YIDFF 2011 New Asian Currents
Iranian Cookbook
An Interview with Mohammad Shirvani (Director)

Iranian Women and the Kitchen

Q: What do kitchens mean to you?

MS: Naturally, a kitchen is where food is made. Food is very important in Iran, as it is in Japan. Kitchens used to be bigger in the past. The Persian word for “cooking” translates directly to “cooking art.” The word “art” is included. Cooking is art, so the bigger the studio and the more abundant the tools, the greater the artwork that can be made. As populations began to grow 50 to 60 years ago houses began to shrink, and as houses began to shrink, kitchens did as well. Many who watch this film comment on the great kitchens, but for us they are normal kitchens.

Q: In the film there is a woman who says that even if her back hurts, she prefers to eat at home and would never eat out. Does eating out have a bad image in Iran?

MS: This film features seven women from various generations. Women from various ages appear in this film, from 100 years to my sister in her twenties. It is not the younger women, but rather their seniors who insist on not eating out. The young generation does not want to spend much of their time in the kitchen, so they rely on fast food and restaurants. The younger the generation, the more the style and amount of time spent in the kitchen change. For them, it’s modern style. The two youngest women in the film want to free themselves from a traditional atmosphere and lifestyle that takes so much time, which is how they end up in the film.

Q: Of the women who appear in the film, the 100 year-old woman differs from the others in that she is the only one free from cooking. Did you include her for that comparison?

MS: Exactly. The 100 year-old is the only one not in a kitchen, and she hints at the futures of the other women, that they will likely end up like her. That her son expresses so much love for her is normal in Iran. In Iranian society mothers, and to a lesser extent fathers, are very strongly loved by their children.

Q: You said you hadn’t known much about kitchens. What do you think of them now that you’ve finished this film?

MS: My interest and respect for women has deepened. And I have begun to feel thankful for my food. Now I no longer eat to fill my stomach. When I eat, I have become interested in what is in my food, and how it came to be. If someday I end up sharing a roof with a partner again, I will not want her to cook for me. If I really want to eat good food, I will hire a chef who can make the same things as my mother. You should give me a robot that can reproduce my mother’s flavors. You may have been interested by watching this film, but for me it is a slightly bitter work. My heart is heavy when I watch mothers waste their youths for us, in the kitchens of our homes. I’ve begun to think that women spend too much time in the kitchen. There must be more effective ways for them to use their time. So, I have given up the delicious food of my mother, and instead wish that women may lead more enjoyable and worthwhile lives in the future.

(Compiled by Kimuro Shiho)

Interviewers: Kimuro Shiho, Arakaki Maki / Interpreter: Takada Forugh / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Chiba Minami / Video: Ishii Tatsuya / 2011-10-10