Hot and Cold Foods In Persian Culture


Informant is a friend of mine from high school. She is a current student at UCLA and former student at The Madeira School (the high school we both attended). She is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Iran. She does not have any specific religious affiliations. I chose to interview several people from my high school to compare their versions of our school stories. She is referred to as “SF”.


I asked the informant about any homeopathic medicines or remedies she has learned from her family/culture. She provided multiple examples – this example is of the concept of hot and cold foods.


In Persian culture, there’s this really interesting concept. It’s foods that are used that is like kind of used for specific, like, things that you’re feeling. So basically the words are like there’s two different categories, like a food can be either “garm” or “sard” and garm and sard mean hot and cold. So like certain foods like fit into those categories and based on like this thing that you like, like if you have a headache or whatever, like either someone will tell you, oh, you have to eat foods that are in the hot category or like you have to eat foods that are in the cold category. And like, I don’t necessarily know, like what goes in each category cause there’s no, there’s kind of like an intuitive like thinking that you think so like ginger is like a hot food or whatever because like, you know, kind of warms you up. But like, there are certain ones that you can’t, I can’t really like distinguish. Like you have to know. Like, I feel like elders, like just know what are like hot and cold foods. And so like that’s a pretty interesting concept that I feel is very specific to like Persian culture is like if you say, Oh, I like feeling ill or whatever, it’s like this certain way, that way I tell you to eat also gets either like hot or cold.


While my informant believed the concept of hot and cold foods to be specific to Persian culture, the concept is actually prevalent in a lot of cultures, especially those native to East Asia. In Korea and China, the concept of hot and cold foods is especially prevalent in postpartum care. The correlation of hot and cold is not necessarily the specific temperature of the food, but the effect the food has on the body – if it is warming or cooling. I especially appreciated SF’s comment “I feel like elders, like just know what are hot and cold foods.” It’s a perfect summarization of the mechanisms of folklore: that it is knowledge passed down through generations, so currently, the elder generations have the knowledge, and will pass it along to their descendants.

Translation: Garm and sard are Farsi words. Garm = hot, and sard = cold.


For additional versions of hot and cold foods, see: Song, Yuanqing. “坐月子:Postpartum Confinement”. May 20, 2019. USC Folklore Archive.