reading & recipes: reading lolita in tehran & coffee ice cream recipe
I recently read a book called Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi. This book is Nafisi’s memoir about life in Tehran during Iran’s revolution and their eight year war with Iraq. Nafisi was raised in Iran, but as a college student she studied literature in America. She returned to Iran after her studies in America and discovered that her beloved homeland was not the same as the one in which she was raised. Nafisi arrived when Iran was in the beginning stages of the revolution. She lived in Tehran for 18 years (1979-1980) before finally leaving the oppression of the Islamic Republic.
It occurred to me, while reading the novel that the terrifying Islamic Regime that gain control of Iran was essentially bullying in its most pure form. Nafisi’s husband, points out:
“They have the power to kill us or flog us, but all of this only reminds them of their weakness.”
In an Islamic Regime such as post revolutionary Iran women were reduced into shadows that moved, hopefully without notice, in their chador and veil. I say that they were
unnoticed because being noticed was bad. Imagine walking down a street and a hair strays from under your veil at the same time a patrol called the Blood of God notices you. That stray hair leads to an interrogation that leads to jail where you might be faced with years in prison or execution.
How does one survive this type of existence? This type of oppression wears people down until they submit so fully that they justify their submission. In the novel, Nafisi quotes a woman that drives this point home:
“We are not with the regime in our hearts and minds…by now we should be used to all of this; these young girls are spoiled-they expect too much. Look at Somalia or Afghanistan. Compared to them, we live like queens.” “I was thinking about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, about the fact that my girls are not happy. What I mean is that they feel doomed to be unhappy.”
Nafisi says this to a friend and then adds,
“They have to learn to fight for their happiness.”
Nafisi’s “girls” are a group of young women with whom she meets every Thursday afternoon. They are women who love literature as much as Nafisi. (At one time Nafisi taught at various universities in Iran, having had these young women as her students.) These women meet to study western novels as there is really no other way in which they can freely discuss authors such as Nabokov, Austen, Fitzgerald, James and Bellow.
Those who were subjected to the evils of the Islamic Regime feel doomed to unhappiness and those in power will never be happy. It is up to the oppressed to fight out of that hole so as not to become victims. Nafisi, in another conversation with her friend, describes the oppression of the regime:
“…this regime had so penetrated our hearts and minds, insinuating itself into our homes, spying on us in our bedrooms, that it had come to shape us against our own will.”
It became easy to blame the regime for all of life’s woes. Nafisi’s friend asks,
“Because the regime will not leave you alone, do you intend to conspire with it and give it complete control over your life?”
As an American woman who cannot fathom the type of non-existence in which the women of Iran were forced to live I wonder what took Nafisi 18 years to pack her bags and leave. Why live in oppression when you can leave? But, then I reread the sentences in which Nafisi describes Iran I can feel the torture of her soul. Iran is her home and she does not want to abandon it. In the end, I am glad that Nafisi finally left Iran so that she could express herself freely. I know it was hard for her to accept that she must leave and I could feel anguish of her decision, the sadness that her Iran was no longer the Iran of her childhood, the Iran in which her imagination could shape her life publicly.
There was one particular statement that Nafisi made when she describes the theme of many Jane Austen novels
“…cruelty not under extraordinary circumstance, but ordinary ones, committed by people like us.”
It is easy to blame the leaders of warped regimes, but the ordinary people who succumb to the taste of power that enable the tyrants to control the majority are those that permit the cloud of oppression to bear down on a people.
At the Thursday afternoon meetings with her students Nafisi’s mother would serve Turkish coffee. Nafisi also likes coffee ice cream with coffee poured over it. It seems appropriate to offer a coffee ice cream recipe with this post.
Coffee Ice Cream
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 whole eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup of espresso
- Combine eggs, yolks and sugar in a bowl and blend thoroughly with a whisk or electric beater for about 5 minutes.
- Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan until it is near-boiling hot. Turn off heat.
- Slowly pour in 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, beating rapidly with a whisk.
- Once it is all beaten in, pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk mixture while beating.
- Heat mixture under medium low, stirring constantly, for a few more minutes or until the consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when dipped in. Turn off heat.
- Pour mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap placed snuggly, touching the mixture so a skin does not form.
- Chill overnight or until completely cool.
- Pour mixture into ice cream maker and following manufacturer’s directions.
- Freeze for at least 2 hours after ice cream is done churning.
Note: If you have a book that has left you with food for thought and you’d like to be a guest blogger let us know. We’d love to hear about the book and a recipe that you feel suits the book.
Today’s Featured Photographer