It’s spring, and in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of pandemonium, there are also reasons to celebrate. The Persian New Year, Nowruz, falls on the spring equinox—this year, March 20.
Meaning “new day,” it’s a secular celebration of fresh beginnings. Homes are cleaned; closets are restocked with new clothes; and tables are set with fruits, flowers, and herbs to symbolize health, wealth, and prosperity.
I became aware of Dallas’s robust Persian community when a friend of mine began inviting me to her parents’ home in Plano. It was a revelation. Feasts would stretch into the night, smoke wafting from grills where meats sizzled, while tables inside bore gold-rimmed platters of smoky eggplant dips and fragrant, saffron-laced rice. The evening inevitably ended with tea in tulip-shaped glasses—and someone would begin to quote the poet Hafez.
Tomorrow, as our homes feel like sanctuary, it’s a chance to create your own Iranian tea spread. Grocery store runs mean braving the wilds, but brother and sister Zaid and Duaa Bayan stock the shelves at Sara’s Market & Bakery in Richardson with everything you’ll need. Serve the ubiquitous Sadaf cardamom tea in clear glass Persian teacups with elegant batons of rock sugar. (Place the sugar between your teeth and sip.) Pair it with sweets like sesame Florentines (barazek), date- and nut-filled maamoul, ka’ak tea biscuits (plain or with anise or sesame seeds), or chewy Persian-style nougat studded with bright green Turkish pistachios whose edges are purple. Set the table with a potted hyacinth for spring and add a bowl of apples for a year of health and beauty.
The sweetness does the soul good. The sense of ritual does, too.