by Reyna Simnegar
Many believe our path through life is destined – there are no chance encounters – everything happens for a purpose. The vivacious author of our featured cookbook, Persian Food from the Non-persian Bride , has traveled a very interesting path to arrive at her current destination.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Reyna Simnegar was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools. Her life changed at age 12 when she discovered her father's family were Marrano Jews. After seeing the movie Schindler's List at age 15, she was drawn to her Jewish neshama, began to understand certain customs she saw practiced by her father and his family, and decided to convert to Judaism. Being underage, she did not start the process until several years later. Along the way, she moved to the United States to learn English, attended UCLA in California and met her future husband (a Persian Jew) at a restaurant. Concerned that she did not know how to cook the Persian delights that her future husband, Sammy, loved, she learned to cook "real" Persian food from her future mother-in-law.
Fast forward several years: While married to Sammy and living a fulfilling Jewish life as the mother of five little boys, Reyna decided to create a book of these treasured Persian recipes for her five future daughters-in law. She told a friend about her project and was encouraged to create a publishable version. Her friend helped her find the right professionals to formulate and "birth" the cookbook. On a trip to Morocco, she met a relative of the publishing firm, the Feldheim family, who eventually published her book. A very interesting, and destined, traveled road!
It took Reyna almost two years to complete the cookbook. Her love of cooking, and especially Persian food, was evident in our conversation with her. "Food is satisfying for the body and soul. If there was a scent to "infatuation", that is what Persian food would smell like." She also treasures her South American heritage and the foods she grew up loving. Several of the recipes in the cookbook are a marriage of these two cultures – like Reyna and Sammy.
Persian Food from The Non-Persian Bride is a beautiful and fascinating introduction to Kosher Persian cooking. It features both traditional and contemporary recipes, with easy–to–follow directions. The recipes are presented in a clear and concise manner and several contain additional Tricks of The Trade tips from Reyna. The short introduction antidotes that accompany each recipe are delightful, informative and fun to read. The book contains 100 recipes that are accompanied by beautiful, full–color photographs by Marina Karassellos.
A detailed description of the spices, seeds and herbs used in Persian cooking is included and will help the reader better understand this ancient cuisine that is defined by its blending and use of herbs and spices. Food has always been an important element in the Persian way of life and after reading this book, we can understand why.
Rice is a major part of the Persian meal and Reyna presents seventeen wonderful recipes for this Persian staple, plus step–by–step directions for making Tadig. This is the prized crispy rice taken from the bottom of the pot and traditionally served to guests at a meal.
We look forward to using this cookbook to make fabulous, enticing Persian meals for our family and friends. We place this cookbook on our "gift yourself, gift others" list. Treat yourself – it will become a welcome friend on your shelf.
Watch Reyna demonstrate how to prepare Persian Steamed Rice (Chelo) with Potato Tadig.
Read more of our Chat With Reyna Simnegar and enjoy the following recipes from her fabulous new cookbook.
March 13, 2011