Which ancient Middle Eastern super hero are you?

The book’s out tomorrow (squee squee!) – and so here is the first of a number of interactive (and extraordinarily silly) posts.

OK – so I know that you are probably going to cheat on this. And you know that I know. We all do it. Hey, some of us have been cheating at these since we read Jackie magazine in the Seventies. But be a sport and give it a go. You might even learn something along the way….

Question 1) Which food would you choose from this menu? (This is a cookbook after all, even if we do seem to have lost the plot in this section.)
A) Magnificent Morasa Pulao (i.e. rice – page 133)
B) All-too-moreish Kufteh Esfanaji (i.e. spinach – page 185)
C) Opulent Timman Kamah (i.e. truffles, with rice – page 139)
D) Simple stone baked Nan-e-Sangak (i.e. bread – page 13)
E) Asure – Turkish muesli (i.e. grains, seeds and nuts – page 240)
F) Rich and nutritious Shanklish and Caraway Salad (i.e. cheese – page 77)
G) Chocolate Halva Ice Cream (page 254)
H) Veggie Schwarma (i.e. junk food – page 189)
I) Marak – Israeli fruit soup (i.e. fresh fruit and veg – recipe to follow)
J) Red meat (hello-oh – this is a veggie cookbook…)

Question 2) Your house flag is mostly:
A) Red – for the fire which burns in your heart
B) Purple – imperial, and yet passionate
C) Gold – what else?
D) Yellow – radiating energy, like the sun
E) Green – to blend in
F) Silver – like the streak of a shooting star
G) Pink – rinkety-tink-tink
H) Turquoise – like the dapples of a happy sea
I) White – Pure. Simple.
J) Black – all the shades of….

Question 3) You fancy your best mate’s partner. What do you do?
A) Fight to the death
B) Vow to go into the nearest forest and spear something to show them how handy you are
C) Take what is rightfully yours
D) Organise a pageant to impress them
E) Wait for fate to introduce you
F) Show off like a good ‘un
G) Cast a spell over them. And then reverse it as you know it is wrong.
H) Set off on a long voyage to try and forget them
I) Know that if it was meant to be, it will be: but you would not dream of hurting your friend
J) Go into a deep depression over the hopelessness of it all

Question 4) When you read a book is it:
A) Aesop?
B) Swift?
C) Jane Austen?
D) Nietzsche?
E) Plato?
F) Cervantes?
G) Jackie Collins?
H) JK Rowling?
I) Orwell?
J) Kafka?

Question 5) When you listen to music is it:
A) Something deeply stirring by Wagner?
B) A pumping trance anthem?
C) Eartha Kitt or Edith Piaf?
D) Vivaldi: practically note perfect?
E) Joni Mitchell – oh, you hippy you?
F) In the mix with the Afro-Celt Sound System?
G) Minx-Sphinx Lady Gaga?
H) Something improvised by Miles Davies?
I) Abba?
J) Full-on drama from Bach?

Question 6) No-one is in sight. You hit and damage a chariot as you reverse out of the chariot park. Do you:
A) Think ‘so what’ and leave
B) Think ‘oops’ and leave
C) Leave. Without thinking
D) Write an extensive note for the owner explaining the full circumstances of the accident
E) Magic the damage away
F) Offer to fix it yourself
G) Dare the owner of the chariot to make something of it
H) Tell the owner of the vehicle that it is fate that has brought you together
I) Wait patiently, and then exchange insurance details having agreed the extent of the damage
J) Counter-sue for post-traumatic stress

Question 7) Which of the following most accurately describes your shopping habits?
A) I am too busy living to bother with something as trivial as shopping
B) I enjoy seeking out new outlets and products
C) I live to shop
D) I buy nothing more than I need
E) On the whole I would prefer to barter
F) Bargain basements and bootsales, that’s me
G) My minions do it for me
H) I enjoy the hustle and bustle of markets
I) Internet all the way for me
J) Independent traders and corner shops are my passion

