Hours before we were due at a night-time engagement party in Sanandaj, our host invited us to spend the day at a Bāgh (fruit orchard and gardens) on the outskirts of Sanandaj city.
I enjoyed a pleasant and tranquil day walking around the fruit trees, watching my daughter play with our host’s children and nephews. Suddenly it started raining and we all piled into the covered patio where they were heating up an outdoor grill and preparing the dough for a local specialty: Kalāneh. I watched our host kneading the dough and chopping the chives that served as a filling. She flattened each ball of very stretchy wheat dough, sprinkled it with chopped chives and folded it in half. Then she placed it on the hot grill to be toasted on each side. Our host would then place each prepared kalāneh in a basket until it was time to sit around the collective sofreh and enjoy. They had also prepared a rice dish, but the kalāneh was the star of the meal.
On another day, we climbed the hill to Ābidar park to contemplate Sanandaj from above. As we made our way down, the children clamored for balāl which by now was my daughter’s favorite outdoor snack as well. As the children played on a nearby trampoline, we stood in line anticipating the delicious grilled corn on the cob, dipped in salt water.
But the most memorable culinary experience was the meal on our last day. From the morning, our hosts had purchased several kinds of greens that were to be stuffed with a rice mixture to make Dolmeh. I had tried Shirazi style cabbage dolmeh and Dezfuli style stuffed-grape leaf dolmeh before, but this treat was particularly special. Several varieties of dolmeh were all placed in the same pot. Dried plums were generously distributed among the layers of cabbage, grape leaf, kale, potato, tomato and green pepper dolmeh and left to cook slowly while we went out on a visit to the historic Sanandaj Bazār and the Khāne Kord anthropology museum.
Although my main goal on this trip was to learn as much as possible about Kurdish music and folk dance, experiencing the food was an added pleasure. Feeling my host’s hospitality was a true privilege.