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Dreaming of lentils and porriage
i imagine the surface to be pebbled and crisp, toasted flour barely clinging to the dark edges, sandy to the touch, smelling of secret recipes

September 7, 2005

This is my niece Daniela's blog. She is a pastry chef and just got back from France where she spent the last 2 months working as an intern in several well-known restaurants and bakeries. She's half Iranian. Also see -- Mandana Khadivi-Brown

my mom has been telling me these mouth-watering stories of iranian breakfasts. after i had a traditional week-day breakfast of warm pita bread, salty feta cheese and sweet dark tea, she told me the bread story:

our driver or someone from the household would wake up early in the morning to buy the bread. bread is not made at home, we leave that to the bakers. and they take it out of the ovens and place it into the driver's waiting hands, hot from the stones and coals on which it was baked.

i imagine the surface to be pebbled and crisp, toasted flour barely clinging to the dark edges, sandy to the touch, smelling of secret recipes. and when broken, a perfumed steam rising to meet the nose. the way she describes how she used to spread plenty of butter and sprinkle plenty of sugar on top before eating each snow-shoe sized loaf makes me hunger for her memories. using her hands to gesticulate the spreading, and her eyes to imitate the way the butter melts into the bread, we end up losing ourselves in the collective memory of this simplest of foods. and sadly having only grocery store pita with which to satisfy our imagination.

i like being reminded that france is not the only country who has historically placed high regard upon their bread; besides other european nations, we have to remember that the middle east is the birth place of agriculture, and primarily that of grain for bread.

today too, she expanded on iranian breakfasts, telling me about lentils with cinnamon (pronouced "adasi") and a hot porriage with turkey meat melted inside ("haleem"). a dent in the middle leaves enough room for a butter and brown sugar nest where i can just imagine telling myself to eat from the outside in to save the best part for last.

the cinnamon lentils are more common than the porriage, and a man on a bicycle is heard often in the mornings calling its name to neighbors and strangers who come rushing to their doorsteps to pay him for bowls of the hot treat. his mother or wife perhaps supplies his transportation with the food leaving him to deliver and he refuels as often as necessary. what a welcome wake up call in comparison to our garbage trucks! or the horn blowing of nyc.

from what i understand, the porriage is more of a specialty that needs to be started the night before to reach the proper consistency. she talked about how her grandmother prepared it. grains are simmered for hours and turkey meat is added, melting into the thickness, adding body and nutrients to otherwise boring hot breakfast cereal.

i will be doing more research on these iranian breakfasts, testing, and updating with recipes soon.


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