Seaside woman prepares authentic Iranian meal, nourishes spirits tooSEASIDE - Farideh Dowlatdad loves to share.

That's why the Seaside resident prepared an authentic Iranian meal Thursday for senior citizens who attend the daily lunches presented by Mid-Willamette Valley Senior Services Agency. The lunches are served at the Bob Chisholm Community Center.

"I love to get the community together," she said. "I love it when everybody gets to know each other."

Dowlatdad prepared large pots of rice, with lentils, raisins, dates and saffron. She also served a traditional cold soup, made with yogurt, raisins, cucumbers, nuts and dill.

"This is just delicious," said Gabriella Joslin, who attends the meals. "She should open a restaurant."

LORI ASSA _ The Daily Astorian

Gabriella Joslin, right, who volunteers every day at the meal service, talks to Dowlatdad after the meal. "From her heart she makes this meal for us," says Joslin. "It's spiritually uplifting."Dowlatdad moved to America 25 years ago from Tehran, Iran, and has never been back. She has visited the Islamic holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, nine times. Before the meal, she led the participants in a time of meditation and showed a video about Mecca to help others understand her experiences.

"It is so amazing, the crowds of people in Mecca, with all their hearts talking to God," she said. "No matter who you are, we are all the same."

The unique meal gave the seniors a chance to learn about another culture as well as enjoy a delicious meal.

"I'm really a big advocate for cultural diversity," said Zoe Manhire, recreation program manager for Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District. "What people don't know, they're afraid of. So any time you can expose people to a different culture and lifestyle, it's a good thing. It brings people together."

Senior lunches are served 11:45 a.m. Monday through Friday at the Community Center, 1225 Avenue A. Meal-site coordinator Jennifer Noel said up to 30 people have been attending the meals.

Cost is a $3 donation for seniors 60 and older and $6 for seniors younger than 60. She also delivers about 20 meals to housebound seniors.

Dowlatdad joked that she could feed an army with her large pots of rice and sent leftovers home with many seniors and visitors.

"It just gives me the most satisfaction to see these people enjoy the meal," she said. "I want people to feel at home. I tell them to open their hearts."

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