On the tins are ornate designs, both inside and out, reminding me of the most intricate Persian miniatures or the crystal ewers in the Keir Collection at the Dallas Museum of Art. They—and their contents—aren’t quite like anything we’ve had locally.
Pajama Sweets’ pistachio brittle, the first in a line slated to include other Iranian sweets, is made with butter treated in the ancient fashion so it becomes a delicacy with notes of caramelization, a flat wafer encrusted with pistachios, subtle with the aroma of saffron and just behind that, cardamom in a faint whisper. Wheat sprouts ground into flour are responsible for the brittle-toffee texture. It’s not too sweet, not at all sticky like peanut brittle—a far more rarified and subtle treat. I’m reminded of the tradition of pistachios so deep and salty they’re almost savory. This is the hallmark of Iranian pistachios, though these are from California, the saffron from Iran.
These sweets exist locally, but not ornamented and packaged this way and conceived as gifts. And these are marketed towards the American market as sweets to have with tea in the context of gift-giving.
Pajama Sweets’ founder, Daryush Parsi lived for a number of years in Europe, whence comes part of his interest in the tradition of small, beautiful sweets as gifts—a tradition also native to his parents’ homeland, Iran.
“In Tehran, I saw this, but to a much greater extent, where there was very frequent visiting of family and friends in people’s homes. It always included sweets and trays of hot tea…and various snacks and fruits … and nurturing closer bonds with each other, sharing views and news.”
Daryush is intrigued by the idea of encouraging this tradition, which resonates deeply with him. It’s something he’d like to bring to the U.S.
A New-York-based Iranian-American artist designed the packaging and logo. “We wanted to acknowledge the Persian origins of these sweets with the design, with the logo,” says Parsi. But he’s intent on not pigeon-holing his line as ethnic desserts. “We want to mainstream Persian sweets, so they become as American as egg rolls and nachos or sushi.”
He interviewed a number of Iranian-American confectioners and brittle-makers before partnering with an Iranian-American confectioner in California; future plans include adding pistachio nougat, honey brittle, and a chickpea cookie—a kind of dainty, tiny powdery, soft confection—to the line. Parsi aims to debut these before Thanksgiving, in time for gift-giving season.
His hope, ultimately, is broader—that his wares will spark eyes and palates, and perhaps, as a result, kindle a greater curiosity about the country and the culture behind them. “There’s been so much tensions in last few decades between the U.S. and Iran. We wanted to make something that everyone can come together around. Getting to know a country’s cuisine as an entrance to begin to understand another country’s culture.”