I usually subscribe to the Golden Rule of cooking: however much garlic a recipe recommends, double it. Then double it again. Thankfully it wasn’t my turn to cook for our Afghanistani themed Netflix and Chow, as the recipe asked for 5-6 cloves of raw garlic and today my breath is potent enough to melt the screen of this laptop before I finish writing this post.
The recipe was for Burani Bonjon (Afghan yogurt with aubergines) and the film was The Breadwinner. It’s another one from Veggiestan by Sally Butcher and her introduction to the dish is worth quoting in full:
The origin of the word burani is lost in the swirls of gastro-time, but it is popularly believed that it is named after one Pourandokht, the queen of Ctesiphon, in Mesopotamia. She was partial to yogurt, and so her chefs created a range of dishes comprising yogurt. In Iran, the ingredients of borani are well blended and served cold: in Afghanistan, they are layered whilst still warm, turning burani into a textured, creamy platter of delight.
(My dog, Lamb, right now: Oh, I see. So when a Mesopotamian queen likes something so much that she wants to eat it all the time it’s “interesting” and you want to try it yourself. But when I constantly try to eat wet garbage off the floor it’s “grab her” and “drop it” and “for the love of God”?)
So good. I have no insights on the execution of this recipe, beyond the fact that there was a lot of chopping, some swearing and one shouted exclamation from the kitchen while Steve was cooking it. The end result was delicious, especially as we used soy yogurt (adding in a sweetness which offset the sharpness of the chilli and mint), and he’s declared that he’ll never make it again ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A note on copyright. While I might take a photo of a recipe on my phone and send it to someone on Whatsapp, I feel very shady about publishing recipes that are still in copyright on a public platform. Even if the public platform in question is my blog which averages around three tumbleweeds and zero unique visitors per year. So! When an author hasn’t made a recipe available online I’ll link to similar recipes and encourage people to buy the book.
I read The Breadwinner when I was about 12, exactly at the moment I was starting to become aware of how grim life could be for women. The female heroes I’d grown up reading were either born long ago (Nancy Drew, George Kirrin, Anne Shirley) or part of fantasy worlds (Gwendolen Chant, Arrietty). Parvana, the protagonist of The Breadwinner, acted as a much needed bridge from the past into the present. By cutting her hair, dressing as a boy and going out to provide for her family, she was heroic but without the aid of magic or cosy nostalgia.
And, of course, I loved the film. The animation alone is gorgeous and the family dynamics are really touching. I was outraged to find out that it didn’t win the Academy Award for Animation, but then I saw that the brilliant Coco won it that year and my outrage evaporated.
A note on cultural appropriation. Sally Butcher, Deborah Ellis, the utterly delightful Beulah Devaney: we’re all white women writing about cultures of colour that have traditionally been attacked and appropriated by white cultures. Which is why I try to follow Hoda Katebi’s guide to Appropriation vs. Appreciation when deciding what to watch/buy/write.
Loved the food but it seems to take a lot of work. Probably one to make on a long weekend, rather than a week night. The Breadwinner was an (almost) winner and I will absolutely rewatch.