MARCH 30, 1959
PARIS—Some years ago when the Shah of Persia was in the United States, he came to Hyde Park on Thanksgiving Day to lay a wreath on my husband's tomb. My son Elliott, who was living at Hyde Park at the time, had been in Tehran with his father when the conference of Prime Minister Churchill, Prime Minister Stalin and my husband was held there. At that time Elliott had met His Majesty, and so the whole party from Iran came to Elliott's house for Thanksgiving dinner after the ceremonies at my husband's memorial.
When His Majesty was kind enough to ask the Ambassador and Mrs. Wailes to bring Anna, Nina and me to lunch with him in Tehran last week, I was happy to have him remember the occasion. He held the lunch in the Marble Palace, thinking we would enjoy seeing it; and it certainly is well worth seeing. The whole palace is built of native marble. The staircase is beautifully carved, and the reception room in which the Shah came to greet us has walls and ceilings which reflect the light from crystal chandeliers and shine like so many little pieces of silver. The Shah's own study, which we were allowed to see before leaving, is panelled and furnished with wood mosaic after the manner of the boxes which I had seen in Shiraz. This is a delicate and lengthy process, but the patterns are very beautiful and the colors soft and restful.
Iran, I learned, produces caviar from the Caspian Sea, and the country prides itself on having a particular kind of very fine caviar which is served only for the royal family. Caviar is growing scarce, however, for I noticed the last time I was in Russia that the price had gone up considerably, and in Iran it costs little less than it does in New York City. No meal in Iran is complete without rice, and often they have it cooked in two ways at the same meal. There are any number of sauces which are used with rice and which could easily make of the dish a meal in itself.
They told me in Shiraz that at Persian meals it is a frequent custom to put all the food out on the table. Everyone fills his own plate, and then all the guests stand or sit around, eating and talking. Since they seem to have good appetites, they can go back and get more of whatever pleases them. We Americans have very wisely copied this custom, but on the whole the prettiest tables I have seen have been the Persian tables. They seem to arrange their food with an eye to the color, and when you come in you are attracted as much by the looks of the dishes as by their content. They have a variety of melons and very good tangerines. In season, I understand, they have many varieties of grapes, all very good; but they have not learned to produce wine very successfully, and the quality is not consistent.
I am told that Iranians like to drink milk, but the cows I have seen look quite small and I am fairly sure would not produce milk in great quantities. I learned to my surprise that sheep's milk is often drunk, something I never knew before. There is much tuberculosis, however, among the cattle. The U. N. has a project for improving the breed and for teaching methods of pasteurization, but the important thing, of course, is to strengthen the stock itself.