Pomegranate Soup ~ Marsha Mehran ~ 2/06 ~ Book Club Online
January 6, 2006 - 06:03 pm

Welcome to
Pomegranate Soup
by Marsha Mehran
"A funny and heart-warming debut about three sisters, an old box of recipes and a new, exotic café in a small Irish town.

Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland seems like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of "crazed sheep and dizzying roads," they might finally find a home." More about Pomegranate Soup from the Author's Website ~ ~ Pomgranate Soup Homepage

I just finished Pomegranate Soup. What a delight. Now I'm scanning and editing the recipes. I remember 60 some years ago, just about every girl in 5th and 6th grade would come to school with half a pomegranate and a small supply of toothpicks, and there they'd sit on our desks, covered with wax paper, until recess time when we'd take them outside and dig and eat those littles seeds one by one. ~ Pedln

Pomegranate Soup, a delightful debut novel, goes from Iran to Ireland and catches the flavors of both cultures through unforgettable scenes and characters. The three Aminpour sisters leaving Iran on the eve of the Revolution, opening a Persian restaurant in an Irish town, enchant us with their optimism and aroma of pomegranate soup, lingering beyond the pages.” -- Nahid Rachlin, author of Foreigner and Veils

"Pomegranate Soup is glorious, daring and delightful. I adored the Iranian sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla, who are looking to build a life, start a business and find love in a place so far from home. Ireland has never been more beautiful -- the perfect setting for this story filled with humor, hope and possibility." --Adriana Trigiani, author of Rococo

Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate Molasses, Walnuts and Chicken

Promising Pomegranates

Week one-Prologue, Chap 1-3
Week two-Chap 4-6
Week three-Chap 7-9
Week four-Chap 10-Prologue

Discussion Leaders: Ann Alden and Pedln

B&N Bookstore | Books Main Page | Book Discussion Guidelines | Suggest a Book for Discussion
We sometimes excerpt quotes from discussions to display on pages on SeniorNet’s site or in print documents.
If you do NOT wish your words quoted, please Contact Books

Ann Alden
January 7, 2006 - 05:18 pm
Well, Ms PatW has put this proposal up and I want to see if anyone is interested a nice easy readin' book about three Iranian sisters who open a restaurant in small town in Ireland. Its a delightful read and the author has promised to try and join us from her home in Ireland. This is her first book but she has captured many markets around the world with this fun book. Recipes included. Come along and join us!

January 8, 2006 - 01:12 pm
I'll echo Ann. This IS a fun book to read. Three young women, sisters, so full of energy, but each so different from the other. If you liked Joann Harris' Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange you will love Pomegranate Soup.

January 8, 2006 - 06:34 pm
I am 2nd on the list at my library. so I hope to have it before too long.

January 9, 2006 - 07:52 am
Hi Ann and Pedln,

I love the title, Pomengranate Soup. I love books with recipes in the story too. Believe it or not, I have never tasted a Pomengranate. This book sounds like it will take me on another trip around the world. That's exciting. If I have read the plot correctly, Iran and Ireland are involved in the story. I like new authors too. The book sounds unresistable.

My library owns one copy of the book. So, I might need to check and try to recheck the book out again. Thank you for a new and interesting title.

Oh, may I join?

January 9, 2006 - 10:59 am
Pedln and Ann, I will not have the chance to participate in this discussion. I had forgotten about another appt. in Feb. Thank you for the invitation. I wish you luck with the discussion.

January 9, 2006 - 03:57 pm
Hi Ann and Pedln,

I think I would like to join this discussion. I will find out if our library has it. But you can count me in.


January 9, 2006 - 04:12 pm
Hi Ann and Pedln,

I posted that I thought I'd join the discussion, but when I checked, the post was not there. So here goes again. Pomegranate Soup sounds like a fun title. I too remember 60 years ago when the 5th and 6th grade girls ate pomegranates at recess and lunch. I never ate them myself, and to this day have never tasted one. Perhaps I'll start now.

I will check with the local library and get on the wait list.


January 9, 2006 - 04:36 pm
Pat West and Evelyn, this is such a fun book to read, and think of all the cooking we can do. I'm so glad you'll be joining us.

Hats, sorry to hear you have a conflict, but if you find you can squeeze us in, even if just for a little bit, we'll be glad to see you.

January 10, 2006 - 01:42 am
Pedln, thank you!

January 10, 2006 - 02:09 am
Ann and Pedln, I can't resist Pedln's review. You know I might have eaten a Pomegranate as a little girl. I remember eating a red fruit with tons of seeds in it. We called it a Chinese Apple. Is that the same fruit? I don't know.

Reading Pedln's review and looking at the heading about the book, I can't resist. I think the PBS special is during this same time. I can still read the book and pay attention to the program. I am sure my friends at the library will let me check Pomegranate Soup out again. It just sounds like a book I don't want to miss with all of you.

I have the worse time spelling Pomegranate. My hand wants to type an n after the first e. The way you spell it makes a difference in the way you pronounce it. Doesn't it?

Ann Alden
January 10, 2006 - 07:35 am
I am so glad you are joining us for this discussion!

And, yes, Chinese Apple is a pomegranate. Here's a nice link for you.

Chinese apple for pomegranate

And I also seem to want to mispell this word but my mistake is wanting to put an 'i' in where the last 'a' is. Oh, well, we now have a quorum and can go out on the main board. I think that's right, PatW??

January 10, 2006 - 07:49 am
Hi Ann,

Thank you for the link. Isn't that something? I can remember the Chinese Apple so well. I am glad you have trouble spelling Pomegranate too.

January 11, 2006 - 08:41 am
This from the link: A pomegranate (Punica granatum).
1980 DARE File NYC (as of 1948), Chinese apple = pomegranate.

An interesting nickname. Now I'm going to have to check out the Latin -- do you think it has anything to do with the Punic wars? Giiiiinnnnny!!?

January 11, 2006 - 10:43 am
Punic probably refers to Africa, or perhaps anywhere in the region.

January 11, 2006 - 04:00 pm
HAH! Latin Lives Today! In the new gas saving cars and in every word, really.

I think the word pomegranate itself comes from, according to Webster's, Middle English from Middle French: pomme grenate (seedy apple).

The botanical term for the tree which bears pomegranates: Punica granatum of the family Punicaceae has this derivation:

From Wikipedia:


The genus name, Punica is named after the Phoenicians, who were active in spreading its cultivation, partly for religious reasons. Its species name granatum derives from the Latin adjective granatus, meaning 'grainy' (because of the fruit's seeds/grana). However, in classical Latin the species name was malum punicum or malum granatum, where "malus" is an apple. This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (eg German Granatapfel, seeded apple). Even "pomegranate" itself has this meaning; pomus is Latin for apple.

Another widespread root for "pomegranate" is the Egyptian and Semitic rmn. Attested in Ancient Egyptian, in Hebrew rimmôn, and in Arabic rummân, this root was brought by Arabic to a number of languages, including Portuguese (romă)

The word Punic is from the Latin punicus from Poenus, an inhabitant of Carthage, akin to the Greek Phoinix, or Phoenician, or the Carthaginians of Africa. (1533) The noun Punic (according to Webster's) coined in 1673 meant the Phoenician dialect of ancient Carthage.

January 12, 2006 - 12:40 pm
Hats & All, Here are some facts on the pomegranate along with recipes and pictures. Thought a picture would help identify the fruit.

Pomegranate Facts/Pix


January 12, 2006 - 12:43 pm
Thank you Ginny and Marvelle.

Ann Alden
January 14, 2006 - 11:22 am
I saw them growing outside our house in Austin a long time ago but the landlady said they weren't ready for picking yet and I never got to try them. Last week, they appeared in my grocery produce section so I brought one home with directions on how to open it. It was certainly interesting and a beautiful inside awaits all of us but I have no interest in trying to juice one. I think if I try any of the recipes, I will buy pom juice which has been appearing in all of our grocery stores. How about you all?

January 14, 2006 - 12:00 pm
A friend gave me a pomegranate a few months ago from her yard. I got one seed out and it was very, very sour. I ended up tossing it, because I had no idea what to do with it. Now that I have seen the web site Marvelle listed here, at least I have an idea what to do. But seeding it looks like a lot of work to me, so I'm with you, Ann, if I decide to try any recipes, I think I'll just buy the juice.

I'm usually adventuresome about food and new recipes, but I'll just have to wait and see on this one.


Ann Alden
January 16, 2006 - 08:26 am
And come join us when we start the discussion. The story gives one some info on what it is like living in Iran and then moving to the UK as very young women. With, of course, a super, competent older sister! A sister who has been damaged by her life in Iran! And, a younger girl, just getting started in high school and experiencing new friendships.

January 16, 2006 - 10:59 am
Ann, I have the book. It arrived Saturday. I am looking forward to reading it with all of you.


Ann Alden
January 16, 2006 - 11:42 am

Ann Alden
January 19, 2006 - 03:15 pm
Who, as head of the Coalition Provisioual Authority,served as America's "viceroy" in Iraq for 13 months. He returned with many middle eastern recipes for his gourmet collection. He discovered two new flavorors--Pomagranate Molasses and Dried Limes. Curious, I looked up the molasses and found these new ways to flavor your foods, cooked and fresh--Pomagranate Molasses. Now, if I can find some, I intend to try this lady's suggestions.

January 20, 2006 - 07:02 am
Ann, thank you. Of course, I have never heard of Pomegranate Molasses. That first recipe in the book sounds delicious. I have never used grape leaves.

I am reminded of my mother making stuffed cabbage rolls. From what I can remember she used hamburger meat, made it up like a meatball, using another shape, wrapped a cabbage leaf around it. Stuck it with a toothpick to hold it together and poured tomato sauce over the top and put it all in the oven. I think she gave the cabbage a touch of heated water to make the leaves slightly limp.

My mother was the best cook. Everybody says their mother was or is the best cook. Have you noticed?

I have read the first three pages. The book is written with a wonderful style. I can't wait to read about the past of the sisters. I think one of the sisters, in the first pages, spoke about the emotional scars.

I hope to learn about Iran and Ireland.

January 21, 2006 - 10:34 am
However, I don't say that (regarding my late mother's cooking).

I'll try to join you, but I haven't ordered the book yet.
Has anyone had good luck with used copies?
I'm a little cautious because of 3 poor experiences with used books on line, including Barnes & Noble.

Ann Alden
January 23, 2006 - 07:23 am
I have ordered so many used books and really never had a bad experience that I can remember. Of course, I've slept since then, too! Tee hee! I use Alibris, Powells, Amazon and B&N and usually check up on the seller. Also, I don't just order the cheapest book before checking up on the seller. They are rated and usually the company stands behind them. So, if you find a used title, try it!

January 24, 2006 - 01:06 am
Please add me to the discussion group.

Ann Alden
January 25, 2006 - 06:21 pm
We will meet here on February 1st so keep that date in mind.

January 28, 2006 - 03:29 pm
Wow! Another interesting article by Dr. H. The word grenade stems from the Pomegranate. That is so fascinating. The whole article is informative and fun. The Pomegranate is also an old fashioned form of Viagra.

The Pomegranate is old as the city of Corinth. That really is something. There is so much to know about fruits, spices, vegetables, etc.

I just love these newspaper articles.

Ann Alden
January 29, 2006 - 07:31 am
Pat, can you do that??

Pomegranate Molasses

Here's some recipes using Pomegranate Molasses which I think sound wonderful.

Pomegranate Molasses, Walnuts and Chicken

January 29, 2006 - 09:01 am
Ann, thank you.

January 29, 2006 - 10:26 am
The link to the molasses looks good. I have placed the links in the heading.

Barbara St. Aubrey
January 31, 2006 - 02:06 am
Just peeking in - a tid bit I learned about a year ago - pomegranate juice is supposed to prevent hardening of the arteries by reducing blood vessel damage. Pomegranate is an antioxidant that may also reverse the progression of this disease. Therefore, I started daily to drink a glass of pomegranate juice.

Last fall I tried something that was a hit with my grands. Knudsen sells a pomegranate concentrate that with added water makes between 5 and 6 glasses of juice. Well, I simmered the concentrate down a bit and after it cooled, cut the hard part off the top and sides of a brie - then I cut it in half horizontally and poured the reduced concentrate over the brie - stacked the two pieces like a cake and heavily sprinkled it with pine nuts. They scooped up some and ate it on pieces of French bread. The adults found it to be too acidic to eat while drinking a glass of wine but it was great with a glass of beer.

I've also mixed it half and half with some mango habenero sauce to put on fish - mmmmm good.

January 31, 2006 - 03:22 am
Hi Barbara,

I miss you! You always add so much knowledge to a discussion. Thank you for all the information about the Pomegranate. A Pomegranate is a healthy choice too. I like the French bread idea. We had French bread last night with a tuna casserole.

Mrs Sherlock
January 31, 2006 - 07:24 am
When it is pomegranate season I always look for the biggest one I can find. This is one of the purest pleasures in life, eating a pome. Right up there with eating a mango. Nice to hear that what one loves is, for a change, good for one's health. PS: They are lovely trees; the blossoms are like small red and white fuschias, but watch out for the thorns!

January 31, 2006 - 08:52 am
Mrs. S -- I've never seen a pomegranate tree. Thanks for the description. Now we need a picture.

January 31, 2006 - 08:55 am
I would love to see a Pomegranate tree.

Ann Alden
January 31, 2006 - 01:02 pm
Pomegranate huge site with many links to pictures

Ann Alden
January 31, 2006 - 01:04 pm
Pomegranates have fascinated fruit growers since ancient times when they were surprisingly listed in biblical scriptures. The most amazing fact about pomegranates is that 365 seeds are consistently found in the fruit. This is always true, just like 365 days occur during a year.

Mrs Sherlock
February 1, 2006 - 07:08 am
This was an easy read; I literally devoured the book. The format, recipe followed by narrative tying the recipe to the story development, I encountered in Lynne Hinton's Friendship Cake. Since I read cookbooks for pleasure, recipes are an attraction to me. Good choice.

Ann Alden
February 1, 2006 - 07:43 am
Today's the day! And, I slept in and I have to get to the Y and water exercises before I discuss this warm and tasty book. Sort of a comfort book,ie.comfort food, in the middle of winter. Be back after 1pm. Please forgive me everyone!

February 1, 2006 - 07:56 am
Good morning,

Along with the recipes, will we also have a look at Ireland and Iran? I would like to know more about the past lives of the three sisters as well as their present lives in Ireland.

