On October 22, 2017, many AAFSW members and Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW President, were invited to participate at a special event hosted by Ancient Dinners, which was presented at the Oakville Grille and Wine Bar in Bethesda. This event, offered by the Ancient Dinners President, was a wonderful cultural culinary experience with an inspiring program led by three renowned speakers, experts in their fields, a delicious three-course dinner with clean, local, sustainable food and wine, followed by poetry reciting. This unique experience achieved the mission of Ancient Dinners, which is to educate, engage, and elevate.
The event included presentations by preeminent archeologist Dr. Alexander Nagel, a Smithsonian Curator and Research Associate, acclaimed Chef Najmieh Batmanglij, an award-winning author and Washington Post’s “Guru of Persian food”; Dr. Alireza Maghsoudi, a cardiologist and sleep disorder specialist, Washingtonian Magazine’s top doctor 2016; and Dr. Zoe Kosmidou, the President of Ancient Dinners.
The event built on the growing momentum to promote deeper knowledge on healthier lifestyles through nutrition, exercise, socializing and ancient cultures, their food histories and traditions from around the globe. Based on the scientifically proven premise that all diets before the 1960s expressed the concept of “A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body,” this was indeed fine dining at its best: eating in a family style format with friends (old and new); food, which is naturally flavorful and healthful, offering wellness without compromising taste; and enjoying thought provoking conversations led by experts.
Over appetizers, the Ancient Persian Feast started with Dr. Alexander Nagel who explored the arts and culture of Persian celebrations and introduced the guests to the impressive palaces of ancient Persepolis and Susa, which are still standing as exquisite monuments and heritage sites in Southwestern Iran. Dr. Nagel also presented the prestigious ancient Iranian tableware and elaborated on Mehregan, the significant autumn festival originating from an ancient ritual consecrated to the “sun-god” Mehr or Mithra.
During dinner, acclaimed Chef Najmieh Batmanglij talked about the central role of food in the life of Iranians. She gave details and insight into ancient culinary traditions and ingredients that include super foods common in Persian cooking from antiquity to the present. Cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients—farm to table—have always been part of the Iranian way of life.
The third speaker, Dr. Alireza Maghsoudi, emphasized how smart nutritional choices and small lifestyle changes can help us live healthier and longer lives.
The evening concluded with poetry reciting, a selection of some of the great Persian classics in English translations, as a tradition of the ancient culture still happening today at family and community gatherings.
All guests were very happy to participate in this presentation. The success of this unique event was due to its casual format where education took place over dinner and lively conversation. This way, Ancient Dinners promotes UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Humanity to protect ancestral and traditional customs with the goal to pass them on to the next generations while guests simply enjoy themselves.
Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, PhD