Snackistan: Or How to Feed Your Pet Persian

Parrot food! Clockwise from top left: sunflower, pumpkin, melon, spiced melon, more sunflower, aghil
OK – so you’ve got yourself a pet Persian. Boyfriend, wife, friend, colleague, whatever. And you want to know what to feed them. Yeah, well, yes, they probably do like Pret a Manger, spag bol and steak ‘n’ chips. And, yes, you could pick up a copy of our cook book, and roll your sleeves up and get cooking. But in the meantime, if you want to impress said Persian, there are several delightfully junky ways of so doing. We’re talking snackistan. Things that Iranians like to snack on. We’ve wittered on about shirinee (sweet stuff) elsewhere, but Iranians don’t really have that sweet a tooth. Which is probably why all of their dentists seem to be over here.

Perhaps most alien to our sensitive little tastebuds is the concept of torkmeh, or roasted seeds, which Iranians eat by the great handful. Sometimes in the form of aghil (mixed nuts), or sometimes just one variety. And they eat them at parties, when they’re watching a video, when they’re driving: they’re ubiquitous. And messy: the debris gets everywhere. There are many different varieties – indeed, we cannot work out exactly where they have all come from. Many of them are known as torkmeh kadoo, which isn’t very helpful as the Farsi word ‘kadoo’ is used to describe any number of gourds and pumpkins. Melon and sunflower seeds are also popular. Some are roasted with lemon and saffron, some with golpar (Persian hogwort), all of them with salt. They are admittedly very tasty, and are also fairly good for you (salt content notwithstanding): so what’s not to like? Well…they’re an absolute bitch to open. And unless you are part parrot or have been raised on the stuff, it is quite conceivable that you will merely end up with a nasty, spat-out, sodden mess. Mr. Shopkeeper can eat five hundred a minute, Mrs. Shopkeeper about one a week.

Whilst we’re still in the salty department, Iranians love Cheesey Wotsits. Except in Iran they are known either as pookfak namaki or Cheetoz. These suspiciously orange and undoubtedly nutritionally deficient crisps are especially popular with homesick ex-pats: nothing, it seems, quite as perfectly captures the flavour of an Iranian childhood.

Persians really like sour things. We’re not talking pear drops: no, they like it really SOUR. SO it brings tears to your eyes, like. We’ve already gone on about the wonders of fruit leather, but there are a host of other weird things that Iranians consume for pleasure: tamarind, sour plums dried to a squeezable glooop, burnt and sundried whey, salted sour cherries…. ‘Tis no wonder that so many of them end up with stomach ulcers.

Chewing gum! With a tattoo!
Iranians also like to chew. The original Persian gum is called saghez, and is, frankly, disgusting (but this is from someone who eschews all gum): it is similar to mastic, except it is wet and slimy. But mostly they chew PK and the stuff pictured left, which is known as adams khersi (bear gum), and famously has a tattoo inside the wrapper. We have seen grown and very serious looking Iranians giggle with glee upon espying this stuff.

So now you know. What was that? Where to buy? Well we can recommend a funny little Persian cornershop in Peckham…