Question 8 ) Your pet is:
A) A lion: nothing else can give you sufficient wrestling practice
B) A bear: you admire the king of the forest
C) A saluki: only the chic-est pooch for you
D) An owl: it understands your solitude and keeps your hours
E) Non-existent: you don’t believe in keeping animals as pets
F) A donkey: surely the most useful of all animals?
G) A chinchilla: they are just too cute
H) A monkey: you enjoy the almost-human companionship
I) A wolf: it appeals to the little bit of wilderness in you
J) A snake: you enjoy the discomfort it causes

Question 9) Your package holiday includes a free excursion of your choice. You choose:
A) Horse-riding in the mountains – you are an experienced rider
B) Quad biking in the desert, which you excited about as you have never tried it before
C) A day at the spa. With extra treatments.
D) Visiting the ancient monuments from the region: we can learn so much from what went before
E) A safari into the jungle: you like it good and wild
F) Museums and art galleries are your thing
G) An evening of folklore. With free sangria.
H) A day out in a local fishing boat
I) A trip into town to buy gifts for your family and friends
J) To hire a car and visit stuff under your own steam: you don’t trust these holiday companies

Question 10) How would like to be seen in history books?
A) as a hero
B) as an explorer
C) as an icon
D) as a reformer
E) as a philosopher
F) as a paragon of virtue
G) as a siren
H) as an adventurer
I) as a leader
J) as a rebel

Now count up your score…

Mostly (A)s: You are Rostam. Rostam, the son of Zal, was the Persian Hercules, and the rightful star of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. A flawed character, he made mistakes, drank far too much and accidentally killed his own son, Sohrab. But he is still the quintessential hero, an indomitable tower of strength, unrivalled in valour. If you scored more (A)s than anything else, you are the main man (woman). And you know it. You like big hair and bright colours. You have to fight to control your swagger when you enter a room, and you sulk if you are not the object of everyone’s attention. In spite of this you are generous and sincere: with you, what people see is what they get. For this reason your pals seem to tolerate the rest.
Rostam recommended recipe: try the Spicy Lentil Pyramid (recipe to follow) – it is the stuff of warriors’ banquets, but will fill you with enough slow-burning energy to go move (some more) mountains.

Mostly (B)s: You are Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is probably the first ever literary hero – his life was recorded as a written epic (on clay tablets) about 4,000 years ago. He was the wayward king of Uruk (modern Iraq), who quibbled with just about everything the gods said, and tried to journey to the underworld to recover his best buddy Enkidu. If you got mostly (B)s, you are a rebel. You probably spent your school days in detention. But you have a lively and enquiring mind, and a strong sense of right and wrong. And you are an smiley, happy person, full of optimism. Will you be my friend?
Gilgamesh recommended recipe: try the Pomegranate Eton Mess on page 250 – it perfectly suits your sense of fun.

Mostly (C)s: You are the Queen of Sheba. This dame is mentioned in the Koran and the Bible, and contemporary gossip columns put her in bed with King Solomon, so she probably existed – but seriously, no-one actually knows where or when. Rumours of where her kingdom was stretch from Israel through the Yemen to Eritrea. If you scored more (C)s than anything else, you are an enigma, and have been keeping historians guessing for centuries. You probably lie about your age: image is really rather important to you. And you like pretty things.
Queen of Sheba recommended recipe: it’s got to be the Khoresht-e-Holu (peach stew) on page 212: perfect for ladies who lunch.

Mostly (D)s: You are Cyrus. He was the 5th Century BC founder of the First Persian (Achaemenid) Empire, which remains pro-rata the largest empire the world has ever seen. He was a cool and forward thinking dude among tyrants, and he is commemorated to this day for his words (on the Cyrus Cylinder) on human rights. If you got mostly (D)s, you are wise beyond your years, and admired by many of your friends. Your ability to think on your feet combined with your compassion, make you that rare thing: a popular smart-ass.
Cyrus recommended recipe: reckon you should go for the Maghluba on page 140 – it is a nutritious and attractive dish, made with the minimum of frills and fluff.

Mostly (E)s: You are the Simorgh. The Simorgh (literal meaning: ‘thirty chickens’) is a legendary bird of great power and wisdom. She spread the seeds of all living things across the world by flapping her wings, and is also a star of the Shahnameh (Persian Book of Kings), credited with rescuing and raising Zal, the father of Rostam. If your score produced mostly (E)s you are a kindly soul with strong nurturing instincts. You look for (and find) love wherever you go, and are greatly pained by the suffering of others. But you do occasionally worry your friends with your predilection for sunflower seeds and bits of twine….
Simorghs – you should be eating the Peynirli Boregi on page 19: the fact that it contains wild greens will appeal to the forager in you, and it is a good filling snack to suit your busy lifestyle.

