Foreign Fare

    Halva, a traditional Persian dessert, is served with tea at funeral ceremonies. The sweet taste of halva is believed to alleviate the pain and shock of the loss of a loved one. During these ceremonies, a spoon is passed from one guest to the next, each taking a spoonful of the pudding while sending out a silent prayer for the deceased. This ceremony is often repeated on the anniversary of the loved one’s death. If a guest does not take a bite of halva or at least drink a glass of tea, the family believes that the spirit of the deceased will be offended.

    The focal ingredient in Persian halva is saffron, which gives the dish its distinct flavor. Saffron is commercialized in powder and thread forms. The only part of the saffron flower that chefs use in their cuisine is the vibrant red stigma, which despite its potent red color, produces yellow dye. Saffron is ubiquitous in the Middle East and has a great influence on Persian cuisine mainly because Iran is the largest producer of saffron in the world.

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