February 1, 2006 - 08:00 am
Good morning,
This is a remarkable book, but it is not all sweetness and light!
Not to post anything like a spoiler at all,
but for any readers who want history along with love stories,
I think there is plenty of both in this fabulous little novel.

February 1, 2006 - 08:12 am
Mippy, I haven't finished it yet. I can tell there is a lot to this novel. I love the characters.

Judy Laird
February 1, 2006 - 08:49 am
I too am enjoying the book I can h ardly wait for the end. Then I will read it again.

February 1, 2006 - 09:21 am
Food is so important to our lives. It is a part of our history. I have never gone to a funeral without a pound cake or a casserole. I remember going to church potlucks too and eating green bean casseroles, rolls, cakes, etc. So many of my memories include foods eaten with friends and relatives.

In the book I like Estelle Delmonico. When she visits the girls she says,

"I bring you my best cooking. Osso buco with pine nut gremolata."

This is Estelle's way of offering her friendship.

February 1, 2006 - 10:08 am
Estelle Delmonico is a key character! Isn't she great!
One of the sweet recipes is hers, although it looks Iranian.
I hope we don't have to bake any of these; we can't have sweets in our house,
and I'm going nuts reading about all this fabulous food.

February 1, 2006 - 10:12 am

Estelle Delmonico is a sweetheart. I do really like her.

February 1, 2006 - 12:08 pm
Good Afternoon on our opening discussion day. It looks like Ann and I have both hit the water. I had to have some blood work this morning and that means a good excuse to go to the Panera's that's right between the lab and the swimming pool. I sat there and read for an hour before doing laps.

Has anyone made any of these delicious looking recipes yet? Is there anyone who DIDN'T look through the whole book to check out the different recipes? I have most of the ingredients for Pomegranate Soup, so hope to make that soon. And the Elephant Ears. I wonder if they're the same things I loved as a kid. Big and sticky and yummy.

February 1, 2006 - 12:11 pm
Hats and Mippy, yes Estelle really is a sweetheart. And were you surprised that all the negotiations about the shop, etc were done sight unseen (by both parties), solely on the recommendation of Estelle's niece Gloria?

February 1, 2006 - 01:17 pm
What a treat to find this discussion, not only on the first day, but also about a book which I will thoroughly enjoy! The recipes are familiar to me from my Persian background. The three sisters remind me of cousins. It will be interesting to read comparatively about Iran and Ireland, two countries dear to my heart and family.

Growing up with pomegranates, I can testify to their wonders - not only as tasty juice, but in many Persian recipes. Dried lemon and limes, too, are central to Persian cuisine.

February 1, 2006 - 01:56 pm
Hi Pedln, Ann and Persian,

I did feel surprised that all of the negotiations went on sight unseen. So far, it seems like everything is going to work out fine. Estelle seems happy with the girls. The girls seem happy with Estelle. It seems like a match made in heaven. Maybe one of the herbs or spices will help Estelle with her osteoarthritis.

I could just smell and taste the Red Lentil soup. I bet that is yummy!

Ann Alden
February 1, 2006 - 02:11 pm
I am not sure where your books start since I was sent a manuscript by the publisher which begins with a prologue recounting Thomas McGuire's bad temperment of hot and cold which it says, "Not even Marjan's famously equilizing recipe for tart pomegranate soup could remedy." Right away we are told that Marjan does more than cook. She uses many recipes for healing. And right away, we are introduced to the "sensous wafts" of cardamom, cinnamon and rosewater. Which Thomas thought were reeking of evil. These odors are foreign to him and to another citizen of Ballinacroagh, Conor Jennings, as he stops to inhale the wonderful aroma saying the spices smell like heaven.

Now, Thomas McGuire's nose leads him to a shop that had been closed for five years, Delmonico's Pastry Shop, and there he thinks he's found witchcraft being practiced. And, now the first recipe is printed for Dolmeh. When I read the recipe, I found myself comparing it to a similar Greek dish. Hmmmm, how far from Greece is Iran??

Ann Alden
February 1, 2006 - 02:30 pm
Muslims adopted the entire Greek medicine and sciences and the ancient Greek principle that disease was caused by a fundamental imbalance in the body between certain opposed qualities, such as heat and cold (sardi/garmi), or wetness and dryness (tari/khoshki). The physicians of the period improved Hippocrates (460-377BC) ideas who had proposed that health resulted from the equal influence of four bodily "humors" that was analogous to the four elements of Greek physics (earth, water, air and fire). Food became an important factor instrumental in maintaining body's balance.

The ideas of cold and hot foods are still believed by many Iranians and in planning for meals such considerations will be paid attention to. From region to region, the classifications may vary. In general, animal fat, poultry, wheat, sugar, some fresh fruits and vegetables, and all dried vegetables and fruits are considered as hot. Most beef, fish, rice, dairy products, fresh vegetables and fruits are considered as cold. In planning for meals people's nature, season or illness, will be considered and cold or hot or a combination of the two foods will be produced. For instance, walnut, a hot food is usually combined in a dish that includes pomegranate, a cold food, to make the dish balanced and delicious. Or a variety of pickles are consumed when eating fatty or fried foods to neutralize the effect of too much fat. Iranians are great consumers of dairy products and many still make their own yogurt and cheese at home.

Is this not also an Ayurvedic(from India) practice??

February 1, 2006 - 03:24 pm
There are lots of sites on food from Iran (Persia);
here's one link:
Persian food

February 1, 2006 - 03:28 pm
Thank you, Ann, for the interesting info on the ancient medical practices of Muslims adopted from the Greeks.

I am enjoying this book tremendously, but have only read through Chapter three so far. I think the Lentil Soup sounds yummy.

I was interested to read about Estelle's arthritis pain, and am hoping Marjan suggests something to help. (I'd sure like to try it).


February 2, 2006 - 02:37 am
Ann, I also would like to say thank you for the information about the medical practices adopted from Greece by the Muslims. It is very interesting.

February 2, 2006 - 07:22 am
Hello all! So nice to be here at this wonderful round table. I am honored and delighted to be chosen for your reading group. I am actually writing to you from the West of Ireland, where I have taken a writing hiatus. Finishing two books, actually, one of which is the continuation of Pomegranate Soup. Will try and pop in every day if I can, so please throw any questions and comments my way. I do hope some of you try your hands at the recipes--I recommend the red lentil soup for starters, as it is the easiest to make. Let me know what you think!

Ann Alden
February 2, 2006 - 09:32 am
My first impressions of this novel were what led me to continue reading. I loved the first few paragraphs concerning Marjan's growing up years spent with the family gardener who taught her how to grow herbs. Loving the descriptions and colors of the foods and spices. Color and spices seems to be the big thing in Mediterranian cooking. But also the use of food for healing, with the hot and cold foods.


It looks like we might want to try the Red Lentil soup although I thought 'dolmeh' looked quite good and tempting.

The way the author brings all the colors of everything around the gardens of Tehran with the pool lined with turqoise and green Esfahanni tiles, the furry stalks of marjoram and golden angelica in dark mounds of earth with its wonderful herbal plants made me want to visit Iran.

February 2, 2006 - 09:35 am
to Marsha ~
How wonderful to have you looking into our SeniorNet group!
This book is extremely enjoyable and thought-provoking.

I'd love to have more hints about growing herbs, especially ones that would do well in a sunny window.
Here in south Florida, many herbs do not do well grown outside.

February 2, 2006 - 09:39 am
Welcome, Marsha, and thank you so much for taking the time to visit and "talk" with us. I'm glad you're having a bit of vacation from writing and am delighted to know that the people from Pomegranate Soup will continue on. I enjoyed meeting them all a few months ago, and am happily meeting them again in a re-read.

One of the joys of reading about other locales is that they take on new meanings as they become more familiar. I'd heard of County Mayo, but had never thought about where it was other than in Ireland. Now I know it's near the sea. And Croagh Patrick is a real mountain, complete with walking tours. Is Ballinacroagh a real town? I couldn't find it on the map, but notice that several towns begin with "Balli"

Thanks also for the tip about red lentil soup being the easiest recipe.

February 2, 2006 - 11:16 am
Hi Marsha,

Thank you so very much for joining our reading group. Your book, "Pomegranate Soup" is just wonderful. Already I feel very close to Marjan, Bahar and Layla. If you were to rewrite this story with only one of the sisters, which one would you choose to write about and why?

I am very happy to know you are continuing the story in a sequel.

Mrs Sherlock
February 2, 2006 - 05:03 pm
Greetings, Marsha. Thank you for writing a book that has given me such pleasure. Thank you also for giving us a chance to follow the lives of these folks in another story. Reading about Ireland is much like reading about Iran: knowing a little smoething about the highlights but relatively nothing about the complexities.

February 2, 2006 - 05:49 pm
MARSHA - I'm happy to join the other posters in a joyous welcome to you. The pleasure of Pomegranate Soup has already begun! In preparing for this discussion, I've been thinking about many wonderful memories of my own Persian relatives and the aromas in their kitchens, the numerous recipes shared with abundance, the glorious colors of the dishes (especially during festive occasions)and the diversity of herbs used in age-old ways. Thanks for joining us.


February 2, 2006 - 06:55 pm
Hello Marsha,

It is a pleasure and an honor to have you join our group.

I sat last evening and read more of the book and savored it.

I'm slowly getting to know all these people and don't want to rush it, because I want this story to last.

Tomorrow or Saturday I am going to make the Red Lentil Soup.

I love to cook and we enjoy soups, so this will be a pleasure.



Ann Alden
February 2, 2006 - 07:27 pm
But she has been ill so we will start in here with Feb 1st thru Feb7th-reading the Prologue and the first three chapters. Lets see if we can discover what brought these three lovely ladies to Ireland. Will their restaurant be a success? Will the village accept them? And who seems to helpful towards them?

Its so good to see all of you here. Old friends (Pedl'n, Hats, Persian,PatW, Judy Laird,) and new(Mrs Sherlock,EvelynM,Mippy,) plus our author, Marsha Mehran. Let's see, we are missing kidsal but maybe she will come in later.


Are you familiar with the recipes here? I remember that you have relatives in Iran, right?

Like two of our posters, I am savoring this book and its my second time around. Delicious!

I am particularly interested in finding a Pom Molasses recipe using the syrup and maybe some other spice for a glace on Salmon.

February 3, 2006 - 01:58 am
I am here!! See this fruit in the grocery store, but never know what to do with it! Can remember eating one when I was very young - thought it was bitter.

Ann Alden
February 3, 2006 - 07:00 am
Here are some of the author's questions to a book club.

1. Each chapter in Pomegranate Soup begins with a traditional Persian recipe, which is then incorporated into the story like a character. Why do you think the author has chosen to highlight the food in this manner? How do you think the recipes guide the narrative? Is there one recipe that resonated more with you than the others? Why?

2. We first meet the three Aminpour sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla, in the kitchen of the new Babylon Café. Discuss how this setting offers a glimpse into the differences in their personalities. If you have siblings, do you recognize the dynamics between the three sisters?

3. Marjan cooks in accordance to the Zoroastrian system of gastronomic balancing, known as sard and garm. As one of the world’s first monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism introduced the dual ideas of good and evil, which are now practiced in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Have you ever heard of Zoroastrianism or the concepts of sard and garm, cold and hot foods? How is this balancing system similar to eating habits in the West? How is it different?

4. Why do you think the author has chosen to set Pomegranate Soup in 1980s Ireland, instead of today? How do you think the village of Ballinacroagh perpetuates the fairytale image tourists often have of Ireland? In what ways, if any, does Ballinacroagh differ from this idealized picture?

5. The Aminpour sisters escape Tehran on the eve of the Islamic Revolution. What do you know of Iran’s history, particularly the revolution of 1979? Were you surprised to read that the Shah was as unpopular as he was with many Iranians? If you were around during the time of the revolution, what images do you remember receiving about it through media outlets in the West?

February 3, 2006 - 08:15 am
Ann, I had never heard of the Zoroastrian system of gastronomic balancing, with hot and cold foods, but as I read your description, it brought to mind the Amish servings of seven sweets and seven sours. Though whether there is any similarity of purpose, I do not know.

The first chapters give us a wonderful description of the sisters and their differences. 15-year-old Layla seems to have a bit of the slap-dash, devil-may-care, as evidenced by her dolmeh, and the way she's eager to venture forth throughout the town. The middle sister Bahar seems to take life much more seriously, perhaps even timidly, and I have the impression that she is not the family beauty. Marjan, of course, is the one who holds the family together, with common sense and practicality.

Mrs Sherlock
February 3, 2006 - 09:19 am
I was the oldest of three sisters. Since three is an uncomfortable group, we were often two and one. The middle sister of our family felt overlooked; I was the pioneer, first to wear lipstick, etc., and the baby sister was everybody's pet, of course. I see these dynamics reflected in the Aminpour family. Interesting being on the outside. I see that Marjan's true self was overlaid by her family's need for her to guide them. Talk about projection!

February 3, 2006 - 09:37 am
Hello again! Well, I am delighted to hear that so many of you are keen to revisit Ballinacroagh and the Aminpours. I will definitely take all your interests in mind as I am writing.

Ballinacroagh is a fictional town, set at the foot of Craogh Patrick .I was lucky enough to climb it last year and felt the mystic magic of it. I too felt what Bahar did, climbin....every step filled me with further serenity. See My Gallery for pics: www.marshamehran.com

To answer the question about rewriting with one character in mind: I would have to chose Marjan Aminpour. The second novel, in fact, is more geared toward her point of view, although Estelle Delmonico does steer the action (or is thrown into the midst of it!) as well.

Talk soon! Marsha

February 3, 2006 - 11:36 am
Hi Marsha,

Thank you for answering the questions. I am glad we will learn more about Marjan in your next book. I think Marjan will have more memories of the past than Bahar and Layla. My sister, who has passed away, was twenty one years older than me. She knew far more about the family than me. Marjan also has another gift. She knows her way around the cafe. Her cooking skills are fantastic.

The sisters have become exiles from their country. In the first three chapters there are little hints of their suffering. Although the girls have suffered, the beauties of their beloved homeland remain in their memories.

For example, descriptions of the Persian rugs come up over and over again. The dolmeh is as"perfectly symmetrical as the greatest Persian carpets..." It is amazing to me how you, the author, would think to compare the Persian rugs to dolmeh. You have a wonderful talent.

Then, there are the rugs brought out of the van by Marjan. One was woven by a blind, elderly man. In "Pomegranate Soup" I have learned the importance of Persian rugs in the Iranian culture.

Would you tell us a little about the beauty of these Persian rugs? Is the weaving of these rugs done often by the elderly and the blind? Do all Iranian homes have Persian rugs? Is this a luxury only for those who are wealthy? Where do the patterns for the rugs come from?

