Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace: a Persian Cucumber & “Sekanjebin” Summer Drink

Virtual Midsummer Potlock for Peace | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-21

I. Taking a Stand at an Anniversary

Since I started this blog exactly three years ago, I have lived in four different houses. Early after publishing the first post, I left the apartment I shared with great roommates to move in with my ex-boyfriend. A year and half later, I moved out to another apartment with not-so-great roommates. Then finally a month ago, I moved, again, to a tiny apartment right under the Colosseum. The latter, is one of the most exciting and demanding events of my adult life. 

Home, has a always been a big theme in this blog, as I said right in the beginning (gosh, that ‘about’ page needs to be updated!). It’s an argument that occupies my mind whenever I think I’m finally settling down, and whenever I feel lost. Artists, writers and thinkers have dedicated years to work on the subject of home, and movement. I prefer to refer to them, rather than poorly attempting to elaborate this vast subject. But, again, home, it returns, and it is in a way the core of Lab Noon. 

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Lab Noon, was born as a laboratory of (metaphoric) fermentation and baking, as noon means bread in Persian, other than midday. I wanted this virtual space to be my home, no matter where I physically was. I didn’t start this blog as a pure hobby. My intentions were professional right from the beginning, although I didn’t exactly what direction my career as a visual creative and food enthusiast would take. 

Three years later, I work as a professional food photographer, and content creator for social media, and I’m aspiring to more food writing. BUT! I can’t begin to emphasize how important it is for me to keep this blog and my social media, true to myself, and my own values. As late Zygmunt Bauman said years ago, our modern societies are liquid, our reality is fluid. We are living in weird, dark times, and the most dangerous way to behave is to be indifferent. Therefore I am making a plea to all those who have a platform and an audience (which in the era of social media basically means everybody), to take a stand and make their voice heard, while respecting their niche. 

Honestly, I sometimes find it very hard to talk about food and food alone when horrid attacks and bombs and killing is on the order of the day. We can’t increase the violence by discussing the violence and sharing its images. What can do, is however to open up for dialogue; prepare a platform to talk, and to listen, especially to those who are often not heard. We can encourage the conversation. If you think this idea is bizzarre for a food blog, read this note on Food52 that was published the day after the US elections in last November. 

II: A Picnic Blog Party: Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace

On that note, I invited dozens of fellow blogger to participate in a virtual gathering and each bring something to eat or drink as IRL. Spread a cloth, set the scene, distribuite the food, eat, drink, be marry and… start a dialogue. Twenty something bloggers have joined me for the virtual midsummer potluck for peace. Some were very eager to participate but couldn’t make it in the end. Many others gave support.

There are recipes of all kind, and different origins. Salads, grills, pies, quiches, bites, desserts and drinks, there’s a glorious amount of summer recipes perfect for picnics or al fresco dining. Check out the guest recipes in the list bellow. I couldn’t have celebrated Lab Noon’s birthday in any better way, so once again, thank you everyone for coming to this virtual gathering!

My recipe is a classic Perisan drink with cucumbers and mint that you can find after the list of bloggers and recipes.
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Guests’ recipes for the Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace

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Workshop: The Puglia Encounter: Food, Lifestyle & Photography in Italy’s Deep South, 26 – 29 October

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
I remember very well the first time I ever visited a “Masseria” in Puglia, in south of Italy.

It was August 1st 2015. There was a full moon. The blue moon, to be precise; the largest full moon of the recent years. The masseria I visited that night, was a traditional one; a sort of a farm land, with a main house for the land lord, and small cottages for the farmers. Once there would have lived sheep, goats and chickens. Masseria was a self sustainable small ecosystem. 

On that full moon in that humble farmhouse, I experienced the simplest and most essential form of luxury: simple food prepared by local people, a young poet and musician playing his acoustic guitar and singing the folkloric chants of old times, and hectares of dry, but fertile land. He played and sang under the bright moonlight, we listened in wonder and awe, following the footsteps of a wise man who showed us the way through the wild plants, explaining their name and use, and encouraging us to remember their smell. 

The poetry and the depth of that experience, mingled with a disarming simplicity is a memory I can hardly ever let go of, as well as other wonders like the ones I wrote about in this post where I shared many photos and stories from my stay in Puglia. As soon as I visited that land and its old masserias, now remodeled for the functions of modern life (often as bed & breakfasts), I knew they would be the perfect place to run retreats and workshops. It was a dream for me to share the wonder, the quite and the incredibly rich culture of Puglia with likeminded people in search of beauty, slow traveling and of course, good food.

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
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The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti - Saghar SetarehI am happy beyond words to tell you that that dream has come true! I am incredibly honored and excited to tell you that together with the talented and inspiring ladies Emiko Davies  and Alice Kiandra Adams, we will hosting The Puglia Encounter: Food, Lifestyle and Photography in Italy’s Deep South.

The experience is a two and half day stay at the end of October in the marvelous Masseria Potenti, where together we will discover the surrounding, food and craft of Puglia. We will cook, eat, drink, chill and take photos by the swimming pool and around the masseria. We will wander a bit in the area, treasure hunting in Grottaglie for Puglia’s trademark ceramic craft. We will forage and gather seasonal herbs, flowers and vegetables and will set the table with all that is authentic to Puglia.

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Photo credit: Masseria Potenti

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti

Photo Credit: Emiko Davies

Autumn is a fascinating time in South of Italy, where it’s still warm, the light is golden and the olive trees are ready for the harvest. With a bit of luck, we will taste some new oil and we will definitely make toasts with Primitivo wine, that is typical of that region.

