Pilau, Pilaf and Polo

Pilau was an elaborately adorned rice dish refined in the culturally rich Safavid empire of the 16th century Persia. These rice dishes were washed, soaked, drained, parboiled then steamed with some of the ingredients sautéed, transforming rice into poetry. Herb rice was referred to as emerald pilau and the cherry rice as ruby pilau - pronounced pilaf in English. These huge piles of jeweled pilafs needed the help of several people to be carried out. Some were adorned with four whole roasted lambs, others were topped with several roasted chickens – devouring these rainbow pilafs was a celebration that had a word “polo khori”, untranslatable in English but the best I could do is “pilaf-devouring-ceremony”. Invite a Persian to polo-khori, you will be asked “Who’s wedding is it?”  In the days of my great great grandmother, people were so eager to devour pilafs for celebrations they would marry off their girls at eleven.

On her wedding day, my great great grandmother named, ‘Taus’, which means ‘peacock’ True to her name, her eyes were the color of the peacock’s feather. As green as the lush northern meadows of Iran, her eyes matched her wedding outfit. She wore a light pink blouse with a green vest and short green skirt. Underneath her skirt she wore the traditional modest black trousers to cover her legs. In a headdress of lace, she outshone the radiant family jewels that adorned her. When she sat on the chair for grown-ups, her pearl-embroidered shoes dangled in midair.

A regal white horse, in fact owned by the king, transported the tiny bride who took her dolls with her to her husband’s-to-be residence. Cooks tended huge pots of food in the garden - pilaf and whole lamb so big it didn’t fit on one plate. Pilaf, usually made in the garden, was an integral dish at big celebrations. While Princess Peacock was riding the white horse, one of her gorgeous shoes fell into a pot of stew. But nobody noticed.

The jeweled pilaf was gorgeous too, adorned with slivered green pistachios, orange peel and red barberries. At his wedding dinner the groom, anticipating a savory slice of mutton, was served a shoe on his mound of rice. Although I cannot verify this fabulous tale, Grandma Malka has weaved this yarn countless times.

ピラフと言えばパーティー。披露宴、お正月だけでなく日常でもピラフでもてなされ、ペルシャでは年中お祭り騒ぎです。現代のピラフは16世紀のペルシャの サファビー帝国とトルコのオスマン帝国で宮廷料理として完成されました。焼き飯やチャーハンのように単に米に具材を足して油で炒めてチョイではなく、ペル シャのピラフは、米を半煮えにし、笊に流し、具材は炒めて米とデリケートに蒸し上げる手の込んだ料理です。これを作ること自体もセレモニーにしてしまいま す。お庭で大きな鍋に具材を混ぜながら、生演奏を楽しみながらピラフを調理していくような饗宴です。

毎年、神戸北野町でもピラフパーティーを開催します。今年は芦屋の朝日カルチャーセンターが主催して、異人館を一望する我が家のマンションでペルシャのお 正月(春分の日3月20日)に合わせて実施。野菜は地元神戸のものを使い、油もトランス 脂肪酸をふくまないものを使用し、すこぶる健康的。神戸新聞に掲載されたので定員オーバーになりました。










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