Batmanglij learned her mother’s dishes well and took notes at the elbow of her aunt, a pastry chef. When the Iranian revolution occurred in 1979, she and her husband fled to Vence, France. She took cooking classes there and began translating her mother’s recipes into French. At her neighbors’ urging and with their help, she put together a compilation of 50 recipes, her first, called “Ma Cuisine d’Iran” (1984).
During that time she began researching and saving string for what would become “Food of Life” and “New Food of Life,” the latter of which was featured in a 1993 Post Food section article.
“In exile,” in America, she was quoted, “you become so much more conscious of your culture, and ours is so beautiful.” She saw the book as a love letter to her sons, who she figured might never see the Iran she knew.
Last year, Zal the filmmaker, 30, and Rostam the indie rocker, 26, encouraged her to update the book for their generation. So their mother added recipes and series of instructional photos, lots of tips and an expanded glossary of ingredients. She camed up with vegetarian alternatives and substitutions, testing the 330 recipes at least three times each.
The result: a handsome 25th anniversary edition supplemented with more stories of tradition, more poetry and Persian illustrations. Batmanglij was able to translate many 16th-century Persian recipes and bring them to life.
“My other books have had my mother’s recipes. These are my recipes,” she says. “And now I want people to know about it. I am calling in favors I have done for others, something that does not come easily to me.”
So in the weeks before this year’s Nowruz, her favorite time of year, Batmanglij has even more reason to be happy. The lentils she sprouted will grow by inches; they are ornamental signs of rebirth for the holiday that officially begins with the vernal equinox. She will help plan celebrations for Iranian students at George Washington University and prepare to lead a culinary tour of Rockville’s Yekta market and restaurant in April.
Late last week, her plan to get wider notice got a big boost. Folks from “The Martha Stewart Show” called to book her for an appearance on March 16.
“I’m excited and honored,” she says. “To be recognized by Martha! I identify with her. She worked hard for a long time, and it really paid off.”
Batmanglij will sign copies of her updated “Food of Life” at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries on March 13; call 202-342-1642. Join her on today’s Free Range chat at noon at .