One more art intertwined with Persian culture, worth mentioning, is the art of cooking. Persian foods, accompanied by herbs and spices are product of the creativity, skill and patience of many generations of cooks. Persian cuisine is ancient, varied and cosmopolitan. Situated in the Middle East and West Asia, the Iranian culinary style is unique to Iran, though eating habits and products from ancient Greece, Rome and many Asian and Mediterranean cultures have influenced and are affected by this unique cuisine.
It has borrowed spices, styles and recipes from India and has in turn influenced Indian food. There are many dishes that are shared by both Iranians and Turks to the extent that it is hard to say who has borrowed what and from where. The archives at the major ancient Persian cities contain names of many food products, ingredients, beverages, herbs, and spices. Basil, mint, cumin, cloves, saffron and coriander were traded along with olive all over the ancient trade routes.
The Parthian and the Sassanid records mention walnut, pistachio, pomegranate, cucumber, broad bean, pea and sesame in their trade records. The ancient physicians influenced by the Greek sciences considered food and beverages important factors to revive body. Excessive consumption of too much red meat and fats was thought to upset body's balance. While a balanced combination of fruits, vegetables, poultry, herbs, seeds and mixed petals and blossoms of roses was regarded as a very good diet capable of strengthening body and mind.
Women have had a great influence in the history of cooking in Iran. The best chefs were and still are women. From the palaces of the Persian kings to the average housewife, women have had fabulous skills preparing exquisite cuisine. Most men do not cook but expect the best food from their wives or mothers. Iranians regard most foods at restaurants as second-class and homemade food is precious and more appreciated.
Iranian cuisine includes a wide variety of foods. Central to the Persian cooking are the numerous rice dishes, some containing almonds, pistachios, glazed carrots or orange peels, and raisins; others with vegetables and spices and occasionally with meat which is called Polo (including Loobia Polo, Albaloo Polo, Sabzi Polo, Zereshk Polo, Baghali Polo, and others). Most often the rice is perfected and finished by the use of specially prepared saffron from Iran and cooked slowly after boiling to have a hard crust at the bottom (Tahdig).
Other recipes include Khoresht (stew that is served with white Iranian rice: Ghormeh Sabzi, Gheimeh, Fesenjān, and others), dumplings, Chelow Kebabs (rice served with roasted meat: Barg, Koobideh, Jujeh, Shishlik, Soltani, Chenjeh), Ash (a thick soup: for example Ash-e Anār), kuku (vegetable souffle), stuffed vegetables accompanied by different sauces and a diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetizers and desserts is extensive.
Many of the dishes are vegetarian, and the mixing of sweet and savory, such as grains stewed with fruit and spices produce unique meals. The result is a feast of flavors and textures as well as a visual delight. Most cooking is done from scratch and ready-made products and previously prepared ingredients such as frozen mixed herbs currently becoming popular with the younger generations are not acceptable to many.