When we were packing, a respectable, elderly, but slightly not-bright relative was frantic that there were no safety pins in Canada, and insisted on shoving whole interlinked chains of them in every nook and corner of our bulging suitcases. So much so that now, exactly one year after The Voyage, still bundles of bright shiny safety pins fall out of our bags and suitcases should we happen to shake them. I can say that in the past year, I have never had any occasion to use any of them.
Unfortunately, her paranoia is not confined to safety pins, which are small and easy to carry, but extends to huge bags of dried herbs for the Iranian traditional herb stew “ghormhe sabzi“, which graces the sofrehs of Iranian homes at least once, if not twice a week. The herbs are very aromatic, and at least one kind, “shanbalileh“, is not available outside Iran, as far as I know.
So, every so often we get huge parcels from home, containing enough dried “ghormeh sabzi” herbs to make the stew for the fabled giant of the classic Iranian fairy tale `Namaki`. The bags of herbs lie around my apartment, and recently one burst open, scattering the herbs which had become quite stinky in the humid Halifax ocean air. Unfortunately, a heap of my clothes happened to be lying on the floor in a bunch close by, and were covered with the dry herbs. (that`s where my clothes usually stay until Sundays when I do a massive sorting and clean up operation). Cursing and swearing at blind idiotic mother-love, I vacuumed up the dull green fragments, and shook out my clothes to air under open windows letting in gusts of fresh ocean air.
The clothes still stink of… mouldy ghormeh sabzi herbs. The real stew, made with fresh herbs, smells fantastic. The moudly Halifax version smells foul. Ghormeh sabzi was not made to travel across the Atlantic.
I shouldn`t be so ungracious, I suppose. The mouldy smell is the the smell of mother love, country love, home love. Perhaps one day, my face all wrinkled, I will take my place in the line of haggard anxious child-sick parents in the daily queues in the central post office in Enghelab Avenue, downtown Tehran, haggling with clerks while tying up parcels roasted nuts, dried herbs, even, I hear, cans of traditional stewed sheeps`tongues and brains. And safety pins.