January 27, 2020


“As the teachings of Baha’u’lláh are combined with universal peace, they are like a table provided with every kind of fresh and delicious food.”

- Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 304

On 18 January 2020, a Persian cooking lesson/devotional was hosted in Navan by Sylvie Nantais with Mahvash Changizi as instructor. On a day which featured Ottawa's first major winter storm of the year, thirteen hardy souls, including six friends from the surrounding area, participated in the event. The gathering began with introductions all around, then everyone received a set of printed recipes to use and keep. Because of the impending storm, everyone gathered in the kitchen without delay where the recipes were defined and elaborated in order of the actual meal. The explanations were interspersed with historical and cultural notes, greatly enhancing the preparations.

Mahvash Changizi, an experienced instructor and recently retired special education teacher, generously provided all the ingredients for a full course Persian dinner. The menu listed dishes which many of the friends had never tasted, including parsley salad (jafari), steamed rice with saffron (chelo), yogurt with cucumber (khyar) with the main course being chicken with prunes, apricots in pomegranate sauce garnished with apples (koresht morgh). Shrini panjeree (fried rosettes), a tasty melt-in-the-mouth dessert, completed the meal, and everyone, men and women alike, tried their hands at making these … and eating them of course!

The event was hands-on, with everyone taking part in preparing the different dishes. The meal was then served at an expanded and festive table where everyone sat and enjoyed the wonderful dishes. On the reverse side of the menus on each plate, there was a selection of prayers and writings from a variety of sources, and at the end of the meal these were read and briefly discussed. The ambiance was warm and friendly. Everyone was touched by the kindness of the hostess and instructor and as the storm arrived and friends began to leave to go home, they were filled with not only the warmth of the event and the wonderful food, but by the spirit in the group.

Sylvie received the following feedback: Kathleen, one of the participants said: "I would like to express my profound thanks for inviting me to the cooking demonstration yesterday. All aspects of it were truly enjoyable and memorable, from the food to the music to the company and the chance to learn so many new things." Margo, another friend, posted photos on Facebook and stated: "Learnt to cook some incredible Persian recipes today. Grateful for my friends & their generosity”. She added her lovely excerpt from Laurie Colwin that she shared during the readings: “The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift." And finally, Hélène thought it was all delicious and educational.

“The language of kindness is the lodestone of hearts and the food of the soul; it stands in the relation of ideas to words and is as a horizon for the shining of the Sun of Wisdom and Knowledge."

-‘Abdu'l-Bahá, A Traveller's Narrative, p. 43

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