In the west, you wouldn’t even think about eating your food sat on the floor. You would most likely think that it would be quite odd, or potentially distasteful to choose to eat off the floor. Sitting on the floor and eating is extremely common in Iran and is how most meals are eaten, especially if there is a big group present at a family members household.
There will be a ‘sofre’, a long plastic rectangular shaped sheet that is used to place the food on. This is put on the floor and is a wipeable plastic sheet or in some cases, it is disposable.You can get floral designs on the sofre or just go for the standard clear plastic. Either way, it basically translates as the Persian version of the western tablecloth.
There is no particular order or arrangement in which plates or dishes are set out on the sofre. One noticeable element would be that for the most part, the pot of rice is at the head of the table. There will an older member of the family there, extremely keen to shovel a heap of rice onto your plate. And if your sofre is extremely long, you may even have two designated rice servers at each end of it. ‘Befarmaeed’ is what they will say to you as they offer you a plate. This simply translates as ‘here you are’.
The key aspect of using a sofre is actually being able to sit down crossed-leg for a long period of time and eat your food. This is an art in itself and if you’re not used to sitting down this way, get practising before going to dine at an Iranian’s household! Dead legs and pins and needles are all way too common whilst eating this way. For myself included.
So if you plan to travel to Iran and eat like a local, get your yoga hats and stretches on and start crossing those legs, because when in Iran, do as the Iranians do.