Sunday, May 25, 2014

In Spain the caramelized crust on the bottom of the paella pan is called socarrat

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:25

It was years ago. I don’t even remember if Alan asked me or told me about this guy on his soccer team whose wife kicked him out of the house and he really had no where to live. And he was Iranian.  And Hussein has been part of our lives ever since. Of course that is not the name he goes by here in the United States, especially during all those wars, but that is his name. And he has been to the weddings and the Christmas Eve services and he knows that he can drop by anytime, especially at dinnertime. And yeah, he pretty much livens up conversations with his statements of facts. That was a pretty memorable dinner with him, a Baghdad Iraqi, a Kurd and an New York Jewish journalist discussing The Middle East Solution.

And life has not always been easy for an engineer who studied at the University of Arizona, but is now, well, Iranian. So bunches of Iranians end up selling used cars. And playing lots of soccer. And over the years Alan has been the white guy at Iranian soccer tournaments at UCLA or Las Vegas or San Diego. And sometimes Hussein’s little boy would come over and ask lots and lots of questions and bang on the drums that used to be in the living room. But now he has a band of his own in Texas far away.

And the last time Hussein went back to visit his family in Tehran, he returned with a glowingly lovely wife. And last night we all went over to their house for dinner: Mary Anne and mom and Chuyi and Alan and I.  And we were enriched.

At first we gathered around the low table laden with nuts and dried fruits and chocolates and a mountain of fruit artistically arranged because everything in this unassuming home on the eastside is artistically arranged because that is how Eliheh sees the world.  And we probably biffed it–I think we started at the dessert table by mistake but our hosts were so polite and so happy. Like that viral video we have all seen too many times. Exactly.

And we gathered around the high table with a huge platter of rice swirled with saffron and sprinkled with beautiful red fruits that you can only buy the Middle Eastern store on Speedway. And splayed roasted chickens, and small stuffed eggplants and tomatoes and cucumber and yogurt salad and of course, tahdig, the crisp rice taken from the bottom of the pot in which the rice is cooked. The name comes from a Persian word meaning "bottom of the pot,” of course. “Da me el concón,” is what we used to say in La Republica Dominicana, and “pegao” in Colombia.

And back to the low table of nuts and fruits and a box of chocolates and homemade Baklava and glasses of tea. And stories and photos and family heirlooms. And Hussein has a round tummy for the first time in his life and he smiles and smiles.

And whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

We were sure watered last night, over and over again. And old Hussein even had these fancy dancy tongs to place ice cubes into our glasses.