Thank you for the website to your gallery.

February 3, 2006 - 11:51 am
ANN - yes, the recipes are very familiar to me - right from the kitchens of my relatives. This is the food I grew up eating and enjoying. And Mrs. Sherlock's comment about three sisters reminded me of my mother - she was the middle of three sisters and a bit shy. Just as the hot or cold foods are a major part of Persian food (as is the color and the wonderful aromas), so, too are Persian carpets. Their design, color and intricate patterns reflect so clearly the Persian lifestyle. The intricacy of the varied patterns depicts so clearly the sophisticated and often complicated Persian personality. Wonderful memories have come readily to mind as I enjoy this discussion.

Ann Alden
February 3, 2006 - 02:24 pm
Here's a little history about Persian rugs. Perisan Rugs

Cyrus the Great??? Why do I remember this man? Another book ago, I believe.

My first experience with the Zorastrian religion comes from the opening pages of "Searching For Hassan" when the American family's sons celebrates a Zorastrian holiday. It seem similar to our Halloween??

February 4, 2006 - 02:12 am
Ann, thank you so much!

February 4, 2006 - 03:37 am
This is so fascinating. Ann, the article you listed is just great. Persian, thank you for sharing your memories about Persian rugs.

This is a quote from the article given by Ann.

"One can look at a rug and see the history of the weavers. For example, a tribal rug with woven trees state that this tribe was on the move and that rug's "centre is the tree of life and it joins the underworld to this world and to the heavens."

Ann Alden
February 4, 2006 - 08:01 am
Persian Cuisine is exotic yet simple similar to an Omar Khayyam’s poem. It is healthy, yet colorful, like Persian miniature painting. Persian cooking is combination of rice with meat, chicken or fish and plenty of garlic, onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. To achieve a delicious taste and a balanced diet, unique Persian spices such as saffron, diced limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately. The Cuisine of Persia influenced cooking all over the world, from the beef dishes of India, to the sweet and sour that graced the tables of Medieval and Renaissance Monarchs. Modern Iranian food fits perfectly with today’s lighter eating style. Iranian food has a lot of similarity with the other cuisine’s of the Middle East, but it is more sophisticated and imaginative, as colorful and complex as a Persian carpet. - (Mrs. Nagmeh Najmabadi)

The comparison of the simplicity and the complexity of Iranian food to a Persian rug seems to fit in this story.


Did I read that the Persian rugs are used like carpeting, wall to wall? Wouldn't having the rugs on the floors of a restaurant present a problem. Did your parents decorate their restaurant in S.A. this way??

Perhaps the weaving of this story with its three young women in a new environment trying to weave a new life will make us wonder what would we do in a similar situation.

In looking back at the questions posed by the author, I do remember the 1979 revolution with its TV images of complete chaos in the streets of Tehran, the ill Shah leaving for the US to be treated for cancer, the arrival of the Ayatollah Khomeni and of course, the hostage situation. Those were perilous times from which our three sisters escaped. I remember reading somewhere about a journalist on the Ayatollah's plane who found the Ayatollah very subdued and peaceful. I wondered at the time, if the rabble rousers took what he offered and made it into ugliness.

February 4, 2006 - 09:25 am
I too remember the revolution as portrayed on American tv. All I can remember seeing is people in black garments shaking their fists. Television is so one sided. We are left to fill in the gaps. When the Iranian people were not walking through the streets, how did they live? What did they enjoy eating? What made the Iranians laugh? I also remember feeling afraid of the Ayatollah. His dress was different. He did not say many words. It all seemed so strange.

This is why I think "Pomegranate Soup" by Marsha Mehran is so wonderful. In the book I can put an individual face on the Iranian people. There is some trait in each of the sisters which reminds me of myself, my sister or a friend.

Cooking is another common denominator. I think the recipes given before each chapter are there to remind us that cooking is a universal art. All ethnic differences are put aside when ingredients like onions, dill and mint are blended into a dish. Recipes bring unity between people from different parts of the world. Recipes do blend and weave us together into a beautiful multicultural pattern like a Persian rug.

So far one of my favorite sentences in the book is this one.

"A treasure trove of spices that would have made the thieving Ali Baba, jealous sat huddled in one corner of the van."

February 4, 2006 - 09:32 am
In Mippy's link the foods on the table look delicious. I am glad to know the Iranians love rice. I love rice too.


In the front of "Pomegranate Soup" you have a poem. It is by Forugh Farrokhzad. The poem is very beautiful. Why did you choose this poem? Also, could you tell us a little about the poet?

February 4, 2006 - 11:59 am
I just r/c a phone call from my library and Pomegranate Soup is ready and waiting for me. I shall return.

February 4, 2006 - 03:43 pm
Oh it is a wonderful debut novel you have offered us. I love it and I love your characters (albeit that foul Tom McGuire fella.) The receipes are enchanting. I have a few questions I'd like to pose, if I may?

#1. How does one obtain the rose oil or the rose water that you mention? Is it from the oil of a real rose? How is it extracted, by heating and cooling?
#2. Is it true that those of us born on the cusp are by nature superstitious? Where ever did you learn that?
#3. When Layla was born and her mother died you mentioned a tiny "bud" that was expelled from the womb. The seed swelled in the blood and blossomed into a rose. Will we learn the importance of this later on in the novel? (I've only read the first 5 chapters this afternoon.)
#4. I know nothing of cardamom and will check out the web for more info. "...this very aroma had once induced a lusty Achaemenian king to declare sixty-nine nights of lovemaking in his kingdom of honeysuckle fortress. Concubines were order to com their dark locks with powdered cardamom as harem slaves drizzled their white belly buttonm with a mix of warm honey and almonds.

WOW! When was this ? Is this a true story or an old legend? Drats, I always knew I was "born too late."

February 4, 2006 - 03:48 pm
Deputy Head of the Iranian delegation Javad Vaeidi delivers a press statement after the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board meeting on escalating nuclear standoff with Iran, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006, at Vienna's International Center. (AP)

February 4, 2006 - 07:40 pm
Welcome, Alf. Glad you got your book in time to join us.

Don't you love the descriptions of the food and the spices, and the part they play in the novel. Born too late, huh? And then there are those of us who want to get our hands on those seeds that get rid of heartburn and fatigue -- what do they say, you'll know when you're old when . . ..

Ann made an interesting comment about Thomas McGuire's hot and cold personality, and then was talking about the hot and cold aspects of Iranian cooking, the sard and garm, the good and evil. Fascinating. Thomas seems quite the ugly character right now, but I keep wondering -- can someone who loves to dance be ALL bad?

Food is certainly a big part of this story, and I think the recipes play a major part in introducing us to the characters and events -- such as the personalities of the sister with dolmeh, and the effect of Layla on the townspeople as she seeks onions for the lentil soup, and how Estelle's rosewater-soaked baklava managed to trip Thomas McGuire and add to his anger. I look forward to relating each recipe to its chapter.

February 4, 2006 - 07:47 pm
One thing I remember about Iran in the days of the Shah. This was before any schools had computers and in our school library we had this huge 5 or 6 file cabinet monstrosity called the vertical file, which had folders of stuff that didn't fit well on the book shelves. Periodically we would write to the various embassies and ask them for material about their countries. What a variety. Some very poor countries would send maybe a few mimeographed sheets. But Iran -- what I remember was a rather thick volume, glossy, very pictorial with lots of gold. Very expensive to send out to everyone who asked for it.

I guess one would wonder if this wealth, or show of it, benefitted all the citizens of the country.

February 5, 2006 - 03:50 am
Hi Marsha,

The name of the cafe is "The Babylon Cafe." I would like to know why the girls chose this name for the cafe? The word "Babylon" seems reminiscent of their days in Iran. Did they choose the name of the cafe as a way of not forgetting their homeland?

To me the name of the cafe will remind the neighborhood that their menu will have a distinct difference from other foods in the community.

In Iran what does the word Babylon mean?

February 5, 2006 - 04:20 am
Marsha, after reading about you, I know how much you love and appreciate the beauty of Ireland. In our first chapters, I enjoyed the mention of leprecauns and the fairies. While living in Ireland do you personally hear much about the fairy world? Have you ever been visited by a fairy? Are there any Irish stories about fairies and/or leprecauns helping a cook in the kitchen?

February 5, 2006 - 04:37 am
I am beginning to feel very strongly that the recipes before each chapter are not thrown there in an haphazard fashion. Each recipe will synchronize with whatever the girls are facing at the time. For example, the dolmeh, like Pedln wrote, introduced us to a character trait of the girls. I think the red lentil soup is like a housewarming dish. It is a simple dish which will give a homelike atmosphere to the new cafe. I can't wait to see how each new dish will meld itself with the new experiences Marjan, Bahar and Layla will face.

Marsha, thank you again for giving us your time. Your time is a very special gift to us.

Ann Alden
February 5, 2006 - 08:40 am
So, just in case, any of you super posters are curious, here's my first one--Tippeary gold. Seems that Tipperary was a county where gold mining went on in earlier times. Having had a ggrandfather who was from there, I assume that the mines ran out before the potato famine which sent so many Irish folk to the states. According to my research, one can still walk in Tipperary and pass these mines.

Then I searched out 'tantric' and came up with a whole site about it. Here's a little blurb for the word "tantric".

Tantra means loom in Sanskrit, or also, specifically, the warp thread that dresses the loom and gives support to the fabric formed by the moving shuttle or, in a rug, the individual knots. Without it, there can be no cloth. It can also refer to the cord used for stringing beads to make a necklace, a rosary, mala or garland. (In English, you might be familiar with "tenterhooks," as in the phrase "To be on tenterhooks," meaning to be in a state of anticipatory suspense. These hooks are the nails upon which finished cloth is stretched to maintain consistency in width.) Tantric or more rarely, tantrik, is the adjective.

Another word that caught my attention was-

dugh drinkDoogh (also Dooqh, Dugh), also called dugh, abdug, or tahn (the last two mostly by Armenians) is a beverage popular in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries and the Caucasus. Doogh is prepared by beating unflavored yogurt until smooth, and then diluting with water to a consistency similar to whole milk. Salt is added, and commonly dried mint is mixed in as well. Doogh is generally served chilled, or over ice. Doogh is similar to the Turkish beverage Ayran, although the latter is not carbonated. Traditionally, dugh is served with meals, especially kebab. In India, a similar drink called lassi is popular.

Does anyone want to try this drink? Doesn't appeal to me as do all the other foods and spices that are presented here.

What would that bud be that Layla's mother expelled after giving birth?? What a thought provoking story. The drs hiding this tale but also savouring it.

February 5, 2006 - 09:03 pm
ANN- as we settled into our new home in the Southern USA, I've introduced some of the wonderful Persian food to new neighbors and friends. And of course the chilled yogurt drink is served often. As a child, I used to wait eagerly for the refreshing beverage and am happy now to share it with new acquaintances. I spoke recently with two Persian friends in Washington DC and mentioned the wonderful interwoven tale in POMEGRANATE SOUP. Both commented that if one understands the diverse range of Persian cuisine, one will surely have a direct introduction to the complexity of Persians. That can be applied also to understanding and enjoying the colorful designs and intricate patterns of Persian carpets.

February 6, 2006 - 10:57 am
What a bloody, surly dolt this Tom McGuire is. Of course he's been a bar-owner since the ripe old age of 19 years. I'm sure that must have contributed somewhat to his "volatile temperment." And being in charge of six establishments can not be too easy on one's psyche either.
Someone mentioned that he couldn't be all that bad of a guy because he liked to dance. I just can't get that image into my head, however. He doesn't fit the picture- spinning and tripping the light fantastic. I can see him jumping and jiving, now, that fits his disposition. But tangoing? swaying? NOT! I guess a discoteque would suit him though.

I love the way Ms. Mehran has depicted the ole busy body, Derva Quigley. Honest, directly across the street from our house as a kid there lived an old lady who reminds me of Derva. She was a meddlesome, officious old bat! She loved tatteling on us kids as she peeked out of her window just dying to catch us doing something our parents would object to. I gave her the finger one day, she tattled and I was made to apologize. I used to sit on our front porch and try to out stare the old crone and her beady little eyes.

February 6, 2006 - 11:05 am
I knew a Derva Quigley too. She always swept the whole sidewalk and talked to anyone passing by. By the end of the day she would have a stash of news about the whole neighborhood.

February 6, 2006 - 11:20 am
I hear you, Hats. Old Gertie, as we called her was always sweeping her porch, eyeing us kids. In all fairness to Derva though, I don't suppose that I'd be too happy of a soul if I was incontinent day and night, preventing my going outside to enjoy the day. Bitterness is truly a distressing bed mate. She's not at all like the affable Estelle Delmonico. mmmm, a Delmonico! How could you not love her and want to take a bite out of her. This poor, lonely widow exudes with joy doesn't she? I love that word JOY. Joy doesn't simply happen, it must be chosen. Helen Keller once said that "you must resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties."
Don't you just love that? Mrs. Delmonico chose joy.
Tell me about Iranians being joyful Persian. Is that taught when one is young? Is it in an Iranians inherent nature? I would appreciate your take on that.

February 6, 2006 - 07:53 pm
I have been eavesdropping on your discussion. The story sounds intriguing.

February 7, 2006 - 04:26 am
Hello again everyone!

I am tucked away here in the West, writing, and have limited access to the Internet. So please excuse me if I don't log on everyday. I have been scrolling through all your wonderful observations and warm comments. Thank you for devoting yourself to the read and to my little village of Ballinacraogh.

What I am going to attempt to do below is to answer some of the questions you all put to me above. It might be a lengthy post, but here goes:

Hats asked: Would you tell us a little about the beauty of these Persian rugs? Is the weaving of these rugs done often by the elderly and the blind? Do all Iranian homes have Persian rugs? Is this a luxury only for those who are wealthy? Where do the patterns for the rugs come from?

Persian rugs, the weaving and industry behind them, are an ancient art form in Iran. In some areas of the country, where specific tribes still live (or are nomadic, like the tribe you will later read about in the book), rugs are not only used for practical means, ie. lining tents and adobe houses, but also as historical artifacts. Stories about the tribes and families who have sewn the pieces are woven as images into the rugs. This is passed down through the generations. Now, I am not an expert on Persian rugs, but there are several great nonfiction books you can pick up on the subject. One is:

The Root of Wild Madder : Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet -- by Brian Murphy

Weaving is an arduous art, and can tax the eyes, so some have been known to lose their eyesight in the process.

