Laughter, music and a whole lot of food laid out on an extravagant table surrounded by masses of people pushing, shoving, and even scratching in order to be the first to get their hands on the crispy, crunchy and oh-so-buttery crust of rice. This ‘Tahdig’ is a main element to Iranian dinners, and these dinners are social events where one must see and be seen and, of course, obtain that euphoric bit of rice. When, however, a fellow rice-grabber who also hopes to savor the ‘chosen crust’ gets there simultaneously, the battle transforms into the Iranian game of give-and-take, called ‘Tarof’, defined by certain rules of how much to offer and how much to accept.
This is an aspect of my life growing up as half-Iranian, exposed to fellow citizens outside the Fatherland. This sort of direct connection to the country has kept me — despite never having lived there — aware of my roots, and made me the person I am today: an Iranian-American born in England, and raised in Switzerland by a half-American mother and half-Austrian father. My outlandish background and cultural mix is my most remarkable attribute; it gives me that little something extra – that je ne sais quoi, as the French would say – and has supported me throughout my life by making me stronger and keeping me open to everything coming my way, regardless of ethnic background, schooling or way of life.
I would define myself as a wannabe Iranian with Swiss tendencies. Wannabe because I exhibit only a fraction of the hysteric mood-swings and compulsive crunch-loving behavior of Iranians, understand only some of the ways people act and, sadly, am unable to fully communicate or tell a joke in Farsi (though I can curse a Persian blue streak). The Swiss in me isn’t typically narrow-minded but I do display acts of correctness, follow rules to an inflexible extent, and adore chocolate champagne truffles.
This goes to the core of what has shaped me and my personality: the ebullient and exaggerated ways of the Middle East in contrast to the measured and reserved ways of the Swiss.
With that in mind, the Iranians are not the only people crazy about crunchy goodness. Imagine a Swiss clan surrounding a fondue pot, dipping into the gooey cheese, laughing when someone loses their bread or potato and fighting for that crust left on the bottom of the dish when the cheese has been devoured. I am sure I’ve seen – and brought about – a bounty of scratches in fights for that ‘burnt’ treasure quite like those battles over the crispy, crunchy and oh-so-buttery Tahdig.
With attitude and nail polish,