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.



  1. ck

    What a wonderfully written post.

  2. dewface

    what is sofreh? and who is namaki? and why do you think your readers all know your language?

  3. you are so lucky to have the chance to take such herbs with yourself to Canada, or receive them by post from your relatives. In Australia, there are extremely strict rules regarding bringing herbs, nuts and similar stuff into the country. The immigration officer did not let me take my ghormehsabzi herbs and threw them away right in the garbage bin! I got so sad not only because of loosing possible delicious ghormehsabzi, but also for all the efforts of my mum preparing them 😦 This story has happened several times, in the airport or to the parcels we receive from Iran, so I have asked my mum not to bother herself any more to send any kind of such stuff. similar restriction for ‘prune’ which I miss a lot…
    you are so lucky , so lucky to be permitted to have ghormesabzi herbs…

  4. thenewcomer

    Well, Australians have a reputations for being more ruthless and barbaric than Canadians… look at the way they treat refugees, look at their dress-sense… I am surprised they should be so paranoid about herbs- but the same thing has happened to my relatives in Heathrow. Don’t mourn your mom’s herbs though. Try something new- try eating seafood from the ocean or Japanese or Indonesian food! We’ve had enough ghormesabzi for a lifetime…

  5. GLi

    Haha… I don’t see that happening… cuz that relative of yours was stunningly smart n wise! You’re not as clever as her, you know!

  6. I would say Australian rules sound more ridiculous than barbaric to me! I have stories about that… About dress-sense I agree, they are definitely not like Parisiens , although in some cities like the fashion center of Melbourne, the situation is much better. However, when it comes to refugees, it is like all western countries I suppose: strict rules for those illegal and those outside Australia, but generous to those admitted inside, supporting them even more than a legal migrant, I suppose. (well , while I am a legal migrant experiencing the related problems, I have never been refugee, so I can not compare these two situation for sure…)
    Anyway, I have tried other foods as well, but nothing replace ghormehsabzi 🙂

  7. thenewcomer

    I still don’t understand why the immigration officer just threw the hebs in the bin- if he thought they were contaminated or something, surely he would have had to destroy them properly??? 😉

    Lobsters are more delicious than ghormesabzi. !!!

    to GLi: “man-e nakon, man-e-kon aneh khodesho mikhoreh.” Does M. still quote this favourite proveb of her 24 hours a day?

  8. GLi

    =))… I dono, why don’t u ask herself?! =))… n this is not the right form, the correct form is “man kone, man mikard, mirido pahn mikard”

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