Anne wrote: Did I read that the Persian rugs are used like carpeting, wall to wall? Wouldn't having the rugs on the floors of a restaurant present a problem. Did your parents decorate their restaurant in S.A. this way??

Certain refines and antique rugs, like tapestries in medieval times, are hung on walls. As for the rugs in the cafe, I do think Marjan would be vigilant about beating and cleaning them every once in while. I actually have fond memories of washing our family rugs in our backyard in Miami with my mother...we used out bare feet to rub the detergent in! How ancient is that!

Hats asked about Iran's great poetess Forugh:

In the front of "Pomegranate Soup" you have a poem. It is by Forugh Farrokhzad. The poem is very beautiful. Why did you choose this poem? Also, could you tell us a little about the poet?

She is such an icon for Iranians, especially Iranian women. Forough dared to go where no other Iranian women had gone before in her artform. The poem at the front of the novel is one of my favorite, and quite appropriate for the story...here is a website on her:


Hope I could help answer some...will be back tomorrow for the rest. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!


February 7, 2006 - 06:13 am
Good morning Marsha,

I can't believe you are answering our questions. I feel very honored. Thank you for giving a name of a book about Persian rugs. It is a fascinating subject about a beautiful art form.

I have read the poem again by Forugh Farrokhzad. I can definitely see a connection to the story. Thank you for the website.

I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy the West of Ireland. Is it very beautiful? Will you tell us a bit about the West of Ireland? I have never traveled outside of the United States. I love to hear the travel experiences of others, especially a noted author.

Ann Alden
February 7, 2006 - 07:01 am

Thank you so much for answering our questions. I am interested in finding out more about your favorite poet. And, did anyone else notice that the book about Persian rugs is written by an Irish author?? Brian Murphy. Is there more of a connection there in modern times than we were of?? I know that our Persian is not only of Iranian descent but has some Irish blood in her veins. Maybe the two nationalities have more in common than we are knowing about? Both nationalities have a definite bent for romantic leanings.

Yesterday, I went back through the first three chapters and counted the people who are in our book. So far, we have been introduced to 25 named folks plus the troop of tinkers. Again, I forgot that the gypsies of Ireland were named tinkers until Dervla, the resident gossip, spied the troop of them coming down the Main Mall. The Irish part of my family mentioned used that reference name often.

I sort of felt sorry for Thomas McGuire when reading about his urge to dance. A hidden talent there. Maybe his love of the dance and thus, music, will save him from himself. He's so bitter about everything in his life.

There is such a magic atmosphere to Malachy and Layla's meeting. Her rose water and cinnamon odor surrounds her and his tall lithe figure sends shivers through her body. I love this, "For Malachy, the sight of Layla's exotic profile filling up a bag of white onions was a sign, a resounding yes to the age-old question of the divine." Ahh, young love at first sight!

February 7, 2006 - 07:40 am
Dear Marsha,

The poet, Forugh Farrokhzad, website is so intensely sad and beautiful all at the same time. Hearing her speak almost made my heart stop. The language is so elegant. I hardly know the words to describe it. I have the impression from the dates that she is no longer with us. Obviously, she had a magnificent talent.

I have not finished looking at the site. It is a wealth of material. Thank you.

Ann Alden
February 7, 2006 - 08:09 am
I am going to a Mediterrian grocery to buy some Pom Molasses today. And they do have the recommended label, Kostos or Costos. Can't wait to try them in a recipe.

Ann Alden
February 7, 2006 - 01:05 pm
This Mediteranian grocery is just a hidden gem down by the OSU campus and they carry so many different foods that I spent 45 minutes just browsing. I purchased fresh French feta cheese, pitted Kalamata olives, Pom Molasses, Pom juice (which I find a little bitter), red lentils, and rosewater. Next time I go, I intend to take my camera to photograph this wonderful little grocery.

Ann Alden
February 7, 2006 - 04:42 pm

February 7, 2006 - 05:30 pm
ANN - I surely envy you the opportunity to shop in that grocery! When we relocated from the Washington DC area to our current home in NC, I searched for a Persian market, especially for the tea and herbs. No luck. I finally called to one in Washington, but learned the owners retired and closed the shop. I finally asked a friend there to search for the tea. Haven't heard from her yet, but am hopeful. In the meantime, I know you will enjoy your purchases.

While enjoying this discussion and Marsha's generous contributions, I've also been browsing through Najmieh Khalili Batmanglij's wonderful NEW FOOD OF LIFE (Mage Publishers, 1996), which offers marvelous recipes and colorful illustrations of Persian food. The author's comments, coupled with the diverse recipes, beautifully illustrate the role of food in Persian life. In the Preface, the author writes "I believe that the same qualities that govern the Persian arts, a sense of unity achieved by juxtaposing many elements - each a unit unto itself - and what we might call a particular feeling for the 'delicate touch,' or as we say in Persian, letafat, govern the art of Persian cuisine." http://www.asiafood.org/persiancooking/poultryandfish.cfm

Ann Alden
February 7, 2006 - 08:34 pm
I would be glad to search for your tea if you give me a name of the tea. I do know that Bergomot??sp.?? is used in Earl Grey and I do enjoy a cup of that often.

For our readers, here's a link to the Persian or Iranian celebration of the New Year: Persian New Year


I remember the Persian or Iranian practice of eating their meals on the floor with a special cloth after reading "Searching For Hassan". Sounds like a picnic every meal. What do the seniors in the crowd do about getting up and down?? At the moment, I need a hand to get me upright. Well, unless, I remember my yoga class and remember to roll over on my side, pull up my knees, and use my hands to help me. Now, I would certainly be worried that I might kick something from the cloth. But I am just kidding! :<)

Must go read Chapter 5. See you all tomorrow after water pilates.

Barbara St. Aubrey
February 8, 2006 - 12:04 am
Couldn't resist - meeting a client at Borders and I arrived 20 minutes early - found the book and of course along with my cup of coffee I purchased both and started the prologue and first chapter before my appointment arrived.

The weather map says it will be cold and rainy here by Thursday - after our 6 weeks of days in the 70s no one will want to get out in the cold and wet - most here will make a pot of chilli - but I plan on drinking a lot of hot tea that I get from Whitards each year and spend most of the day reading Pom...Soup - expect I can catch up - this will be a great treat - may not get out of my robe all day if it gets as cold as they are saying.

I love the feel of the cover on this book - and the colors used are just as wonderful as the heading shows - So far I am reading about this young Irishman's reaction to the scents from the shop down the street...

February 8, 2006 - 02:09 am
Persian, thank you for the link. I have not finished looking it over. The Chicken Stuffed with Rice is my cup of tea. I love the idea of including the stories too. I definitely will have to read a story. There is so much on that one link. Thank you.

February 8, 2006 - 08:09 am
Happened on a sale copy of Reading Lolita in Teheran. WIll be interesting to be in two places at once, Ireland and Teheran, "living" with Iranian women and the stresses of life as a Muslim woman. The recipes are mouth-watering, comfort foods all. Such a lot to learn about a people by how they cook. I can't remember the last time I bought an onion and Persian cuisine demands bags of them! I never dreamed that the pom could be so versatile.

February 8, 2006 - 08:21 am
Mrs. Sherlock, "Reading Lolita . . ." has been on my to-read list for a long time. Maybe now?

Interesting website, Persian. I'm always looking for broiled fish recipes because I don't like to fry and am too lazy to grill (no hubby to do it for me.) Chick with rice looks good too. Is washing rice a Mid-Eastern thing? I don't think I've ever washed it before cooking. Yet the recipe Persian's site calls for it, and one of Marsha's recipes calls for washing it twice.

The only other 'wash rice' story I've heard is about brown rice. How the nuns, being tidy, washed theirs; the monks didn't and lived longer and healthier than the nuns. Thus why brown rice is better.

February 8, 2006 - 09:16 am
Found this website with interesting foods listed. Check it out: http://www.iranstore.com/store.asp

February 8, 2006 - 12:38 pm
ANN - I'm laughing at your depiction of "seniors getting up and down." The Persian Seniors I know (many in their 70's and 80's)are SPRY from many years of bending, stooping. sitting on the floor (especially in the rural villages)and a lot of walking. So dining in the traditional way is NOT a problem for them. The women are enormously active, often managing large homes, many children, and watching over other relatives. Years ago, I used to know two Persian rural women - sisters - who were 99 and 100. Both went out in the mornings to milk the two cows. The rest of the day, they worked inside their home, looked after family matters, drew and carried water from a well, and still had the energy to milk the cows in the evening. It makes me tired now just remembering them!

MRS SHERLOCK - thanks for the link, which included the cardamom tea for which I've been searching. Just sent in my order.

BARBARA - it seems that the only thing missing in your cozy reading spot is a softly bubbling samovar, nestled in the corner, ready for hot cardamom tea whenever you wish. The samovar holds a special place in a Persian home, always ready to provide the soothing, aromatic blend of tea and spices. Even in the most modest villages, hot tea is ALWAYS ready to be served. Sometimes folks cannot afford sugar (which would be a real treat for the extremely poor villagers), but tea is a must and shared generously with visitors.

Ann Alden
February 8, 2006 - 07:28 pm
I have spent a slightly busy day with water classes in the morning until noon and then my hubby wanted to go with me back to the Mediteranean grocer plus have a late lunch at Mozart's cafe over by the university.

Tomorrow morning I am off to the Columbus Ballet for Alice In Wonderland so will get here late once again. This is the rehersal and seniors get in for $12. Its a bargain!

I am rereading the three chapters for this week and will comment tomorrow. Have one more to go!

Some questions from the author's site:

6. Both Marjan and Bahar were romantically involved with men who supported the Islamic Revolution. These relationships led the two women to perform revolutionary activities, which they later regretted. Do you feel either sister has come to terms with her violent past? Have you ever felt like you’ve lost your moral compass in a relationship?

7. In the classical Greek myth of Persephone, Demeter, the goddess of Spring, has a daughter named Persephone who is kidnapped by Hades, god of the Underworld. Have you ever heard of this myth? What parallels do you see between this myth and the three sisters’ story?

8. The Babylon Café provides a venue for dreams to flourish. Discuss how the food and the sisters’ temperaments influence the villagers to pursue dreams that may have lay hidden, even to themselves. Have you ever experienced a quiet epiphany such as the one that Father Mahoney has over a bowl of abgusht? Or was your moment of transformation more pronounced, as Tom Junior’s in the Cat’s cottage?

February 9, 2006 - 04:22 pm
Ann, a day at the Ballet sounds wonderful. I am not familiar with that ballet, but just the thought of it brings up a lot of images.

Looking at Question #7 in your post above; I am familiar with it as the story of Ceres and her daughter Proserpina, who was held in the underworld by Pluto. Jupiter ruled that the daughter would spend 6 months with her mother and 6 months in the underworld -- basically the growing season and the dormant period of winter. At this point in the book I'm hard-pressed to relate it to that myth because it would mean the sisters would have to return to the country from which they escaped. I can relate it to Marjan's ability to grow anything anywhere.

About Thomas McGuire -- I don't think he's evil, just woefully woefully misguided.

Did someone ask earlier why this book was set in the 1980s? The chapters for this week help answer that question. It had to be in that era in order to relate to the revolution.

In these chapters also, we see both Marjan and Layla forming new bonds with the community. Layla with young Malachy and her friends at school, and Marjan with the Father. Poor Bahar seems quite alone except for her sisters.

Ann Alden
February 9, 2006 - 07:54 pm
But Bahar did respond to Michael McGuire positively. We know that something horrible has happened to her in her former life. She is so sensitive so Marjan keeps a good eye on her and her health.

Don't you love the way Dervla works for Thomas McGuire? She reminds me of an evil old witch.

About Thomas, I find him a pathetic controller of that village and I do wonder that if he had had the oportunity to act on his love for dance, his life might have been better.

The myth so far doesn't seem to fit here but not knowing anything about the myth, I bow to those who do.

Ann Alden
February 10, 2006 - 07:50 pm
And its not a pretty picture. Their father dies and leaves them orphan's as the mother is already dead. Marjan is now in charge and she becomes involved in the Revolution against the Shah. After being imprisoned for four days and questioned by the Shah's army in crude ways, she decides that they must leave Iran. This young lady is really a take charge person. What nerve it must have taken to try to leave the country after the revolution has started and Khomeni is waiting offstage to return.

Its heartwarming to see Marjan trying to bake the bread of her home, trying to introduce the Irish village to a different way of eating and also at the same, making friends with the owner of the beauty shop. She realizes that she needs to do this.

So we have heard Layla's story of the escape and Marjan's,too, but we still havent' heard from Bahar. I wonder what made her leave. Was she mistreated as Marjan or was she just following along with her older leading sister?

February 11, 2006 - 02:30 am
I really like Marjan. Without her ability to remain strong the sisters would have never gotten out of Iran. Marjan remains so strong for the others, I wonder how much Marjan is hurting. I think Father Mahoney, Estelle Delmonico and Marjan's cooking will relieve any emotional pain she is hiding for the sake of the others.

Marjan and Bahar must have experienced the most tragic moments of the Revolution. Layla, being the youngest, probably can't recall all of the fear, panic and chaos.

Bahar also carries a lot of baggage because she is the middle sister, the inbetween one. I never had a middle sibling. I only had one sister who was twenty one years older than me. So, I grew up like an only child. Bahar also suffers because she is aware of the darkness of her skin color.

Most names have a meaning. Do the names Marjan, Bahar and Layla have a special meaning?

Ann Alden
February 11, 2006 - 07:10 am
Where is everyone?? They seem to off watching the Olympics?? Well, I sure hope that they return.

I looked up the girls names and found this: Bahar means Spring, blossom

Layla means nocturnal

Marjan means coral. Hmmmmm. To apply those meanings to the girls doesn't seem to have much to do with the story except for Bahar whose birthday is on or near the Persian New Year's Day.

Were you surprised to have a priest who was once a comedian brought into this story?? I am wondering what that means also. Maybe for disversity of the characters. And now, he has written a play and the beauty shop owner is going to direct it? Will she be in it also?? For a relatively small village, the citizens seem to have many different life stories to tell. Even the schoolchildren that we have been introduced to. This story is a veritable pot of vegetable and fruit soup!


If you are still around, is there a connection for each recipe in the chapter that it heads?

February 11, 2006 - 08:10 am
Boy, I am glad to see you too. This is such a delicious book. I can't believe you have the meanings behind the girls names. I have wanted to know what their names meant ever since beginning the story. You know, Bahar reminds me of a Spring blossom. I am sure she is beautiful. At the same time,she is so fragile and delicate. The stresses of life could quickly blow her away like a flower blossom. Oh, thank you for reminding me of the Persian New Year.

