I was a temporary bride – Jennifer Klinec never wanted a big wedding. But that doesn’t mean she expected it to take place in Iran, outside a food stall …
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Jennifer, with cropped, blond hair, a wide smile and an endearing air of bewilderment at the twists her life has taken,
tells me over a coffee that she knew little about temporary marriages before she decided to visit Iran. In fact, when she arrived in the beautiful desert city of Yazd – famous for its labyrinthine old city mudbrick buildings and ancient wind towers – she was looking for women, not men. Having already travelled widely, including to Yemen and Syria, to learn new recipes, the former cookery writer was determined to find a housewife to teach her about Persian food.
“I thought I would spend the whole day cooking with women in someone’s kitchen and then be on my own in the hotel room the whole night,” she says. So, when she was approached by a slightly grumpy 25-year-old man called Vahid, she was only interested in hearing about his mother, she says.
“He had none of the savvy that would have made me wary. I knew he wasn’t trying to approach me for a date, he was just passing the time. He was shorter than me and looked angry – he has bushy eyebrows and long eyelashes and always looked disapproving. “I was reading a cookbook and he said his mum was a very good cook. When I said, ‘Oh great, would she let me come over?’, he didn’t seem very keen.”
Despite his reluctance, the next day, Jennifer was in his mother’s kitchen being taught to cook Asheh reshteh – a herb, bean and noodle soup. Next came Fesenjoon – a stew of chicken, walnuts and pomegranates – and in the weeks that followed, came dishes from the family’s home province of Khuzestan.
At the same time, she was learning about life in the family’s lower middle-class home, in a city that prides itself on the honesty and religious conservatism of its people. “Yazd is a whole other world. When I travel I always try and get out of the capital city to somewhere slower and smaller. I knew Yazd would be very beautiful and the food would be good.
“It was very segregated – I think even people from Tehran would be surprised,” Jennifer says. “At the bakery there were separate lines for men and women.”
In the evenings, Vahid would walk her home. “He was bossy and annoying and we didn’t have much to talk about in the day,” says Jennifer. “He was obsessively chivalrous and would bore me by talking about monuments.”
It was only when Vahid decided to take her on a “food adventure” for a day that the pair’s relationship blossomed. Cemented with bowls of sheep’s head soup and sweet shops selling pashmak, Iranian candyfloss, Vahid opened up and shared stories about his childhood.
Read more: The Guardian
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