Halva

September 9, 2018

 

Recently, I lost a person who was like a second mother to me, and yesterday we celebrated her life. The celebration was beautiful, filled with song and stories, a room full of friends and family all in one way or another touched by her love and generosity. The weather was gray and cold; our first taste of the bittersweet fall and winter to come and a reflection of how I was feeling inside.

 

Driving home from the funeral, I began craving halva. Halva is an Iranian desert made from a few ingredients; flour, butter, sugar, rose, and saffron but it's significant to me in many ways. I have fond memories of being a child standing beside my mother in the kitchen as she whipped up halva on the stove. The key to halva is constant stirring, and we would both take turns whisking the batter furiously, as I watched in amazement as the ingredients transformed into a silky golden yellow cake. The taste is heavenly; aromatic, rich, and deeply comforting. As we whisked the batter, my mother would share with me the traditions and stories of halva, showing me our history through memories and story. It was from her that I learned that halva is traditionally made when someone has passed away. Now, older than when I was that child in the kitchen, I understand in unspoken and guttural ways why this desert is so deeply connected to our grief. The plants *rose and saffron* are entwined with our healing, apart of the process, the ritual.

 

Having grown up eating food infused with saffron, I'm constantly humbled by its profound medicine and magic. When my mother would cook feasts for family and friends, and now as I do, I watch and marvel as the room transforms. With each saffron laced bite the spell stronger; love drunk, rosy cheeks, wide grins, boisterous laughter, kisses on the cheek. The saffron, warming and intoxicating, reminding us that are bodies are stardust and sparkle. Saffron feels like a hug, having the ability to fill the holes within our spirit, even if only for a passing moment. And of course the Rose, in all the ways providing softness and protection, beauty and realness, comfort and tradition.

 

So, as soon as I was home, I gathered the ingredients and I made halva. My child joined me in the kitchen, and I told her the same stories my mother told me as we stirred away our sadness with each turn of the spoon.

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