Yes, I am surprised about the priest once being a comedian. Everytime I read about him I think of the little priest in the "Bells of Saint Mary." Not Bing Crosby, the other priest. I hope my movies aren't mixed up.

I hope Pedln, Persian, Mippy and the others will return.

February 11, 2006 - 08:10 am
There's a connection between the recipes and the chapters, even if only a brief mention -- such as when Layla had the hiccups.

Can you believe walking up and down 14 flights of stairs everyday, several times a day. That was the apartment where the sisters lived in Iran. Reading about their experiences there makes me realize how little I know of Iranian modern history. I tried to find articles through my new NYTimes-Select subscription, but it does not yet include pre-1981 articles. Must get to the library for that.

Marsha, as I read about Iran, I can't help but wonder about your experiences there, if you were old to enough to understand what was going on. I hope your departure from there was more calm than that of the Aminpour women.

I do like the foreshadowing shown. Such as after Layla has told Malachy about leaving Iran. There's still more to the story, but she isn't ready to tell it yet.

February 11, 2006 - 08:21 am
Did you hear your name being called? Boy, I am glad to see you too.

February 11, 2006 - 08:28 am
It seems that people can so easily accept fascism. One day they are running around with the faces bare; the next day women are covered from head to toe, men are bearded, people are being killed, abuse is rampant. Frightening. How these three women/girls managed to survive... Then, they wind up where a bully has the entire town cowed. I'm pulling for them to triumph in the end.

February 11, 2006 - 08:35 am
You know Marjan name means "Coral." I know that gemstone must have certain specific qualities. Those qualities would probably fit Marjan's tenacity and strength.

February 11, 2006 - 08:51 am
Those days were so horrible for the girls. These girls knew about the West and our luxuries. The sisters had enjoyed cartoons, candies and other wonderful offerings from the West. Then, all of a sudden signs appear with messages like

"Death to all things from the opiate West!"

If you don't wear the Chador, you are a traitor, infidel or something worse. How must it feel to wake up and find the world you have known sliding out from under you?

February 11, 2006 - 09:39 am
During my own experiences in Iran, I wore a Chador, especially when I visited the rural areas But my French/Irish/Persian sense of humor overcame me and I made sure that I also wore my Texas cowboy boots at the same time. Actually, they were useful, since the streets are not all paved and lots of mud, sand and dust covers many areas.

Never fear about these three Persian sisters! Persian women from childhood onwards have an inordinate sense of "how to manage" in dicey situations. For the most part, Persian women are smart about issues which pertain to them directly in the family or in which they take a particular interest. They are often wise beyond their years, clever at looking ahead and anticipating challenges, overcoming those challenges in ways that will benefit them. They are adept at many levels of diplomacy, and shrewd, shrewd, shrewd! I know Persian women who have extremely soft voices, girlish manners well into adulthood, giggle at the slightest provocation, but with backbones of steel, one could imagine them to be true "Steel Magnolias."

I've also known Persian village women who are cunning and sly, difficult to be around, eyes not more than slits in their faces, who don't trust anyone - family or stranger alike! But they offer delicious cardamom tea to visitors and are marvelous negotiators. Many of the women from the Western region of Iran are Azeri by birth, much taller and broader shouldered than the more petite and delicate appearing Persian women of the large cities. Their eyes are often blue, green or pale brown; some have red hair and fierce looks. They remind me of Gypsies.

So even though one may have a sense that Persian women are delicate (and of course many are), that does not usually describe their natures. The women of my own family, for example, were some of the strongest individuals I've ever known. The women in Pomegranate Soup remind me of them.

Ann Alden
February 12, 2006 - 06:33 pm
Had company for two days but they are now gone. I made the Red Lentil soup and my husband and I have eater almost half the pot already. Delicious!

Yes, Persian, it would seem to me that it would take very strong women to wear the chador but to meet in someone's home for learning English. Isn't that a book??

February 12, 2006 - 08:08 pm
Ann Alden: Maybe you mean Reading Lolita in Teheran; it's about a group meeting in their professor's home to study literature. I'm reading it now. I recommend it very highly. These women's activities take place in the 1994 era; twenty years or so after our Babylon Cafe sisters. La plus ca change...

February 12, 2006 - 08:46 pm
I keep recalling so many memories as our discussion progresses. I have a very dear friend in Tehran, who was my host professor when I lectured at Tehran University. After the Revolution, he used to invite several married couples to his home regularly for dinner, picnics or just to visit. After the meal, the men and women would separate. The women would gather in one of the salons, where they read British and American literature with my friend's wife (also a literature professor who had been sacked from her teaching job), discussed their readings and planned for future gatherings. Last I heard, the group was still meeting.

February 13, 2006 - 11:16 am
Mahlia, I'm finding your posts fascinating and most interesting. Did the "chador" come into being suddenly in Iran? In Pom Soup Marjan talks about starting to wear one, even tho other young women were wearing mini-skirts, etc. I feel I know so little about the country and what the revolution has meant to the people there. It forced many to leave their native land. What has it done for those who remained?

I am enjoying the mix of characters in this book -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- such as many of us have encountered. The poor middle sister, Bahar, seems to be having the roughest time. Is this partly the "middle child syndrome" showing? It seems to be her nature to be negative. Poor Layla -- on the eve of the revolution she was worried that Marjan would be caught by the guards, and she, Layla would have to live alone with Bahar forever. I get the impression, also, that she is not considered as good-looking or pretty as Marjan and Layla. Layla is the beauty, Marjan has the outgoing and compassionate personality. And Bahar? Strong arms?

I wish I could help finish off your red lentil soup, Ann. Today I'm going to check my ingredients for Pomegranate soup -- I need the fresh ingredients -- parsley and cilantro. And must check my next-door neighbor's wall, but I don't think there will be mint growing here in February. Also hope the ground lamb I have is not too fatty.

February 13, 2006 - 11:32 am
Pedln, I agree. I am learning so much from Mahlia's posts. It is wonderful reading Mahlia's personal experiences. It is also great to hear from Marsha Mehran, the creator of these characters.

February 13, 2006 - 12:25 pm
I remember seeing a picture of the Shah, in his uniform with gold braid and medals. When I read the sisters's comment on the "little" Shah it changes my whole perception of him; how vain/sensitive he must have been about his size. Ruler of so much but powerless to change himself.

February 13, 2006 - 03:45 pm
Hi, just home from a four-day mini-vacation, and will try to post as soon as I catch up.
Are there "questions" at some known post number. I cannot locate any.
Thanks for asking about me!
I love this book, and all the posts are great!

February 13, 2006 - 05:56 pm
The late Mohamed Reza Shah of Iran was indeed a slender man and not overly tall. When he left Iran, his body was riddled with cancer, so his appearance was even more startling and his illness quite noticeable. Here's a link with photos of the late Shah (middle of the page) and his father, Reza Shah (a former Army officer, enormous in height with a hair-trigger temper). Former First Lady of Egypt, Jehan Sadaat, includes photos of the Shah and Shabanu in her book, as does the late President Sadaat in his book.


Ann Alden
February 13, 2006 - 07:14 pm

I found two descriptions of Iran, as a country. Each of the authors has visited Iran often and each describes her experience there. One author lived there as a child, Elaine Sciolino and she says in "Persian Mirrors":"The Iran that I have seen is a nation that has chosen not to destroy the remnants of a 2500 year old empire but to preserve them for later. It is a place that long ago produced sensual romantic poetry that even the most austere clerics still read aloud, insisting it is about divine love, not the human varieity. It is a country whose women-even some of its most religious women-adorn themselves with make-up and jewelry behind high walls, then cover themselves in black on the streets and struggle for their rights in the most creative persistent ways. It is a state whose revolutionary system continues to defy those who proclaim its demise. It is a land whose geography, population, and quest for regional supremacy prevent it from being ignored, and that struggles, unevenly for modernity and greatness."

Then there is author, Christiane Bird who says in "Neither East Nor West":As a land bridge betwee the East and the West, Iran has been invaded countless times, by everyone from the Greeks and the Turks to the Mongongals and the Arabs, and heet nas hever succumbed completely to its conquerors. Instead, the country has coped with invasions by assimilating and adapting those aspects of the conquering cultures that it admired, such as Greek science and Chinese art, and leaving behind the rest. Says a Persian maxim: "Iranians are like wheat fields. When the storm comes, they bend; when the storm passes, they stand up again." Wrote the Greek historian Herodotus: "There is no nation which so readily adopts foreign customs as the Persians. As soon as they hear of any luxury they instantly make it their own."

These two authors have certainly defined the hearts of Iran. To me the Iranians are most evidently very flexible citizens of a country that they love.

Ann Alden
February 13, 2006 - 07:22 pm
Lets consider two of the author's questions for us to ponder.

9. What parallels do you find between Ballinacroagh's bully, Thomas McGuire, and Hossein Jaferi in Iran? What are the differences? Is Thomas McGuire’s malevolence born of evil, or is his villainy more pathetic, even humorous, perhaps? Can you think of any other parallels between the sisters’ experiences in the Irish village and revolution-era Iran?

10. Marjan, Bahar, and Layla try to protect one another from the memories of the past. Discuss the various forms in which this protection is exhibited. How is this over-protectiveness similar to events you might have experienced in your own life? Do you relate to any one sister’s methods more?


Somewhere there are some questions. I will go find them and leave you a post number. Ahh, its post #109.

While I am posting to the odor of the Red Lentil soup which is being reheated once again. My husband is on his 2nd big bowl for today. Guess I have found something new to add to my recipes.

February 13, 2006 - 07:40 pm
#10. In my mother's family, we rarely discussed things overtly. Things were mentioned obliquely, talked around without direct questions and answers. Evem when things were open, we couldn't tell my grandmother about them, she might get upset. Auntie was too volatile to talk to directly, it was only, Hi, how are you. I could see these patterns in the sisters' interactions. "Protecting" someone like that deprives them of making desisions for themselves, usually with negative results. Tippy-toeing around subjects makes everyone stiff and artificial, disrupts sincerity. I though we were the only ones like that.

Ann Alden
February 13, 2006 - 07:51 pm
The women discussed each other openly, behind their backs, were always mad at one or the other, protected each other constantly but never forgot each other's mistakes. They were Irish! What did we expect? Openness was questionable back in the good ole' days! I think its a generational leaning. Even today, I listen to my five cousins who are sisters and grown women, and they are always glad to see each other but very judgemental afterward. The gossip is wonderful for those of us outside that circle of five. Not that we are judgemental! Hahaha! Not us!

Ann Alden
February 14, 2006 - 07:20 am
In the beginning we find Thomas McGuire thinking about his son, Malachy, and his questionable parenthood. He seems so blasaie about the boy's having been fathered by an Andalusian fisherman who was just temporarily docked in Clew Bay Beach. He compares the two sons, Tom,jr, and Malachy and finds Malachy very strange, even magical, with his discussions about the origins of fairies with the owner of Fadden's Mini-Mart. Where Danny tells him about the fairies of Persia, "The Peries of Persia". From Yahoo search:PERIES Fairies of Persia, these can be compared to the good Jinn of the Arabs. They originated from Zoroastrianism, and are said to live with the Deevs in Jinnestân in the mountains of Kâf. Their province is known as Shâd u kam (meaning pleasure and delight), the capital of which is the beautiful city of Juherabâd (Jewel city). They are of great beauty, and can fly, although they are deprived of this power when their clothes are stolen. They have fantastically long lives, but are subject to death in the end. They wage constant war with the Deevs, flinging stars and fireballs at each other at night, and when captured, are hung in iron cages from the tops of high trees. Here the peri may starve, if other peries do not come to give them perfume, which they live on. This perfume is the scent of aromatic wood smoke from religious sacrifices. They may favour lucky mortals with charms or amulets, or point a path amongst the stars by which the pure in mind can travel to heaven.

So, Thomas summons Malachy and tells him to quit his girlfriend, Layla. Dreaming away, Malachy thinks about is future life--"He was going to catch Orion from under an Arizona desert sky and watch as Cassiopeia danced over Norwegian fjords. And he was going to do it with Layla by his side."

Here we hear about Marjan's father dying and she taking over as the head of the family. There is a little bit about the Shah and his dealings with the world, paying for all that he wanted with Iran's oil.

February 14, 2006 - 08:43 am
Here's a link to an excellent description of The Peri-Wife, written in the style which Persians love. The romantic descriptions of the characters fits right in with today - Happy Valentine's Day everyone!


February 14, 2006 - 09:18 am
Mippy, welcome back from vacation. HOpe it was a good one.

Ann and Mahlia, I enoyed the stories of the magical Iran. I've felt from the beginning that Pom Soup has touches of magic, such as the fragrences and their effects, the rose-bud, that we just have to accept as true. And now the old tales that you have told just seem to enhance the mystical feeling of Pom Soup. I wonder if Marsha was brought up on these tales of the magical Iran.

Haven't you before met people, particularly young people, and you wonder -- How could he/she have ever been born into that family. That certainly is true of young Malachy. His mother's a slut, his older brother's a mess, following the steps of the father, and they don't understand Malachy a bit. Poor boy, but he seems to have found acceptance with the Aminpours.

I am having trouble reconciling post-revolutionary Iran with the ancient Iran, with "bending like wheat in times of trouble and standing up tall when trouble passes." Mahlia, I guess I'm thinking of the politics, not so much the people. I think your descriptions of the women do fit that quote.

February 14, 2006 - 12:57 pm
To Pedln ~
Thanks! We saw two wonderful operas in Sarasota, FL. Quite Marvelous!

Chapter 7 begins with lavash bread
Has anyone tried the recipe? Do any of you bake bread?
I love the different kinds of bread served in Indian restaurants, do you?
However, I do not bake bread. Why (I hope someone asks)? Well, my husband requested, many years ago,
when I was a young bride, ploughing through Julia Child and other challenges, please don't bake bread!
It turns out, his mother made way too big a deal out of her homemade bread, which was one of the few things she did in the kitchen that had any great significance. So I know how to bake all sorts of deserts, but I've never made bread with yeast.
... and it ought to be a life-affirming experience, as yeast is indeed alive.

February 14, 2006 - 03:07 pm
Here's another link which readers might enjoy leads to excerpts from NEW FOOD OF LIFE (which I posted about earlier), including "Persian Tales" just under the heading. Click on Persian Tales and enjoy some more of the very special allure of Persia and its people.


