Norooz: The Persian New Year
A celebration imbued with symbolic traditions and delicious food
Spring: a time of renewal, regeneration and fresh beginnings. A time when “hope springs eternal in the human breast,” to quote English poet Alexander Pope. And nowhere is this hope more apparent than in the celebration of the Persian New Year known as Norooz.
Like Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, Norooz is a nonreligious festival dating back 3,000 years to the followers of the prophet Zoroaster. Steeped in Indo-Persian culture, the festivities begin at the exact moment of the vernal equinox and serve to unite all faiths and religions. This year, on Tuesday, March 20, Iranians around the globe will gather to share the richness of their culture through food and symbolic traditions signifying purification, rebirth and promise.
Last March, I was honored to be invited to a Norooz feast at the home of veteran hostess Peggy Coleman here in Vero Beach, along with her close friend, Colleen Liebert — a chef in her own right. Both ladies are well-known for the themed dinner parties they throw several times a year, inviting a circle of friends to enjoy culinary delights from around the world.
On this occasion, they had chosen to showcase the fascinating gastronomy of Iran, a cuisine often referred to as "Silk Road cookery," as it is so deeply influenced by the ancient trade route through neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. Replicating the dishes served during the 13-day festival of Norooz proved to be an excellent lens through which to explore the tastes and traditions of Iran's history.