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I'm Scared The Color Of My Skin Will Bring Me Harm, Nosrat Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Having courage doesn't mean that you're fearless. It means that you overcome your fears. Our member station WNYC has been asking people to name their fears, and we're sharing some. Today we hear from Samin Nosrat. She's the Iranian-American food writer behind the influential book, "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat." And here are some of her fears.

SAMIN NOSRAT: That the color of my skin will bring harm upon me. I've always been aware of being different, but I wasn't really aware of any sort of threat to my physical person because of the way I look until September 2001. At that time, I used to wear this agate necklace, and it had the Arabic names of, like, the five main prophets of Islam on there. And so I remember I got a flat tire a few days later, and the guy who was changing my tire was black. And he was like, oh, what's on your necklace? And I told him. And he was like, you've got to put that away. It's not safe to look like you look anymore.

That no one will ever love me just as I am. There are a lot of etiquettes built into the way that Iranians relate to other people and other Iranians, and one of them is called taarof. So to taarof can mean something as simple as, if somebody offers you a cup of tea and you want it, you must first say no. And you might actually want the tea, but you just have to appear to not want the tea. Like, I had to actually have my therapist go watch videos of it so he could understand me and my culture. But, like, there's videos on YouTube of, like, Iranian parents training their kids. Like, here's a cookie. Do you want it? And the kid will be like, yes. And then the parent's like, no, no - you have to say no. (Laughter). And so it's this really complicated, like, brainwashing that I'm trying to unravel, but it is still something that controls me and probably will control me, you know, until I die.

That I will get cancer. I had a sister born with a kind of a brain tumor that children can't survive. So she passed away when she was 3, and I was a baby. And in a lot of ways, that loss has affected my family life. And I think my mom always was guided by, like, things that she heard or thought could cause cancer and kept those things away from us. So, like, we never had a microwave. So I think that that's always been a little bit there in the back of my mind.

I'll never find love. I - yeah, I don't have a long - let's put it this way. (Laughter). My professional resume is much longer and more filled out than my personal one.

(SOUNDITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Food writer Samin Nosrat. And you can hear the rest of her fears and other episodes whenever you listen to podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts. Ten Things That Scare Me comes from WNYC Studios. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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