Here you can check out Emiko’s post for a lot of incitement and inspiration and here you can read about how enthusiastic is Alice about the ceramic treasure hunting in Grottaglie. Ci vediamo at #ThePugliaEncounter!

The Puglia Encounter – Autumn Edition

Food, lifestyle and photography in Italy’s Deep South

Book here!

The Venue

Workshop: The Puglia Encounter at Masseria Potenti
Photo Credit: Masseria Potenti

La Masseria Potenti near Manduria, Puglia, about 15km from the turquoise Ionian sea and one hour from Brindisi (the closest airport). The white-washed masseria (a traditional Pugliese farmhouse), which dates back to the 1300s, is an oasis in the rugged, “wild west” of Puglia, set amongst grain fields, ancient olive groves and Primitivo vineyards. A boutique agriturismo and self-sustainable farm of 130 hectares, the masseria was brought to life by Maria Grazia Di Lauro and her husband Paolo, whose dream was to transmit their love for their native land to their children and friends. It’s a special place that will inspire every one of your senses. Web | Instagram

The Workshop

The experience will include two and a half days of cooking, photography and styling sessions with your hosts, who will share their experience with you, as well as an excursion to nearby Grottaglie to discover the artisan ceramics and local cheesemakers. We will take a wander through nearby fields and pick vegetables out of the garden to prepare meals and set the table. There will be delicious, traditional meals prepared by the cooks of the Masseria – and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the Masseria in between.

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Date

26-29 October 2017

Who Can Apply

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A Coffee Bundt Cake from the North for a Fertile Season, And an Award Nomination

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I. The Girl from the North and Her Secret Ingredient

On a warm Spring day, a girl with mousy hair worn in two long braids, walked down the stairs of an airplane in Rimini, in north east Italy. The hot sun kissed her pale skin, and the humid air filled her nose thrills with the smell of the sea. As she took her first steps on the Italian soil —that couldn’t be more unlike her cold, dark and quiete country— she felt as though she had finally come home. She was glowing with that light of those who have found something they had long lost when she met the dark-haired, dark-skinned, fascinating young Roman who stole her young heart away. He happened to be in Rimini by pure chance, substituting a fellow tour driver who had fallen ill at the last moment. He could hardly understand a single word she said, but he fell in love with the Fin girl nonetheless. 

More than a year later, she gave birth to a baby boy that decades later I shared a significant amount of my life with. Although our paths later drifted apart and we didn’t get the dolce vita happily-ever-after of his parents, I am eternally grateful for the numerous ways this encounter enriched my life. She evoked the love for great north in me. For a magical Finland that glows in the aurea borealis, that is home to Santa Claus and its breakfasts always smells like big coffees and freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

Although back in the seventies that handsome Roman would bring his own pasta and tomato sauce whenever they travelled to Finland, it warms my heart to say that years later we shared many Christmas and Easter meals (untouchable staples of the Italian cooking tradition) with bountiful spreads of Italian, Finnish and Iranian dishes. If this is not one those marvelous immigrant food stories, I don’t know what is.

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One of the Finnish treats that she often baked is this incredible coffee bundt cake. Traditionally the cake is baked around Christmas time, but it’s so good that you’d want to eat it all year round. The cake is dark, moist and sweet just to the right point. There is something of a mystery to the taste of this cake, if you don’t know what the ingredients are. Coffee arrives first of course, but right after that a caramely, nutty note sneaks in, sometimes so stealthily, as if it was disguised in chocolate.  There is no chocolate, rest assured. The secret ingredient that together with coffee creates the unnamed flavor, is dates. You know that feeling when you were having a nice dream, yet you can’t quite remember what you were dreaming about? That’s how the combination of coffee and dates tastes like. 

Dates are the heart of a Finnish Christmas cake! Isn’t that mesmerizing? Think of the snow, the North Pole, the berries, and dates? There must be another immigrant food story about it that we just don’t know. I also add a good dose of cardamom powder, first because the cardamom-coffee match is made in heaven in North, second because the cardamom and dates match is made in the heavens in the middle east

II. New Season, New Projects & an Award Nomination

We’re nowhere near Christmas of course, but my I have no few reasons to be celebrating. First, Norouz, the Persian new year on the first day of Spring is just upon us (annual Norouz post coming super soon). I will be moving to a new apartment at the end of April and I have many plans and projects for the new place to share with you in person,  and last but definitely not least, I am among the finalists of the first edition of Cucina Blog Award, run by Italian daily paper, Corriere della Sera. Angela Frenda —the food editor of Corriere and cookbook author— has been working hard in the past years to raise the level of the food communication to the top measures of the world. I am honored beyond words to be in the group of 18 talented bloggers, most of whom have been of incredible influence and inspiration to my work.

If you like Lab Noon, you can show your support and vote for my blog in the Best Social Blog category. 

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The award is part of the yearly food conference called Cibo a Regola d’Arte, organized by Corriere and held in Milan from March 21st to April 2nd. I also have the pleasure to hold a Persian cooking lesson during the very same event on April 1st, that you can subscribe to here. The award ceremony is on the same night where the one and only Honey & Co from London will hold a pop-up restaurant. I can’t wait to meet them and taste their food, and I am thrilled to meet and reunite with other amazing finalist bloggers such as Fotogrammi di zucchero, Two for The Bar, Betty Liu, Il Gambero Russo, Miss Foodwise (Remember my post about her book? I am taking it with me to get it signed!), Juls’ Kitchen, Con le Mani in Pasta, Gnam Box, Valdirose, Hortus Cuisine, Naturalmente Buono, Kraut Kopf and others. Continue reading