The Regrets of Life and Death

There are certain events in your life that tend to put everything into perspective. That of dying and of being born. Both events in effect prompt the same thought processes. That of family.

Now I am expecting a child my mind is often reflecting upon family and what I want for my own children. When someone dies one’s mind is often reflecting upon family but also on regrets. Unfortunately, we concentrate more on the regrets than happier times with our loved ones.  I don’t think there is anything we can do to change this – it’s the nature of life that it gets in the way and only when we realise that it is doing just that, is it often too late. Unfortunately we often fail to learn the lesson and each time we face regrets.

This past weekend, I received some very sad news about my aunt in Iran who was ill for a long time. Although I didn’t often see her, I called her regularly and despite the distance she and I were very close. We had the sort of relationship that no matter how long we had been apart, we could always pick up where we left off as if we were never separated. When someone remarks on ‘an end of an era’ that is exactly how I feel right now. I feel that I am losing a part of my history that I will never be able to pass on and share with my children. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I feel a part of me has also died. She was the link to my father and his past that will now stay so alien to me.

I am determined to treasure the golden nuggets of information my father shared with me. I am determined to cook the way my father taught me, whether it be the easiest/quickest way or the opposite. I am determined to speak his language to my children and I want them raised in a bilingual household. In a way, I feel I am making amends for all the regrets. Maybe that is why we have regrets in the first place, to remind us what is most important and to make changes, to be better.

During the emotions of yesterday, I couldn’t help but gain comfort in the cup of tea that I cradled in my hands. The British always seem to find answers to everything at the bottom of a cup of tea. In the same way, Iranians gain comfort through food and much cultural significance is found in the different delicacies that are offered during different periods in ones’ life. One particular occasion when food plays a significant role is in mourning when friends and relatives gather in the house of the deceased to console the family. Halva is served to those attending in Iran and is highly representative of those in mourning.  I might be far away from the land to which I feel so connected to; I might not be fully conversant in the language; neither do I enjoy speaking it often yet it is the Iranian cooking that helps me maintain the link to my roots and my family.

Halva is  described as a ‘butter sweet’ and should you wish to make it you will need:

100g (3 1/2 oz) flour
100g (3 1/2 oz) butter
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron
100g (3 1/2 oz) sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 
3 tablespoons rosewater
Flaked coconut. 

1- Dry-roast the flour in a high-sided pan over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously; it should turn dark yellow to light brown in colour.

2- Add the butter and very gently brown the mixture over the lowest heat, stirring continuously until the ingredients stick together (take care – the flour must not be allowed to burn), then tip into a bowl.

3- Bring 1ooml (3 1/2 fl oz) water to boil in a pan. Add the saffron, sugar, cardamom and rose water and stir until the sugar dissolves.

4- Gradually stir the liquid into the flour. The mixture should turn creamy. If  necessary add a little more water.

5- Spread the mixture onto a flat plate, or shape into flat oval biscuits.

6- Sprinkle the flaked coconut over the halva and/or cut into diagonal or diamond shapes.

7- Although you can eat halva hot, I think it is always better if you allow it to cool before serving.


* You can sprinkle chopped pistachios over the halva instead of coconut if you prefer.

* The halva will harden with time and it’s best if you store it in the fridge between eating.

* Iranians serve halva with tea, guests are provided with a plate; a knife to cut the halva and a spoon to eat it with tea. As it has a very sweet taste, only a limited amount is consumed at one time and the halva is often consumed over a several days.

My aunt’s funeral is this afternoon in Iran and my heart aches to be there. However, I believe that when a loved one dies they do not leave completely. A little part of them remains inside of you. It is the same for my father and now it’s the same for my aunt.  Strangely enough I feel closer to her now than I have done for a long time. So I will continue to struggle with the language, I will continue to make Iranian meals, I will continue with the culture as much as possible. That way, their memory will remain and their way of life will not be lost.

One thing I want for my children is for them to feel connected to their family, their aunts and their uncles, their grandparents and their cousins – both near and far. I want to pass on my culture and traditions so that they will one day tell my grandchildren: “that’s what Grandma used to do”.

For the last few words, I would like to dedicated to my aunt – “roohesh shaad”, “may her soul rest in peace.”

Images: my own 
Recipe taken from The Persian Kitchen by Neda Afrashi

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rubyslippers
    Oct 22, 2012 @ 19:21:49

    May she rest in peace and be reunited with the people she loved! Roohesh shaad. X


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