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Tarof and Other Christmas Rituals

We were raised in an Assyrian-Iranian American household. “Tarof” takes up a large part of the day. It’s a set of rules to follow in social situations. Just Wikipedia that shit. You can’t come right out and say what you think or ask for what you want. That’s rude! It often involves insisting that others take things – food, tea, clothing, art and other decor, if it’s not nailed down it can be offered to you, and heartily insisting that you are not worthy of such wonderful things. Here is roughly the exchange that occurred late Christmas eve (1:45 am Christmas morning to be precise) between my aunt and I. As we’re preparing to leave,

“Take some food, let me pack some food for you,” my aunt says.

“We can’t possibly, we’re making a lot of food tomorrow,” I reply.

“But we’re only two people, it’ll go bad,” she rebuts.

“OK, maybe a little, just because I love your food so much.” I throw an extra compliment in there for flavor.

[filling of multiple tupperwares ensues]

“That’s really too much.” I threaten to leave some behind.

“Fine, I’ll throw the rest away.” My aunt is a tarof expert. I’m losing.

“Well, no, it’s just I’m making food.”

“You can freeze it. It freezes great.”

This persists for several more minutes. I end up coming home with rice, ghormeh zabzi, shirin polo, pork, boushala (2 tubs), pumpkin seeds, chocolates, and mysteriously, a pack of gum.

4 thoughts on “Tarof and Other Christmas Rituals

  1. pack of gum! Your aunt is thoughtful on a completely different level. Love holiday eating…


  3. Hahaha. I can seriously read this a million times and still crack up

  4. […] more tarof tales, read this post, or listen to this great story from This American […]

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