by Laura Pilat

The winter chill creeps through the hidden cracks around the old windows. The air is brisk and cool, since an ancient heater on the other side of the apartment provides the bare minimum of warmth. The worn wooden floors are covered with Persian rugs that his mom gave him before he left for college, but with each movement, the floors creak under our weight.

Daryon and I sit on a futon in his living room, which also happens to be his dining room. There is no longer a 14-hour drive between us, and we have just spent an entire day together. Something we have been unable to do since the beginning of the school year.

As we sit for a moment, he describes to me the meal he plans to make for dinner. It is the first Persian dish he will make for me. I start to drift away from the conversation while he explains the meal, focusing instead on the features of his face that I love.

His eyes are milk chocolate, and they contrast with his pale winter skin. His hair is the darkest shade of ebony, like the midnight sky when the moon disappears from sight.

His smile was what caught me the first time that we met.

When he is truly happy, his smile takes over his entire face, stretching from ear to ear. The laughter that almost always follows is full of joy. It comes from deep within his stomach after he has done something goofy or has made a comment he found hilarious. He is a man who continues to enjoy life with childlike humor. This innocence and optimism is the strength that keeps us both moving forward.

Daryon is my best friend, my boyfriend. He is the person I see myself spending the rest of my life with.

The room becomes dark as the day turns to evening. We move into the kitchen, working in a confined space that may as well have been a walk-in closet. A size you would expect in a college apartment. The space contains one oven with a stovetop, a fridge and barely any counter space.

Our elbows bump as we prepare the ingredients for Adas Polo. This traditional Iranian dish is not a fancy one. Instead, it is commonly prepared for a family dinner. Daryon shapes ground beef into the form of meatballs as basmati rice begins to cook. While he does this, I stir lentils in a separate pot.

We talk and laugh about our plans and how Marvel films are obviously better than DC. We transfer the meatballs over to the pan with onions and garlic that have cooked to a golden-brown hue. Each piece sizzles as it makes contact with the hot surface.

In the other pot, the rice becomes a bright sunny shade from the additions of turmeric and saffron. Key spices for any Persian dish.

Slowly, Daryon builds the dish one layer at a time starting with the rice, followed by the meat and lentil mixture, creating a fusion of flavors. After the pot is full, the dish cooks a little longer, and the tiny kitchen’s harmonious smells meld into one.

We move to the living room to avoid anxiously staring at the pot. A watched pot never boils, so they say. My stomach creates a grumbling that resembles the voice of Chewbacca. I grab my belly with both arms, hoping that will make the sound go away.

With that, the timer goes off, and we race back to the kitchen. Steam from the aromatic rice surrounds us as Daryon removes the lid from the pot. After we scoop the adas polo onto our plates, he garnishes the top with raisins and a fried egg. This pulls the dish together.

We take the finished plates to the living room and sit down at a table for two, nestled next to the futon. I use a fork to push a scoop of the mixture onto a spoon that combines two bites into one.

The flavors burst in my mouth as the sweetness of the raisins accentuates the flavor of the spiced rice and savory ground beef. There is a warmth that comes with the meal. It feels like a chunky knit sweater comforting us on this cold December day.


Adas Polo with Meat

Vegetarian Adas Polo

Cover photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash