So here I am, proudly strutting into the gym like a peacock, embracing my garlic-infused aura, with Persian Mast o Khiar (which translates to yoghurt and cucumber) in my heart and on my breath. The workouts might make me sweat, but I’m already immune to judgement when it comes to my weekend routine.
It’s not just about fitness for me any more; it’s about finding that extra strength whether it’s a weights workout or a group exercise class, all while making sure I get my fill of Mast o Khiar – a yoghurt and cucumber dip with a heap of garlic cloves. It goes so well with lubia polo!
The Health Kick Of Garlic
Now the scent might be more “Neet Oot On The Toon” (night out on the town for non-Geordies) than fitness enthusiast, but let me tell you, it’s all about staying fit, healthy, and, believe it or not, relaxed. Garlic might not be everyone’s first choice pre-workout snack, but bear with me.
In the ancient days, garlic wasn’t just a kitchen staple; it was a pre-workout energy booster. Garlic was the go-to supplement for Greek Olympians who were munching on it to level up their performance. And in a study from 2015, it was observed that garlic supplements could possibly enhance oxygen capacity during workouts. However, it’s essential to note that further research is required to validate this potential benefit.
Warming Up In Rasht vs. Garlic Judgement In The UK
In Gilan, Northern Iran, where it’s really humid, garlic is H’s family’s secret ingredient against colds, stress and even arthritis. It’s practically a daily ritual to indulge in a garlic clove or two, and the best part? Hugs and meet-ups might be garlic-scented, but with everyone eating it, no one smells any different. Pickled garlic or (Seer Torshe) is also a real delicacy in Iran, the older and blacker, the better! Right now, a communal experience eating fresh baby garlic with H’s family is something I long for. I really miss them.
Many families visiting the North during the holidays will stop off in Rudbar (pronouced Roodbar) which is midway between Tehran and Gilan to stock their cars up with all kinds of torshe and aged garlic en route back to the city. It’s been a bit of a tradition for us in the past.
The warmth garlic brings to your bones becomes essential as you get older when the weather takes a damp turn. H and I are on the same garlic mission, not just for health, but also for a relaxed state of mind, especially where Mast o Khiar is involved.
Back To The West
Any way, back to the West, where most Brits appreciate Mast o Khiar as Tzatziki – a delicacy served up with Lamb Kofta. Let’s face it, a lot have strolled through the charming whitewashed villas of Greece and taken a trip to The Real Greek, but not as many have ventured into the heart of Iran. The only difference between Mast o Khiar and Tzatziki is that the latter is made with dill, not ‘Sabze Namak’ or ‘Dalar’ (in English, green salt). It’s often made from ingredients that are unavailable in the UK. This includes khalavash, a herb found in the north of Iran, and pooneh (pennyroyal).
While I always try to encourage friends and colleagues with a cold to eat garlic, they usually laugh at me! And perhaps garlic, gym, relaxation, and mast o khiar shouldn’t be in the same sentence, let alone on my breath. But I’m all for challenging preconceived notions – and I’ve found it empties a packed sauna fairly quickly too!
Break Free From Stereotypes
So next time you’re torn between Mast o Khiar and garlic-laden feast and a gym session, remember – you can have both! Just enjoy the health benefits. After all, fitness is about a unique journey. Mine being relaxed and Mast o Khiar-infused!
Mast o Khiar Recipe
950g pot of Fage Greek yoghurt (we prefer a thicker yoghurt and this is the best!)
1 tbsp dried mint / or sabze namak (if you can get a khalleh to make and send you some of the good stuff!)
Garlic (a whole bulb – but it really depends on your guests)
salt and pepper
Spoon the yoghurt into a bowl, grate the cucumbers finely into the yoghurt, crush your garlic cloves and add to the mix and season with salt and pepper. Voila! An instant crowd-pleaser, although perhaps not a gym-crowd pleaser! Nooshe Joon (Bon appetit).