Iranian Baklava

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Palo Alto, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/1/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main description:

AB: “Are there any Iranian foods which have a special meaning to you?”

DB: “No. Haha, jk. Um, special meaning… probably baklava.”

AB: “Awesome! What can you tell me about Iranian Baklava?”

DB: “I’ll tell you how mamanjoun taught me to make it. First, you roll out some phyllo dough on the counter. The filling is pretty simple, you just mix walnuts, sugar, and I also add nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice if I’m feeling spicy. But anyway, you blend your nuts and sugar together, and you should get this really crunchy and sweet kinda filling. Now comes the hard part. You spoon a row of your filling onto a sheet of phyllo and you carefully roll it up. Phyllo is super thin, obviously, so I know mamanjoun dabs water on her fingers to help it stick to them, which can make it easier to work with. That part literally takes forever. But anyways, once you have all your phyllo walnut wraps, you cut them up into sections so you have nice little baklava rolls that fit in your hand. You bake them at, um, I think 350, but mamanjoun just says to watch them until they brown. Oh, and you top with a syrup. You make that just by boiling lemon juice, water, and sugar, and then you drizzle that over the baklava once it’s baked. I’ve made them once with mamanjoun and once by myself. They turned out really well the first time and… okay the second time. But my friends still really liked them.”

AB: “When would you say makes Iranian Baklava special?”

DB: “Listen, I’m not a baklava expert. It’s a hell of a lot better than the baklava they have at most restaurants, I’ll tell you that. Our baklava is crunchy when you bite into it, which I think makes it taste a lot better than baklava that’s just like… stuffed with sweet walnut powder or something. That stuff’s gross.”

AB: “When do you make baklava. Is it for any special occasion?”

DB: “Well, I guess mamanjoun makes it whenever there’s family visiting, really. I kinda think she just likes to show off, but also it’s everybody’s favorite food, so I get it. She’ll also make batches of baklava for us to take home sometimes because it’s so good. When I’ve made it, I made it because it was Thanksgiving and I wanted to bring a dessert while also showing off. It’s really a lot of work, so I don’t think anybody would be making it by themselves.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “Why is baklava special to you and your family?”
DB: “Honestly, I’m just really proud I know how to make it. Like, I can’t cook any Iranian food for shit, but I can do baklava, lol. I feel like I worked really hard, and it’s nice to like…be able to share my family with my friends through, like, food.”

Personal interpretation:

Baklava is a common dish throughout Greece and much of the middle-east, so it isn’t  a uniquely Iranian dish. The informant, however, emphasizes a few techniques that make the dish unique, and he sees it as a part of his culture that he can easily share for others to appreciate.