Thursday, May 13, 2010

adventures in sinaesthesia: persian rose


IMG_4831 In The Arc Of Your Mallet

Don't go anywhere without me.
Let nothing happen in the sky apart from me,
or on the ground, in this world or that world,
without my being in its happening.
Vision, see nothing I don't see.
Language, say nothing.
The way the night knows itself with the moon,
be that with me. Be the rose
nearest to the thorn that I am.

I want to feel myself in you when you taste food,
in the arc of your mallet when you work,
when you visit friends, when you go
up on the roof by yourself at night.

There's nothing worse than to walk out along the street
without you. I don't know where I'm going.
You're the road, and the knower of roads,
more than maps, more than love.

Translation of Rumi by Coleman Barks

I am obsessed with Persia, and have always been, but alas, political tensions have kept me from visiting that land of my dreams so far. SO I visit it in my head, frequently, so I though I would let you all in to my Persian headspace in honor of my rose drawing and giveaway (if you are interesting in winning a goody bag of rose-perfume related treats, leave a comment here). Apologies in advance for what is bound to be a link-heavy post, but there’s so much cool stuff out there about roses and Persia that I just want to share it all with you.

Starting with the basics, Persia, modern-day Iran, is believed, among other major markers of advanced civilization, to be the birthplace of rose cultivation. Rosa Damascena, one of the two major varieties of roses used for fragrance, was first developed and cultivated here, and roses in general have been cultivated here since at least the 9th century (see a great fragrantica article on persian rose here). I would love to catch one of the marvelous rose festivals someday; maybe sometime soon I’ll get a chance to want to go on the rose harvest tour. Hopefully. While Iran makes lots and lots of rose attar and rosewater, it is not a major player in the worldwide fragrance game; Bulgaria has it beat there, apparently. Persian rose products are mainly distributed throughout the Islamic world, for use in holy sites, homes, food, and on bodies. Here is an interesting article on the harvesting of rosewater at the human flower project.

Where I love rosewater the most is in my food. I love eating things which have been delicately enhanced bypersian garden the ethereal fragrance and flavor of rose—it is a philosophical experience, one of the closest marriages of the senses I know.  I will never forget one of the most romantic (and cheap) dinners I experienced was at one of my favorite Persian restaurants Pomegranate in Toronto. My husband and I ate so many rose-scented things that I felt like rose fragrance was coming out of all my pores—that I was, in fact, a rose myself, blooming and expanding in this moment of complete pleasure. My favorite Iranian cookbook author Najimieh writes often about roses in her cookbooks, and I urge you all to check them out. She tells a great anecdote about the daily use of jasmine too, which I will quote someday when it’s appropriate. To tide you over until you all get her New Food of life or any of her other publications (no this isn’t a paid ad; I just love her writing and her recipes), I found a few recipes on the web for things I like to make—I always keep rosewater in stock in my pantry for recipes such as these:

IMG_4618 persian rose cocktail

rose water ice

primer on persian food


persian love cake

One of my favorite chais—persians call it chai too- is a variation on the traditional Persian rose tea. I brew a bit of spice blend (just a pinch in this instance) in a pot of water, then add rose petals, rosewater, black tea, a little sugar, and milk. It is pretty heavenly.

So here’s my prescription for this week’s Adventure in Sinaesthesia. Choose your personal favorite rose perfume and apply liberally. You could preface this with a good read (maybe Persian poetry or folktales) and a long soak in a bath scented with rosewater and petals, if you are feeling particularly decadent. You could even light rose-scented candles-- Pacifica used to have a candle called Persian Rose, which was quite delightful, and which I would recommend for this adventure, were it still available, but I’m sure any other well-made candle would do. After your oblations, make some Persian food or go out if you are lucky enough to live near a Persian restaurant. Eat whatever you like; I doubt you will miss consuming rosewater or rose petals at some point int he meal, be the course savory or sweet. Listen to Persian music, dance to it if you feel like it. I guarantee you will feel happy and in touch with your senses in the most transcendent way.




rose pic mine

Rose chai photo mine.

image of darius holding a rose from



  1. Sarah, have you ever been to the International Rose Testing Garden in Portland, Oregon? Hundreds of different rose varieties, thousands of rose bushes; atop a mountain overlooking the city.

    Do you make your own rosewater?

  2. Hey Stephanie! Yes I have been there, and my Grandpa painted a really cool watercolor of it years ago which I keep on my wall. I also really like Tacoma's rose garden, which as tons of varieties but is a little more manageable:


what thinkest thou?


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