Lavash is a daily ritual in our home. Fresh, hot lavash is a winner any time! In my grandmother's home, the breakfast lavash was as large as the tabletop. In my home, since I have less room, the size has been scaled down considerably. If lavash is NOT made in the home, one will often see kids rushing to the bakers' in the early morning and returning home with fresh, hot, steaming lavash perched several loaves high on their heads. It's a great sight! And when special herbs are added to the dough, there is a wonderful aroma which wafts through the room and truly "calls" one to the table. And if the "table" happens to be a beautiful hand-embroidered cloth spread on top of delightful Persian carpets and serving as the background for fresh yoghurt, cheese, fruit and hot cardamon tea, all the better.

February 15, 2006 - 01:04 am
Did find my grocery store has pomegranate juice under the brand name POM. Is located in the special fruit/juice area in the vegetable section.

February 15, 2006 - 07:13 am
Mippy -- loved your story about why you don't bake bread. Did you never ever get the urge? I tried it once early days, but had to go off somewhere and had to call someone in to "bread-sit." Now I have a bread machine, but even it has sat idle for several years.

Between Marsha's recipe and Mahlia's mouth-watering description of lavash bread, I'm tempted to try. It does sound good. Is it a flat bread, Mahlia?

Love the links to the Persian food. Mahlia, I can't believe that the baklava recipe that pops up can be prepared in 35 minutes. It sounds yummy, but I know that it would take me forever. But the pom soup recipe there has now sent me on a search for dried mint, since there doesn't seem to be any growing around here right now. My big goal while we're reading this book is to make pomegranate soup. Now I can't find "yellow" split peas or tumeric.

It's fun to look for the connections between the recipes and chapters -- sort of like trying to spot Alfred Hitchcock in one of his movies. Have you found the ones for the chapters for this week -- 7, 8, and 9?

February 15, 2006 - 07:21 am
Pedln, I love looking for the recipe and story connections too. It's so much fun. When I first married, I did some bread baking with a friend. My loaves looked wonderful. Then, you would slice the loaves and the slices would crumble.

How do you like the bread machine? I love kneading the dough. I guess with a bread machine you wouldn't need to knead the dough. I look at Martha Stewart. She is showing the twenty most important items for your kitchen. She might name the bread machine. I don't know.

February 15, 2006 - 09:40 am
Hats, I loved the bread machine at first, but bread without preservatives just doesn't keep that well, and I would end up throwing a lot out. Even freezing it didn't seem to help. And my friends and neighbors --- oh, don't bring it here, we're on a diet. My DIL uses hers for everything, especially pizza dough because the grands only like white pizza -- no tomato sauce.

As we read Chpt. 7, 8, and 9, are you seeing some changes in any of the townspeople? And what about the personalities of the sisters? Big differences between them there. Ann raised the question of "protecting." I see Marjan doing it. What about Bahar and Layla?

February 15, 2006 - 11:29 am
I've been silent due to the fact that I've read and returned my book already and I don't wish to be a "spoiler." I rmeember loving to read those receipes, read the chapter and then interweave the characters into these particular receipes. The "elephant Ears" was for celebration of good fortune" and the Lavash Bread, IMO, brought to mind the imprisonment, the kindness of the prostitute and in the conversation with Fiona she felt "lighter." I felt the emphasis on leavening, lightening and the memories being "raised." Perhaps I'm all wet, but there it is.

February 15, 2006 - 02:30 pm
I think Bahar is very concerned about change. When she learns about Layla's new relationship with Malachey, Bahar thinks Layla is moving too quickly. Bahar feels Layla needs to control her emotions and not fall too quickly for ,maybe, the wrong guy. So, I see Marjan and Bahar being protective of the family nest.

I have been thinking of the lavash bread recipe too. Bread through a certain process becomes, at each step, lighter, softer, easier to handle and finally, wonderful to smell while it's baking. Lastly, it's delicious to eat.

I think Marjan sees her life in the bread baking process. So far, each step of the way has been easier: There are friendly new neighbors, Babylon Store is producing money. There are regular customers. So, good things are happening. Marjan sees their lives as successfully baked bread. It took a lot of work in the beginning. However, each step of the process is leading to greater fulfillment.

February 15, 2006 - 04:45 pm
I've been looking at the map of Iran and I realize that these maritime waters are abundant in that area but the pollution must be awful, due to the oil and draughts. I wonder, do they have climate changes? do they have any governmental bodies like our EPA?

February 15, 2006 - 06:35 pm
Here's a link to environmental issues in Iran and how the Ministry was established.


February 16, 2006 - 06:25 am
That was a very informative site but how sad these facts must be for you who has lived and loved in this country. I had no idea just how critical these problems were for Iranians. Imagine having to go out of doors with a mask on to protect yourself from air pollution.
I guess it's not much different for them as it is the rest of the world. They, too must face corruption in their government. $$$$$$$$$$$$ always speaks louder than good common sense but the oil and gas production over there is as strong a force as greed in their economy.

Environmental concerns abound in Iran, don't they Persian? Governments feel the threat of legislation that might interfere with the foreign investors and the influx of increased dollars.
I had no idea that the Caspian Sea is the source of 90% of the worlds caviar. Again $$$$$$$$$- the almighty dollar speaks and poaching and over fishing createproblems as large as sewage spillage and pollution from the oil fields. Even with the addition of "earth walls" being built to enclose these polluted areas, the rising of the sea water is causing the polluted to mix with the clean. Honestly, this depresses me.
I have never seen this area as lacking in new technology for their oil production or their using outdated, malfunctioning equipment. I would have thought that this is where much of their monies would be directed toward.

"By further developing its gas fields, Iran can use more clean-burning natural gas rather than oil for its energy needs. Reducing Iran's reliance on oil and "petrodollars" will not only help to decrease pollution, but will also help Iran diversify its economy."

As sad as this makes me I appreciate this opportunity to open my heart and my mind to the woes of these people. If not for this discussion, I would not have even considered these factors.

February 16, 2006 - 11:23 am
Ann has had a lot of family matters this week. I've been gone all morning -- lab work, breakfast out (the reward for drawing blood) and a swim. Back soon. It's 60 degrees here, but snow showers predicted for Saturday. ahhhgggg.

February 16, 2006 - 12:09 pm
Alf, you would never be a spoiler. Glad you're still with us. I'm glad you mentioned map of Iran; it reminded me to take a look at my computer map program. Iran is one big country compared to some of the neighboring countries, much bigger than Syria and bigger than Iraq and Afgahnistan. According to my map tools, the Aminpour sisters travelled over 700 miles to get from Tehran to the Pakistan border when they made their hurried exit from Iran.

Hats, good points you and Alf have made about the food in relation to the story. I love your statement "I think Marjan sees her life in the bread baking process." where each step along the way gets easier and easier. And Alf's "I felt the emphasis on leavening, lightening and the memories being "raised."" And the elephant ears being a celebration of good fortune.

The author is really emphasizing the importance of food to the Iranian family and it is fascinating, especially the elements that Ann mentioned earlier in this discussion -- about the balance of hot and cold foods, and the importance of considering the people's natures and infirmities when planning meals. How do think this compares to food preparation in the US and other places in the world? I liked the explanation of "torshi," which apparently is something pickled, but not always the same thing. You will always find "torshi" at Iranian meals. Do you have something similar, a food that accompanies all your meals?

And now, I'm going to fix a cup of tea. I wish is would be cardamon. Maybe I'll follow Mahlia and order it from Mrs. Sherlock's Iranian store.

Mahlia, I know we are all appreciating your input. Do keep it coming.

February 16, 2006 - 05:21 pm
PEDLN - before you order cardamom tea, you might want to try a sip or two to see if you like it. Since I've not been able to find the Persian tea until Mrs. Sherlock provided the site, I've simply crushed 3 or 4 cardamom seeds with the handle of a large kitchen knife, added them to loose tea in a pot and let the brew steep for a couple of minutes - longer if you like very strong tea. Works for me, but having the Persian tea on hand is much easier.

When you think of Torshi, think of the Amish pickled cauliflower, carrots, small white onions, etc. served as a "side" at meals. My Egyptian husband truly misses the Amish market near our former home in Maryland. He and the Amish men used to chat as we shopped and Mohamed learned a lot about food preparation from them. He loved ALL of the pickles, since they reminded him of the way his Egyptian food was prepared and enjoyed at home. I used to tease him that "the Amish are really the Egyptians of the USA!" The Amish men would absolutely roar with laughter when I said that and usually offered me an apple, orange or whatever fruit happened to be handy - much like I remember Persian fruit vendors doing in Tehran.

February 17, 2006 - 07:06 pm
Yesterday I said that Iran seemed to be a big country. According to the CIA factbook it's slightly larger than Alaska. It has a 79% literacy rate, and what surprised me, its citizens can vote at age 15.

CIA Factbook -- Iran"

There's lots going on in Ballinacroach. Patrician Day -- in honor of St. Patrick? -- is coming up, lots of tourists in town, the citizens are putting on a play written by Father Maloney and planning a big festival to boot, complete with sales of torshi from the Babylon Cafe and other delicacies. Poor Estelle Delmonico has been in the hospital due to "heart" trouble, but now seems to be almost a surrogate mother to Marjan. Bahar's self-esteem keeps tumbling and it isn't helped by the cold shoulders she seems to get from all those around her.

And Thomas McGuire -- as our author tells us "was a lucky man, but he was the only one in town not to know it." He seems to have quite a power structure. Is this because he's a big fish in a small pond? Do you see any examples of this kind of power in your community or locale?

We haven't seen much of the tinkers, but they are there. For some reason I have likened them to gypsies, but I'm not sure that quite correct. What do you know about the tinkers. I believe they're Irish.

I've heard of "tadig" -- that crust formed on the bottom of the rice pot, but have never tasted it or made it like that. How about you.

And the Donnelly twins have exhibited compassion, shortly after planning to steal a bus. What has brought about their change of heart?

What are your thoughts about what's going on?

February 18, 2006 - 02:45 am
Hi Pedln, Ann and All

Unfortunately, my book, "Pomegranate Soup" will have to go back to the library today. I have renewed it. I can't renew it again. It needs to go back on the library shelf.

Fortunately, I truly enjoyed it. Marjan, Bahar and Layla are like close friends. I enjoyed reading and learning about Iran and Ireland. The world is becoming smaller.

I want to say thank you for Marsha Mehran's visits here with us. Authors are very special people. I never understand their magical talent to put one word after another and end with a complete story. I am waiting anxiously for Marsha Mehran's sequel.

Ann and Pedln thank you for working so hard as discussion leaders and guiding us through the book. Persian's posts gave a lot of good, interesting information.

Thank you to all.

As far as Thomas Mcguire, he's seems afraid of any competition. Thomas Mcquire seems like such an insecure person. An insecure person is also an unhappy person. Malachey is such a good son too. Sadly, Thomas Mcguire appreciates the son who is more like himself.

February 18, 2006 - 07:38 am
Oh Hats, do stay with us, even without your book. I must say, I'm sorry you have to return it, but I'm glad someone else is wanting to read it also.

As you say, the world is becoming smaller. Even though there is so much negative news about Iran right now, I'm grateful to have learned more about the good things about the country -- the strength of it's women, and the good food.

February 18, 2006 - 08:11 am
My book had to go back also. So I'm winging it. You can do that too, Hats. Thomas Mcguire, the bully, unhappy, insecure, what does it take to create a bully? His wife seems like a bully, too. Glad I didn't have to grow up in that household! Malachy, now he's a horse of another color.

February 18, 2006 - 11:18 am
Here's a link to a fairly common explanation about Irish Tinkers - indeed the "traveling people" of Ireland.


TADIQ: When you think of Persian rice, think of tadiq as its heart and soul. The delicious "crust" which is golden brown and often contributes to the rice's show-piece quality, especially when prepared for holidays or festive gatherings, is as important as the colorful ingredients and spices often included in Persian rice (i.e. currants, cardamom, dates, apricots, almonds).

February 18, 2006 - 11:39 am
Mrs. Sherlock,

That's what I am going to do is wing it too. I can't leave the discussion. It's too much fun, too much good information.

February 18, 2006 - 01:11 pm
Hi Mrs. Sherlock -- and what about Tom, Jr. Does his behavior follow in the steps of his dad? There are no brotherly bonds between him and Malachy, and Jr. seems to have the same kind of intolerance exhibited by Dad. Or is he just trying to please the old man? Will fighting the tinkers win him points?

And Tom the businessman would almost be a hoot, if he weren't so mean. He's afraid to damage his reputation by going into the Babylon Cafe, so he travels to other towns to note the latest in food trends. And here he is ready to open the TOM TOM Palace, Ballinacroagh's first Chinese restaurant.

I'm beginning to like the Donnelly twins. They're just kids, they like their jokes and like to shock people, but there is some goodness inside them too. What think you?

And, would you go sit on the beach by yourself, even near a small town like Ballinacroagh? But then, we're not 15-year-olds with a great big world to explore.

February 18, 2006 - 02:21 pm
Bekueve ut ir bitm I can renenber some of the pranks we pulled when I was 15 - 17. Not a sensible bone in my body, especially the bone between my ears. I read that there was some empirical evidence that teens brains are different; I believe it. The twins, who seemed almost menacing at first, now look pretty ordinary, don't they? About the tinkers, I had always thought they were gypsies,but now I wonder, are they descendants of, I don't even want to write it. Talk about fey...

February 19, 2006 - 08:30 am
What makes Tom Mcguire so angry? He's one of those people who hold others responsible for his shortcomings. Now, it's Marjan and her sisters. Before, he felt Luigi and Mrs. Delmonico held him back from success.

I think this is the core of human prejudices. Inside we are angry. This anger is because, for some reason or other, we couldn't get what we wanted in life. We choose someone to blame for our mistakes or our disabilities. Tom Mcguire, I think, is prejudice. He calls the girls "the darkie girls." Is his inner turmoil strong enough to turn outward against a whole race whether Italian, Iranian or some other race?

I think Marsha Mehran might have used Tom Mcguire to show us one reason for malice or hatred or an unforgiving heart.

February 19, 2006 - 08:59 am
Hats, you are so wise.

"He's one of those people who hold others responsible for his shortcomings."

So obvious once you oint it out. Thanks, it adds depth to his characterization to see that.

February 19, 2006 - 09:02 am
Mrs. Sherlock,

I am going to try and put my book on hold again. I would like to reread the chapters.

February 19, 2006 - 11:39 am
Reading a story in Sunday's Oregonian about a hair dresser who works magic with curly hair I learn she's Persian. Her mother, she says, brings back from Teheran a spice mix called advieh. A spice store in Teheran has "all kinds od interesting Persian ingredients."