Mostly (F)s: You are Rakhsh. Rakhsh was a wild stallion that only Rostam (see above) proved able to tame. He was known for his acuity and trustworthiness; he and Rostam lived, fought and died together, in one of the most famous man and beast pairings in literature. If you scored mostly (F)s, you are a loyal and dependable sort, strongly family orientated: whilst you are not overly ambitious, you will go out of your way to help others. Many look to you for your ability to organise and get stuff done. You should learn to let your mane down a little more often.
Rakhsh’ recommended recipe: something a bit adventurous for you, to take you out of your normal comfort zone – why not try making the herb and lemon jelly on page 39?

Mostly (G)s: You are Bastet. She was the ancient lion goddess of Egypt, and was regarded as a powerful agent of protection. As with most of the Egyptian pantheon, she proved flexible, mutating from lion to cat goddess, and from solar to lunar deity as a matter of political expedience. She gave the world the word ‘alabaster’: the mineral was originally carved into her image on perfume bottle stoppers. If you scored mostly (G)s you are awfully clever. Verging on devious. You are a survivor, and seem always to land on your feet, either through cunning or cuteness. Lay off the tuna and catnip, and you will do well.
Bastet recommended recipe: something homely and grounding for you. Harira – vegetarian chicken soup. Simple and wholesome. Page 97.

Mostly (H)s: You are Sinbad. Sinbad the sailor was probably the most awesome adventurer the world has ever seen. He is often wrongly dumped in with the tales of Scheherezade, when in fact his story seems to have evolved independently. He was a seafarer from Basra who was seeking to restore his family to wealth (after he himself had squandered it all away). If you scored mostly (H)s you are a happy-go-lucky, life-and-soul-of-the-party type who likes to keep busy. You will probably never be rich, but at least you will never be bored. You are very popular, a fact which leaves you quite non-plussed.
Sinbad’s of the world – a bit of organised domesticity for you. It’ll do you good to plan ahead for once. Reckon you should try the onion, chilli and mint marmalade on page 232.

Mostly (I)s: You are Oghuz Khan. Oghuz Khan is the legendary forefather of all the Turkic peoples. Which kind of clashes with the tale of Ergenikon on page 156 – ho hum, such is the nature of mythology. Oghuz slayed a dragon which had been terrorising his people, chased off the incumbent rulers, and then married a beautiful girl. They gave birth to the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, the mountains and the sea. And lived happily ever after. If you scored mostly (I)s, you probably cheated. Mean, you can’t possibly be a high-achieving, public-serving, perfect parent, now can you? No-one is that talented or lucky.
Oghuz Khan – your recommended recipe is the Shaitany Pitta Pockets (p72)– they are full of naughtiness. And you could do with a bit more child-like spontaneity in your life, couldn’t you?

Mostly (J)s: You are Nimrod. Nimrod was one of the pantomime villains of biblical times (although in truth he too is a bit of an historical enigma, and is equated with all sorts of other ancient heroes and anti-heroes). He was a famed hunter, and a venerated king – he is reputed to have been the first king to wear a crown. He ran into trouble by being an averred atheist (a sure-fire way to go down in history as a baddie), and built the Tower of Babel to withstand the forces of nature (i.e. a second great flood) and stand up to God. God was a bit cross, and punished Nimrod by causing all his subjects to start speaking in different tongues. If you got mostly (J)s, you are a stubborn so and so, and probably seem to have more than your fair share of run-ins with people. In fact this is mostly triggered by your own insecurity and distrust: you are as a result a very misunderstood character. Try opening up a bit more, letting some of those pent up emotions out. You know, cooking is a good way to let off steam….
Nimrod recommended recipe: Chickpeas with greens, garlic and mint for you – page 121. Chick peas are full of tryptophan: happy, stress-busting food to drive away that scowl of yours.

And if you got a mixture of answers – then excellent. It means you will have read all of the above which was my secret devious ploy all along.

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