Author and marketing and creative consultant Linda Locke recounts her time travelling through Iran, watching an eclipse with Neil Armstrong and why some food experiences are best left to memory.
Iran, 1999. A trip driven by the goal of seeing a total eclipse in Isfahan. A rare occasion that even drew astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Iran is an extraordinary place, culturally rich and refined with dazzling sights like Persepolis – the Spring Tributary Palace of the great Persian emperors Cyrus, Darius and later added to by Xerxes; incredible Zoroastrian fire temples; the rock tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam; ancient caravanserais; the Eram Garden of Shiraz; ancient Armenian churches; plates and plates piled high with jewels the size of eggs and dazzling jewellery at the National Jewellery Museum in Tehran; the Shah Cheraz mirrored mosque; and so much more.
The journey of discovery in Iran included its cuisine and produce. To this day, I have not been able to match the taste and tenderness of the Persian style shish kebabs we ate throughout our trip and never seemed to get enough of. Minced lamb formed into pressed slabs and marinated in yoghurt and spices over a few days to tenderise the meat and impregnate it with flavour. Then chargrilled to perfection and served with saffron rice and mixed with nuts and wild cranberries and a side of salad or chargrilled thinly sliced aubergines in a spiced yoghurt sauce. The flavours complement each other superbly and the meat melts in your mouth. All this with a bottle of Iran’s version of Coca-Cola (ubiquitous in every restaurant) and light Nan-e-Taftoon flatbread – all for the princely sum of US$5. Unbelievable.
Other magical food moments included surprisingly simple fare such as figs and cheese from a farmer en route to Persepolis, eaten perched on the hood of our tour taxi, the taste transporting us to biblical times. Or drinking spiced tea and eating Koloocheh cookies (above) shared by an Iranian family in Naqsh-e Jahan Square, one of the largest public squares in the world.
With Armstrong, we watched the world go dark and the moon eclipse – projected onto the dome of one of the four mosques as a hush descended on the massive crowd, save for the prayer chant of an imam as he led a troupe of chanting Iranians around the square – trying to ward off evil omens.
Part of me is tempted to return to Iran to eat Persian style kebabs and wild cranberry saffron rice again, but the wiser part of me knows its best to savour it as a delicious memory.
About the Author
Linda is an author and internationally recognised marketing and communications professional. She was previously a chief executive and creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, and chairman and regional creative director of Leo Burnett Advertising, and has more than 300 creative awards to her name. She later started her own consultancy, Godmother Pte Ltd, and held several key positions at Club21, a luxury fashion distributor. She now serves on the board of two companies. Agnes and Her Amazing Orchid: How Vanda Miss Joaquim Became Singapore’s National Flower, recently published by Epigram Books, is her first children’s book.