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Mom's Ush

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran



Although it is the start of Mehr, Tehran is still hot and although we occasionally get a touch of autumn wind, the summer seems to still linger on, and since May we have only once had some rain which was wonderful but over all too quickly.



It was just over three years ago that my mother left us and among many things, I miss the sound of her laughter more than anything else.   Yes, three years since my mom passed away and because she was such a diverse and varied lady, I decided that every year we would try to remember her, her memory and her life in different ways.  My mother Mahboubeh Sayyah loved going out and partying as well as getting people together and doing things and because she liked ush-reshteh so much (it is a kind of vegetable soup with chick peas and beans and special pasta), I decided to do it for her anniversary, imagining that she was ordering us around to do this and that, while she did most of the work herself. 



Cooking the ush was possible only with the kind help and unbelievable assistance of my old time friend Tahereh who is an expert in such matters, her husband Abbass, and her sister Nahid.  Tahereh and Abbass do nazri (offering) every year, and so they had all the necessary equipment, including a huge pot, a big cooker and a gas canister.  And of course they had the biggest ladle in town that I know.  I asked another friend Masoumeh, who is religious in the traditional Iranian way, to arrange a prayer ceremony at her house for my mom too.



Last Thursday, Paul and I went to the cemetery at Beheshte Zahra in the morning and then came home to join Tahereh and others who were cooking the ush.  I had cooked the chick peas and the beans the night before and had soaked the green lentils as instructed.  Tahereh had bought, cleaned, washed and chopped the greens, fried the onions and got some kaskeh (whey).  While the soup was cooking, we prepared the nanadagh (fried mint sauce) and fried the garlic to decorate it.



It was a lot of fun and we all felt my momʼs presence.  Since they are my friends and we are so comfortable with them we did a lot of other things, like rearranging the furniture in the library and the guest rooms.  It was rather like when we were kids and my mom and aunties were doing the same thing, the difference was that many of them are no longer with us.



When the soup was ready after about five hours of cooking, we ladled it into as many bowls, tupperware or cooking pots that we could lay our hands on, and then Tahereh started to decorate each of the bowls with the fried onions and garlic as well as the nanadagh and kaskeh and cooked beans.  Our decoration was quite modern, unlike the traditional Iranian way.  Towards the end of the process, Aysim, my Turkish film maker friend who was staying with us for a few days, came down and helped Abbass to get the last bit of ush into another pot.  Once all was done we took the pots and bowls to our neighbors and friends who live nearby as well as the shop keepers and bakers near our home.



We had a lot of laughs and enjoyed ourselves a lot while doing all of this.  All along all of us felt that mom was somewhere up there watching and laughing with us.  May her soul be at peace.


See also Nazri Cooking: How religion and tradition interact

... Payvand News - 09/25/08 ... --

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