in Kurdistan, or live vicariously as she observes the saffron harvest in Northern Iraq. Reading one of her books is like boarding a flight for a trip you've always wanted to take.
With Duguid's encouragement, you'll also learn about the flavors of the region—flavors like saffron, cardamom, pomegranate molasses, and cumin—and the role they play in each dish she offers up. A recipe for Persian Rice Pudding, for instance, asks for rose water and pistachios in a combination she calls “simple seduction.” In Farsi, “nooshe jan” means “may your soul be nourished.” When you cook alongside Naomi Duguid, it most definitely is.