What Writing Parwana Meant to Me
In late September this year, the book I wrote about my family's restaurants and Afghan cuisine will be released. My aim was to write this book in a way that supersedes the distorted and impersonalised narratives associated with Afghanistan today. So much of these narratives are told through the lens of the occupier’s gaze. The reality of Afghanistan and its cuisine is that it has crystallised from the heat of a long, rich and intertwined history – one that pays homage to the interconnectedness that defines our shared human story.
Writing the book in this way was not an attempt to claim any form of exceptionalism, but simply to challenge the now resounding sentiments that have normalised the notion of the irreconcilability between seemingly disparate cultures and the atomisation of our essences. I firmly believe instead, that we are each echoes of one another, reverberating down the seemingly infinite line of cosmic time. Tracing our histories recontextualises the extent to which our fates are intertwined and allows us to abandon any false notions of exclusivity.
In this book, I have sought to make clear just such a history, through a multi-faceted lens that includes exploration of Afghanistan's cuisine and the hints of an ancient and long cultural exchange encoded within it, the key global events which shaped Afghanistan into the nation it has come to be, my mother’s genealogy and my ancestry, and through my own personal voice as a first generation displaced person.
I have sought to explore how these multiple threads have converged to shape Afghan cuisine and our menu at Parwana, us as people and as a family today, and mainly to reveal a story that is at once both individual and universal.
Writing this book felt like a cathartic experience. It is a story that is but one strand in the overall web of existence. It is offered in the hope that we can deepen and broaden the bonds that hold this web together.