Y’all already met our core team of staff: Mr. Shopkeeper, Master Shopcat, Junior and Mrs. Shopkeeper. But there are other members of our team behind the scenes. You’ll probably never see them. They flit in and out when they think no-one is looking. No – we haven’t got ninja cleaners or anything – we talking about the in-laws. And one’s mother-in-law is pretty key to the whole operation. For not only is every Iranian household run by its matriarch, much of our enterprise is founded upon her kitchen and Mrs. Shopkeeper’s interpretation thereof. Afsaneh (or Afi) is her name (it means ‘myth’ in Persian) – that’s her on the left in the photo, pictured with her collection of very lovely sisters: Khaleh (Aunty) Mehry, Khaleh Fatty (short for Fataneh) and Khaleh Fizzy (short for Farzaneh). She is painfully shy, but she has finally agreed that we can brag about her a bit…
Defining physical characteristics: Well – she’s tiny. And pretty, with a broad smile (which her ‘aroos’ or daughters-in-law work hard to keep on her face). And she has a cracking figure for a lady of 70 odd.
Often to be found: Practically always to be found in the kitchen, truth to tell. Although she is passionate about reading and pukka literature, and she does have a weakness for the soapiest of Persian soaps. Like most Middle Eastern ladies, she does like a bargain, and is thus very happy to browse Peckham’s plethora of Poundland/Ville/World shops.
What to say to her: “Chai michai?” (Would you like a cuppa?)
“Let me wash up!”
Best not say: “Would you like cheese on top?” (her hatred of cheese knows no bounds)
Potted CV: Afi was born in Kermanshah in the West of Iran, the second of seven siblings. She was a naughty child (and still has a feisty, rebellious streak), but she was as studious as she was beautiful and qualified as a Persian literature teacher. She also caught the eye of Cyrus, an engineer from a good family, and they married and moved to Tehran, where his business thrived. Life was very good to them until the Iran/Iraq war, when fear of the military draft forced them to move their four boys (starting with the eldest, Mr. Shopkeeper) to Europe. During the years which followed she endured endless hardships and insecurity in the name of giving her children a better future: she is made of some tough mettle. She is slightly terrifying, but at the same time one of the most generous and selfless people we know. Mrs.S. is honoured to be her daughter-in-law.
In no particular order she loves: tea, Conan the Barbarian, khoresht-e-gojeh-sabz, cutesy little trinkets, high literature, the music of Sattar, cats and shoes.