February 19, 2006 - 12:18 pm
Mrs. Sherlock's mention of the Oregonian brings back wonderful memories of living in Portland, OR as a child and during my early teens.

One of my former hairdressers in the metropolitan Washington DC area is Persian and we used to discuss Persian cooking and delightful recipes almost from the moment I walked in the door of her shop. It was a treat to visit with her, not only to have my hair styled, but to keep up with tips about cooking. After knowing each other for a while, we learned that we had relatives living in the same neighborhood in Tehran!

Basic advieh includes cinnamon, rose petals, cardamom, and cumin. Some cooks add additional spices like dried mint and parsley, depending on what the advieh will be used to flavor. Here's a link to NEW FOOD OF LIFE. Note the cover illustration is a beautiful example of Persian rice with a range of delicious ingredients. This is a very typical dish on a Persian table - a bit more festive for holidays and other special occasions.

New Food of Life

February 19, 2006 - 02:55 pm
Would someone tell me what cardamom tastes like?

February 19, 2006 - 05:16 pm
Here's a good description of cardamom. Scroll down to "Flavour" which gives a pretty good idea of the taste of the spice.

Cardamom spice

February 19, 2006 - 09:18 pm
Living in Oregon is quite thrilling. When we leave Salem on the way to Portland and other points north, we are in Mt Hood, a live volcano, dominates the eastern horizon! Mt St Helens is just a short way north and east of Portland. To the east of the Willamette Valley are more volcanos, called the Three Sisters, though there are many more than three. One has a bluge which is, sinisterly, larger than the Mt St Helens bulge before she blew. Within Bend city limits are several areas where there are calderas, cinder cones, etc. Geologically, it is like a candy store.

February 20, 2006 - 03:09 am
Oh, that is an interesting site.

Mrs. Sherlock, I would love Oregon. What are your winters like? Do you get much snow? It does sound like a geologist's heaven.

February 20, 2006 - 05:00 am
Oh that is a wonderful and informative sit. I thank you.

February 20, 2006 - 08:38 am
In Salem there is snow forecast but not yet a reality; my nephew, who lives above Corvalis, had 2" of snow one year. I bought him a copper snow measurer for his garden. We have had immoderate amounts of rain this year due to La Nina conditions, but the weather everywhere has been rotten, hasn't it? I'll send you some pix if you're interested.

February 20, 2006 - 08:41 am
That's great!

February 20, 2006 - 08:49 am
Good Morning all, what a busy place this is. I spent yesterday driving from my home to Chicago, where I'm visiting my brother and planning to see the Pompeii Exhibit at the Field Museum here tomorrow.

Hats, I think you're right about Thomas McGuire -- blames others for all his problems -- or things out of his control -- "my hand did it" as the kids used to say.

Mrs. Sherlock, one of my daughters just moved from the Bay area to Bend, Oregon. -- for six months, she says. She telecommutes to her job so can live anywhere. It will be summer before I get back to the Pacific Northwest, so I hope she's still there. I'd love to explore the area.

Mahlia, thanks again for the info about things persian. I'm looking forward to exploring the site, but must now give up the computer, as it is not mine. Also, I'm going to try to find a Persian or at least a Middle Eastern grocery while I'm here.

But first, what are your thoughts about Benny, our recently turned around physical fitness freak. Can we charge that improvement to Layla?

February 20, 2006 - 09:42 am
PEDLN - you certainly should be able to find a Middle Eastern shop in Chicago, since there are a multitude of ME families there. GOOGLE might help with addresses!

The thought of exploring the Pacific Northwest makes me long to be able to travel again. My husband is NOT familiar with the West Coast and I'd love for him to view some of the spectacular scenery. My mother was born in Rainier, OR; grandparents had a summer home at Seaside, OR; and as a child, I learned to ski near Mt. Hood - before it erupted, of course! It's a beautiful part of the USA.

February 21, 2006 - 03:13 am
Have we talked much about Ireland? I would like to know more about the place the girls have immigrated too. I have always thought of Ireland as very green and beautiful. Do most people who leave Iran settle in Ireland or do just a few settle in Ireland? Marsha Mehran seems very happy in Ireland.

February 21, 2006 - 07:52 am
HATS - I speak only of my own experiences, but among the many Persians I've known personally and professionally, none have ever immigrated to Ireland. Thus, it will be really interesting to hear from Marsha about the Iranians living in Ireland.

The Persians I've known were attracted to Europe (especially France and England, since they were fluent in French and English from their school days) and the USA. Many members of the late Shah's family (including his widow), live in California, Virginia, New York and maintain homes in Europe. Many former Iranian military officers and their families live in Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia, especially those who were in the senior ranks and affiliated with the American military and/or Pentagon representatives. During my own travels, I met two former Iranian Army Generals, who were taxi drivers at Dulles International Airport; several former Iranian diplomats who owned and operated restaurants in Virginia and Maryland; several who were school teachers and others who worked for American govt. agencies in Washington. Many Persians from prominent families immigrated to the USA, undertook additional education and moved into the mainstream American workforce. Or having completed their education in the USA, returned to Iran for a few years, were forced by the Revolution to leave Iran again. In the latter category, Sattareh Farman Farmaian comes readily to mind. She recounts her experiences in DAUGHTER OF PERSIA, a wonderful read about a woman from one of the most prominent Persian families.

February 21, 2006 - 08:06 am
Persian, thank you answering my question. I will definitely add "Daughter of Persian" to my list of books to read. I am becoming fascinated with Iran.

February 21, 2006 - 09:46 am
In DAUGHTER OF PERSIA, you'll find some of the wonderful history about the diverse food (and recipes)which we've been addressing in this discussion of POMEGRANATE SOUP. And the former will also reinforce the strength of Persian women and the creative ways they face the challenges of life as illustrated in Marsha's work.

February 21, 2006 - 09:50 am

I bet the book is great. My library does have a copy. So, when I go back again I will check it out.

February 22, 2006 - 06:59 am
Since the revolution, how are women from America treated in Iran? Are American women expected to restrict their behavior and behave like other Iranian women?

Could Marsha, Bahar, Layla ever travel back to Iran without any repercusions? Is there any way for the authorities to know of your past feelings of unhappiness with the revolution?

February 22, 2006 - 07:16 am
I think it's hard to deeply understand the horrors Marsha, Bahar and Layla lived through during that time in Iran. Now that the girls are in Ireland we get a chance to appreciate the beauties and smells of Iranian culture. Marsha's cooking of the wonderful recipes is a reminder of the special and distinct flavors of Iran.

Ann Alden
February 22, 2006 - 07:21 am
I just finished reading all of the posts for the last few days. Have been busy with family problems and visits and was just able to return today.


Your posts have really given us a background foundation for this book and I do appreciate them. The links were wonderful. I have wondered about cardamom and its properties ever since you mentioned using it for tea. How do you choose which kind you buy? Is the tea a mix of black tea and cardamom? I drink Earl Grey which is black tea mixed with bergamot. Its my favorite.


you asked about Ireland and I remembered reading Marjan's thoughts about that wonderful country as she makes Pom Soup and worries about Bahar's flight and hiding. "Surely the endless green quilted fields, separated by the tidy pilings of rock borders, were ideal coverlets for escape."I remember seeing the fields bordered by rocks in England. The author has photos of Croag Patrick at her site. Being a quilter, I like the comparison of the fields to a quilt. Makes me want to cut and sew a new one. Marsha's Photos Roll down to the lower part of the page to see her photo shoot at the mountain. Its really a small mountain and reminds me of a cute movie that I saw about an Irish village and their mountain. Maybe you have seen it. Titled: "The Man Who Went Up A Hill and Came Down a Mountain". Hugh Grant is the male star in it. There are quite a few movies that were filmed in Ireland but titles escape me for the moment. I remember one about man who worked a specific plot of ground his whole life and it was being taken from him. Another good movie about Ireland. Here's an official link to Ireland that I think you will like. Lots of pictures! Ireland

My husband has relatives in Ireland but we have never visited there. My family on both sides came from Ireland in the 1800's and settled in Indiana and Illinois. They were railroaders and farmers for the most part and seemed to be successful in their endeavors. My grandfather, on my mother's side, used quite a number of Irish sayings and language which he heard while growing up. He had a totally Irish background.

February 22, 2006 - 07:24 am
Hi Ann,

We missed you! Glad you are back. You gave a wonderful answer to my question. Thank you.

Croagh Patrick is beautiful! It has a wild, untamed look. It doesn't look like man has tampered with the beauty yet.

February 22, 2006 - 07:27 am
Oh, the Ireland site is tremendous! Thank you. I haven't finished looking yet.

Ann Alden
February 22, 2006 - 07:30 am
Here's another link to Croagh Patrick which I like. Croagh Patrick I see in the text that 'croagh' means 'mountain'. I like this site because it tells the story of St Patrick's journey up Croagh Patrick. And, here's little paragraph from another St Patrick's site.

Croagh Patrick means Patrick's Mountain, the holiest mountain in Ireland, it's on coast of Mayo in the west. Sometime around 800 AD the name of Patrick was imposed on Croagh Patrick - a Christianization of an old pagan festival. The pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick takes place on the last Sunday (Reek Sunday) in July. In pre-Christian times, that was when there was a great harvest festival in honour of the god Lug.

Ann Alden
February 22, 2006 - 07:45 am
Did you see the photo of the author as a child with her parents at the Persepholis Ruins in Iran? All of her own biography seems to tie in to the book. We had some wonderful photos of Iran and other countries during the discusion of "Abraham".

By the way, I have tried using Pom Molasses and really like the taste. If you mix a little catsup, olive oil, Pom Molasses and Rosemary and spread it over salmon filets, then cover the dish with plastic wrap and cook it on high for 2 minutes in the microwave, its delicious. We had rice and brussel sprouts with it. Made a nice dinner! Probably not 'hot' and 'cold' correctness but tasty anyway.

February 22, 2006 - 07:50 am
I have been thinking of rereading the "Abraham" discussion. Somehow I missed Marsha Mehran's photo album. I have read her interview more than once. I must have gotten stuck in one place.

Ann Alden
February 22, 2006 - 07:53 am
We had quite a collection of photos in that discussions and I really enjoyed it.

I have the newest book by Feiler, titled "Where God Was Born" and hope its equal to "Abraham" and "Walking the Bible". I like the way he writes. Am looking forward to reading it soon.

February 22, 2006 - 07:55 am

That last site is wonderful. It's like a travel journal. I never heard of Reek Sunday.

February 22, 2006 - 04:37 pm
Ann, welcome back. You were missed, and I hope all is well now. Your salmon dinner sounds wonderful, with the pom molasses on the salmon. Salmon is one of my favorites. The links to Marsha's photos and to Croagh Patrick are great. I was in sympathy with the Croagh Patrick climber every painful step of the way, and know just what he means about it being harder to go down than to go up. Marsha's photos are fantastic, especially the ones with St. Patrick and the mountain in the background. I'm glad you pointed out the Persepolis Ruins. That's a reminder that some of us may sometime want to read the graphic novel Persepolis, about growing up in Iran.

Hats, I wondered too, about your question -- would the Aminpour sisters ever be able to go back to Iran without repercussions. Would it be dangerous? It must be difficult for someone in that position, they would have mixed feelings -- a country that they loved at one time, yet one that also made life very hard for them. Still it's the country of their heritage. But I can't imagine Bahar wanting to go back knowing how much her husband hated her.

Ann Alden
February 22, 2006 - 05:34 pm
From what Persian wrote here about friends who returned but left as soon as the Revolution started, I would assume that once you've left of such serious reasons as the Aminpour sisters, you would hesitate to return. We did read and discuss a well written book about returning after the Revolution, entitled, "Searching For Hassan" and it does give one a better insight into the Iran of now.


In the book, the tour bus driver mentions climbing the Reek, hence, Reek Sunday. I forget why the change in name.

February 22, 2006 - 10:08 pm
I meant to post this earlier today, but got side-trcked with packing. Again!

I have numerous Persian friends and colleagues who have traveled back and forth from the US to Iran in the post-Revolution period. To my knowledge, none suffered "political" consequences, but several were sad about the changes in the societal issues. The younger ones (who often accompanied their parents) were more upbeat about the Iran of today. Although with the new Pres. and his outspoken comments about the West, they are NOT particularly interested in residing in Iran for long. Some of their adventures reminded me of Afghan friends who returned to their birth country after the Taliban fled - although many of the Taliban have returned (especially to the border villages). In returning to Iran, they overcame their hesitancy in order to help their friends, relatives and neighbors who had remained in country.

Persians are highly adaptable, as Marsha points out in her book. Being born in Iran, but living in several other countries at different times in life is familiar to many Persians. Their resiliency is readily tested, but they usually tend to "go with the flow." Just as Persian food incorporates various herbs and serves to encourage or calm personality traits (especially tempers - and here I speak from personal experience), the Persian mindset is highly adaptable. Yet there is also a healthy temper - much like the well known Irish temper - which presents itself regularly, coupled with a love of life and its many components. Persians are also excellent entrepreneurs, as is seen with the Aminpour sisters' success in opening the Babylon Cafe. Negotiating skills are truly intriguing.

ANN - my family also includes many relatives from Ireland - most from Dublin - who were attracted to the judiciary field. Some migrated from Ireland to Canada first, and then relocated to the USA. Most recent (paternal grandfather) was a District Court Judge in Montana, of all places. My Egyptian husband jokes that when my French/Irish and Persian personality kicks in all at once, he needs help!

Persian Tea: I noticed in one of Marsha's entries that she suggests blending Earl Grey with Djarleeing tea to resemble Persian tea. I've never tried it, but if you can't find the Persian blend, you might try.

Ann Alden
February 23, 2006 - 05:54 pm
I will see if I can find Darjeeling in my new grocery, the Mediteranean one. Are you leaving town? Packing? We will miss you here. This discussion is over on next Tuesday. I hope you know how much we have enjoyed your posts about Iran and the Persian personality. As you remember the book about Hassan, I got the impression that although the family who searched for Hassan, were American, the Iranian government and civilians did not bother them during their search in 1997. I wonder what would happen today? Its a dicey situation.

I think we are for the most part done with the book itself except for a few little things which I will bring up tomorrow. Had a busy day today with water classes and luncheon and a visit to the library.

February 24, 2006 - 03:45 am
Ann, Pedln, Persian, I have enjoyed your posts so much. All of the posts just added to this wonderful book. Marsha Mehran thank you so much for giving your time.

