India Joze gears up for the Persian New year
The 42 years that Jozseph Schultz has cooked in Santa Cruz are punctuated by festivals and parties of all kinds, from calamari to chickpeas to edible flowers. This weekend marks the 30th year he’ll throw a festival for the Persian New Year, Now Rooz. GT sat down with Schultz to go over his party plans, which include a cooking class outside at India Joze on Saturday, March 21, and a Festival Feast on Sunday, March 22.
You’re not Persian, why celebrate their New Year?
Persian is basically the oldest continuously celebrated culture. Now Rooz is a festival that goes back at least 6,000 years. It’s basically the basis of many of our western celebratory traditions. Culinarily speaking, Persia’s where the agricultural revolution took place. So when we talk about most of the foods that are the basis of our society, like rice and wheat and lamb and wine and almonds, they all came from Persia at one point or another—both in ingredients and in techniques.
What is Persian cuisine like?
One of the striking features is they never accepted chilis the way that other cultures did, so it’s not a spicy cuisine. They do import spices. They celebrate the local and the far away. It’s not any one thing, it’s many, many different food traditions coming together—from herbs like sabzi, or green herbs of different kinds that are very important in all of the spring foods, and of course that’s hunter gatherer stuff. In addition to celebrating wheat, they celebrate non-wheat. There are various kinds of cookies that are gluten free, and have been forever. In Santa Cruz, the big problem is that no two people can eat together. This festival is culinarily inclusive because they put out all of these different things, so that everyone can eat together.
Forty dollars gets you a seat at the festival feast table. Are you crazy?
I like to make it accessible. Money is a good way of sort of focusing interest, but I think to have that be the only way to decide who gets to go to something is just kind of lame. I mean, I see these pop-up restaurants that are charging $200 a person. This is obscene. It’s not that I don’t think they’re good cooks, it’s just that there’s something wrong there. So that’s my political statement. I look at these festivals as a culture where people eat together, rich and poor.
When does Now Rooz begin?
If you go to any Persian website they’ll have little clocks counting down to Now Rooz, because the exact second of the spring equinox is the new year. And that changes every year, of course. There’s a belief that if you put an egg on a mirror, then on that exact second you’ll see the egg move, because supposedly there’s a cosmic bull that has the Earth in its horns, and at that exact second it switches from one horn to the other. Many people will say that they’ve indeed seen the egg tremble.
For more information visit facebook.com/IndiaJoze. PHOTO: The Persian New Year begins on the spring equinox. The belief is that if you place an egg on a mirror you’ll see it tremble at the exact second the new year begins. CHIP SCHEUER