tomato paste

Talking about the affinity of rooftops and food, making tomato paste is another Iranian ritual that takes place on the rooftop.

I am not sure if it still happens as lifestyle has changed in comparison to the time I was a kid, but Iranians take their tomato paste utterly seriously and they used to be reluctant to buy theirs at a shop because of all the preservatives and additives.

Tomato paste is widely used in Persian cuisine and no wonder why Iranian mothers want o make sure they have enough stored away for the entire year.

In summer times when tomatoes are ripe and plum, the father of the family goes to the main vegetable market and buys lots and lots of tomatoes in wooden boxes and delivers them to the lady of the house. Then all the women of the family from aunt to cousins and even neighbours and friends are invited to the tomato paste making ritual. That means the rooftop is packed with women and often children. The first step is to crush the tomatoes. That can happen by hands or wrapping plastic bags on their feet and then stepping into the pots filled with tomatoes and squishing them and enjoying the satisfying noise of bursting the tomatoes. This was something kids would just love and mothers would gladly let them make a mess.

Then they would pass the crushed tomatoes through a plastic sieve to get rid of the peels and seeds. Then the pure tomatoes would be put in huge pots on large cooking hobs connected to gas capsules. Then the kids were urged to leave because it is really dangerous as hot tomatoes jump nearly everywhere as they cook and that can cause serious blisters.

After hours of jumping up and down and being stirred by the ladies, the tomato paste is finally ready to be poured into sterilised glass jars. They often cover the top of the jar with a spoon full of animal fat or butter to make sure oxygen does not penetrate into their jars to create molds.

My mom was really never into this ritual at all because she considered herself a more modern lady and she was more than happy to have her husband buy the tomato paste in cans in stores. She would only advise my father to buy a specific brand out of the experience. She sometimes bought homemade tomato paste from neighbours who had spent their hot summer days making tomato paste on their rooftops.

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