My family’s Persian rice is the dish everyone always looks forward to at the holidays. Cooking Persian rice can be an art passed down from generation to generation. But my grandmother didn’t like to share her secret recipes. We, the kids, would sneak into the kitchen, watching her cover the pot with a cloth, as she whispered, “Don’t bother the rice. Let it be.” My grandmother believed that some things needed to be left alone, untouched, and she explained that the round lentils in the traditional Adas Polo rice dish represent the circle of life; you are born and you die, the rest is gravy.
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My father immigrated from Iran in 1950 when he was 6 years old. He had two sisters who fell sick and died when they were toddlers, before he was born. As a baby, he was very ill himself and almost didn’t survive. His father, my grandfather, who was blind from birth, needed my father to go to work with him, to sell newspapers on the street.