I have remarked before, Gentle Reader, how elements of elegant frenchy-sounding cuisine reminds me of more humble dishes from my own birth country- I refer you to my erudite monogram on the simple pleasures of kukus and croquettes, for example.
Another such element is the much beloved Iranian “haazeri“, for which no English equivalent exists, yet translating almost exactly into the french phrase “pret-a-manger”, or “ready to eat”.
Who has galloped home, starving and yelling “MAmaaaan! what’s for SHAAAM!”, to hear that exhausted, guilt-inducing voice waft from the kitchen : “haaazeri, darling”?
But as tired mamaans, as well as french chefs know, pulling off a half-way decent “pret-a-manger” is no mean feat. My own mother has cried out a million times, as many times as there are stars in the galaxy, as there are waves in the ocean, as there are apartments on earth, that laying out and then tidying up the various items which go into the ‘haazeri‘: the paneer (cheese), the sliced tomatoes, the gerdoo (walnuts), the sabzi (fresh herbs), the sosis bandari (fried sausages and onions), the hendooneh (watermelon)… the list is endless and exhausting.
Where was I? I got lost in vistas of Iranian pret-a-mangers- ah yes. Getting together, laying out and then tidying up all this stuff is just as exhausting and time-consuming, ultimately, than cooking a decent khuresh (stew). Plus, when you do the haazeri, you have to cope with the unsaid but loud and vibrant reproaches of the family members for not giving them a “proper” meal. You have shirked on the cooking duties which are your birthright, and which will be with you till the end of your days, if you are lucky that is, and tried to fob off bread and cheese on your loved ones. You may try to justify it by saying you were too busy (but what could be more important than cooking for your darlings?), or too tired (why are you always so tired?), or there was nothing to cook (why didn’t you go shopping?), or that we have had too much meat recently and it’s only healthy to have simple food once in a while (really? so now you’re using science to justify your laziness?) – yes, the fact remains, you gave them bread and cheese to eat, and are now faced with a horrendous pile of crumb-filled dishes. Pret-a-manger.