February 24, 2006 - 04:07 am
How exciting to see Billie Holiday's name in Marsha Mehran's books. Pomegranate Soup has truly been a multicultural experience.

"Estelle had fashioned the seating area as a place where customers would mingle, soaking the crusty edges of Luigi's lovingly baked chocolate and anise biscotti in their cappuccinos as they listened to Billie Holiday croon on an old Victrola."

Ann Alden
February 24, 2006 - 07:43 am
I forgot about the mention of Billie Holiday. This author surprises me with her vast knowledge of such diverse topics.


Your insightful posts have been a delight. Please stay with us until Tuesday as we finish the book.

And, Alf, where have you gone. You also leave posts that are jewels.

February 24, 2006 - 05:56 pm
ANN - indeed this has been a delightful discussion. I'm so pleased to see the interest Marsha's book generated - not only for the recipes, but the Persian culture, which was so beautifully demonstrated throughout.

No, we are only moving 1/4 mile away from our present home (my son's house, which is now FOR SALE). The task of the past 19 months - what my son laughingly calls serving as his "Estate Managers" is now completed. And one of my first thoughts for our new home was to find a teenager to handle the yard work. Luckily, I hired the owner's 16 year old son (who just made Eagle Scout tonight!) by telling him that I would be delighted to contribute to his College Fund. Works for me!

February 24, 2006 - 10:36 pm
I'm here! I've been out searching for cardamom seeds for "me tea!"

February 25, 2006 - 09:47 am
I've been sorting through cardamon seeds tonight, too, in preparation for a lecture I'm doing on Monday at an area church entitled "Biblical Herbs, Spices and Flowers." I laughingly told my host that I did not need any equipment for the presentation,but I was bringing my own "authenticated aroma." I'm sure that puzzled him! We're also going to discuss encouraging the children to start their own Biblical Herb Garden on the church property and see if that project encourages them to get more inviolved in Bible study.

February 25, 2006 - 11:11 am
Mahlia, your presentation sounds wonderful, and your timing is perfect. I would love to be there to hear it. What other spices and herbs are you taking besides the cardamon seeds? And what a wonderful idea for a children's garden.

This has certainly been a discussion that makes one want to delve deeper -- into the history of Iran, it's folklore, and most definitely it's food and accompanying customs.

Hats, I know you wanted to talk a bit more about Ireland, and this was in it's own way, also an Irish story. But I don't know that we could have done justice to both cultures in the time we had. I am glad we talked a bit about Croagh Patrick and the County Mayo. At least I feel more knowledgable about the geography of that part of Ireland.

February 25, 2006 - 01:37 pm
Hi Pedln,

I think we did fine. I had a chance to learn quite a bit about Ireland. Ann gave some really good links. I think the discussion with Marsha Mehran, you, Ann and Persian was just wonderful. I just felt sorry about needing to return my book early. At least, I did finish it.

Am I wrong or right? Did Marsha Mehran speak again about Billie Holiday on the last page of the book? It's driving me crazy. I keep seeing this thought on that page. I can't remember it accept that it is on the last page. It's driving me buggy. If only I had my book.

Ann Alden
February 25, 2006 - 04:00 pm
Quote:"It(the pomegranate) had shown even her that some of the best recipes are the unwritten ones, the ones that happen when you pour yourself a generous glass of Shiraz vino, pop on a soothing Billie Holiday song, and just let the bountiful ingredients lead you. Because, like it or not, life will go on with or without you, forever blooming in some else's backyard, giving flavor to yet another pot of pomegranate soup.

Yes, that was how she would like to think of that particular sweetness. The myriad seedling that could only, really, be the flower of new beginnings."


Notice the mention of life going on in other's gardens. You mention of biblical gardens made me think of this ending of the book.

On another topic but of interest, I hope, I am leaving here a paragraph about Dale Chihuly's Persian period of glass blowing. I hope you enjoy it.


A link to the photo will be here somewhere.

And then this text

"This series’ title hints at associations with ancient glass styles and reflects the fusion of East and West. Historically, Venice has shown an assimilation of Persian, Byzantine and eastern ideas. When Chihuly worked at the Venini factory in Venice, he became aware of these historical ties and stylistic influences in Venetian art. Persians, with their gently fluted edges, are delicate yet powerful, and their jewel-like colors and sensuous curving forms make them some of Chihuly’s most glorious works.

Ann Alden
February 25, 2006 - 04:06 pm
Here's the photo larger of Persian

February 25, 2006 - 04:21 pm
PEDLN - in addition to the Cardamom, I'm going to set out some Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, ginger, small dried lemons (from Egypt) Marjoram, Mint (from Egypt), Saffron, Sage and Tumeric. Garlic, Onions and Leeks on another plate, with wild rice, and - Pomegranate paste, of course! - alongside.

My husband's sister dried the mint and lemons, sent long pieces of cinnamon, and an enormous quantity of Egyptian black pepper, which is absolutely NOT what we buy in tins in the markets here. Very spicy to the taste.

I wanted to make copies of the pages from my WOMAN'S STUDY BIBLE to hand out, but the drawings are in very pale blue and will not copy. So I'll just incorporate the Biblical verses in which the names of the herbs appear into my overall comments.

The ancient Persian armies carried plenty of dried foods with them, but also depended on the small communities which they passed through, so we'll discuss those adventures as an aside tothe actual BIBLICAL (Holy Land) geography. Wish me luck!

Ann Alden
February 25, 2006 - 05:56 pm
Were you able to find the cardamom tea? What was it that Persian said to use that tastes similar? I think Earl Grey and Darjeeling which she says Marsha suggested tastes close to Persian tea. Is that the same flavor as cardomom, Persian?

February 25, 2006 - 06:08 pm
ANN - Nope! Cardamon is the added "spice" in Persian tea. Earlier Mrs. Sherlock gave us a link to a Persian shop, which carries the Sadaf blend with cardamon. I think the link was www.iranstore.com Remember, also, that sugar is NOT added to the tea (unless you fancy it) and most tea is served with small sweets like bisquits (cookies) or a tiny piece of baklava. And for those who prefer coffee, instead of tea, Persian coffee is like Arabic coffee, really STRONG and black in color.

Ann Alden
February 25, 2006 - 06:24 pm
I do know that they have powdered or ground cardamom but assume its not the proper things to use for flavoring tea. Is that right?

Ann Alden
February 25, 2006 - 06:54 pm
The folks in the discussion have really enjoyed learning about Iran, their people and Ireland and its cheery population.

I hope you can get in once more before we close down on Tuesday but if you can't, please know that we do appreciate your coming in earlier and hope to see your sequel to Pom Soup out on the market soon.

Is it going to be about Marjan mainly? Will we find out what has happened to Tom Jr on his trip to the states and will we get to hear what happens to the other sisters and their love interests? Oh, and Estelle?? All interesting people!

February 25, 2006 - 07:19 pm
ANN - the cardamom I use in Persia tea is still in the pod. Hence, you either crush the green pod and the tiny black seeds appear, or buy the seeds. I suppose you could use the powdered cardamom, but that would seem to me to be more for cooking, rather than in tea. But try it. If you begin flying around in a Persian Garden - see the one in the Gratitude discussion in Lifestyles folder, which Lady Z made for us - then we'll know for sure.

February 26, 2006 - 01:26 am
Hi Ann,

Thank you for the last page excerpt. Also, thank you for writing a kind note to Marsha Mehran. I did enjoy learning about the cultures of Iran and Ireland.

Oh, that glass is gorgeous! Thank you for the link.

February 26, 2006 - 02:10 am
Since being with the characters in "Pomegranate Soup" and reading the interesting posts written by Persian and everyone, I have been drinking more tea. I haven't tried any of the special blends. Maybe that will become my next goal.

Mrs. Sherlock, I think, recommended "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi. I am finding it another wonderful book about Iran. With all the talk of teas, I had to mention this one passage in the book. I am impressed with the fact that not only is the tea important but the drinking vessel's appearance is important too. I think Persian already mentioned this earlier. Anyway, this is the quote from Azar Nafisi's book. The woman is preparing for her first book club meeting.

"...I enter the dining room with eight glasses of tea on an old and unpolished silver tray. Brewing and serving tea is an aesthetic ritual in Iran, performed several times a day. We serve tea in transparent glasses, small and shapely, the most popular of which is called slim-waisted: round and full at the top, narrow in the middle and round and full at the bottom."

What a beautiful ceremony. It must breathe a feeling of hospitality among all the guests.

Thank you Marsha Mehran and Persian. I have enjoyed my journey so much.

February 26, 2006 - 08:54 am
It seems as if we're saying good-bye to old friends and new, doesn't it? Thank you so much Ann & Pedln for steering us through this discussion and providing all of these links and information.

I couldn't find cardomom in any of our stores here. I'll settle for Darjeeling for now.

February 26, 2006 - 10:40 am
ALF - I'll be happy to send you some cardamom if you want to send me an email with your mailing address.

February 26, 2006 - 11:14 am
An email is on its way to you. You are so thoughtful to offer that to me.

February 26, 2006 - 02:46 pm
Hats and Andy, you're inspiring me to go fix a pot of tea. I love the idea of "slim-waisted" glasses and went looking for them, but couldn't find. However, there was a delightful article by a young man who remembered the weekly tea rituals with his grandmother in Iran -- Afternoon tea with my grandmother (She sounds lilke grandmothers everywhere, calling him "best little boy.")

And if you scroll down here you will see the old samovars, with the teapot sitting on top -- The Culture of Tea

February 26, 2006 - 07:15 pm
ALF - got your email and your cardamom will be mailed this week. Enjoy.

In the meantime, here's the site (again) featuring a selection of others teas. Just looking at the packages is a pleasure. I'm working on my order for other items as soon as I finish this post!


PEDLN: those are great sites, too. Thanks for posting them.

February 27, 2006 - 01:39 am
Hi Pedln,

What great websites! I loved the whole story about the grandmother and her grandson. Along with this short story and Marsha Mehran's "Pomegranate Soup," it is easy to see the Iranians have a magical talent for words and storytelling. These are my favorite lines from the story.

"The sunlight made the steam dance so beautifully; every few turns of coils of steam you could see a little rainbow. The gently boiling water inside the samovar created a melody like the sound of a violin in a distance."

February 27, 2006 - 01:46 am

Thank you for your site too. This has been a memorable discussion, a good thing.


I like reading about samovers. There are so many different styles too. The article is really interesting. I have never heard of cupronickel. This also is used in the making of the samovers.

February 27, 2006 - 04:03 pm
Here's a link to an article in today's local paper which certanly gives an example of the hauntingly beautiful charm of Ireland's Northwest:


February 28, 2006 - 01:15 am

That is a beautiful article about a beautiful place, Ireland. This part made me ready to pack my luggage and board a plane.

"Even just a partial tour of the Way, up from the town and down back onto the main road, provides trailgoers with breathtaking elevated views of cottage-dotted hills and sparkling lakes, all the while leading them past sheep-filled pastures...."

No wonder Marsha Mehran loves it in Ireland. Also, Marjan, Bahar and Layla love it there because of the neighborliness.

At the end of the article a poem by Yeats is mentioned.The peaceful lake and tranquil falls inspired William Butler Yeats to mention the waterfall in his poem. I have never read this particular poem. It is titled "The Stolen Child." I would love to read it.

The title "The Stolen Child" makes my curiosity go wandering.

Mahlia, this is a wonderful article. I am glad you included the link.

February 28, 2006 - 03:57 am
I want to extend a heartfelt Thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion. It was wonderful for me to read your inspired opinions and your growing love for the villagers of tiny Ballinacroagh. You have given me more than enough impetus to weave a second story, and hope that you all come back to the sequel in the future. It's a lonely profession, writing, and although I have not had the best access to the internet the last month, I thank my lucky stars that I had the opportunity to connect with you all out there. Thank you agian. It's been a privilege. Marsha Mehran

Ann Alden
February 28, 2006 - 07:43 am
Hello Ann, Thank you for selecting Poemgranate Soup. It has been a delight to read all the lively comments. I am popping in today to say goodbye....the cottage I've sequestered myself in makes great venue for writing, but not modern technology, I'm afraid. I won't be giving any secrets away just yet about Book 2, but only to say that it will include romance, healing and more shennanigans...and you will find out what Tom Junior has been doing on his spiritual quest. What funny people live in Ballinacrogh....they are entriely of their own making. Thanks again for everything, Ann. SeniorNet is a wonderful, life-affirming organization. Marsha

February 28, 2006 - 07:54 am

What a wonderful email. I am so happy Marsha Mehran enjoyed her time with us. I am excited about the next book. I love the word "shenanigans." What in the world is going to happen next in Ballinacrogh?

This has been a delightful experience. It makes my heart happy to know Marsha Mehran likes Seniornet too.

February 28, 2006 - 12:15 pm
HATS - just for you - a link to W.B. Yeats' THE STOLEN CHILD. Enjoy! http://www.thebeckoning.com/poetry/yeats/yeats2.html

And a big, hearty THANK YOU to all the wonderful SN posters, who have made this discussion such a pleasure. Special thanks, of course to Marsha, who shared her lovely "wanderings" with us. Personally, it was a wonderful experience to be able to balance my Irish/Persian family background against some of the adventures of the sisters (and their neighbors) in POMEGRANATE SOUP.

February 28, 2006 - 12:57 pm

Thank you so much! This poem will put the icing on the cake.

February 28, 2006 - 01:02 pm
That is a beautiful poem by Yeats.

"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."

"The waters and the wild" are in places like Ireland. These places can quiet any heart. The beauty of these places can also make us believe in the fairies of our childhood again. I love it!

February 28, 2006 - 02:06 pm
Marsha, thank you so much for giving us the gift of your writing -- the book and your comments in the discussion. Pomegranate Soup was a delight to read and I look forward to meeting the people of Ballinacroagh again in its sequel.

Ann Alden
February 28, 2006 - 05:00 pm
About three sisters and their resilency in moving from Iran to London and to Ballincroagh. About the finding of another home in a strange country and coming to accept and love it. Delicous recipes that some of us have tried and the balancing of hot and cold foods for our health. We have learned a little bit more about Iran, Persia, and Ireland.

I am glad that you all seemed to enjoy this drifting story and hope you will join us in another discussion here on Seniornet whenever you feel the need to share a book or a thought with friends.

A special thanks to Marsha Mehran, our author, for taking a chance on us and enjoying it. We are truly grateful for your gracious participation and hope you will let us know when the new book is published.

March 1, 2006 - 10:54 pm
This discussion is now Read Only and will be archived in a couple of days.