Of Loss, Fruit & Scholarly Life in Tehran


Hi guys! A future blog post is about making dolmeh with grape leaves but today’s post is about loss and scholarly life in Tehran. With some fruit and food pix thrown in for good measure. To distract you from the fact that I haven’t written any recipe posts lately. Tssk tssk.

First the loss – already alluded to in the last post. That is, I lost my phone. It must have slipped out of my pocket while I was riding a “taxi khati” (the kind of taxis where you share rides with others who are going your way, a manner of transportation that has its own lore and lure and culture and tricks and charms and repulsions, and one that I should definitely write about in a later post) and I only realized it was missing once I was home. A realization that had me in a cold sweat (literal!) followed by a hot sweat (also literal) and then a few minutes of numb acknowledgement of the fact. Is it hyperbole to say that the sensation – a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach and a clenching of the heart – felt like grief? Like deep mourning? Because it kind of did. Ah well, by now I’ve come to terms with it and have learned the lesson of backing up data the very hard way.  Ouch and ooy and boo hoo.

Anyhow! Let’s now change course and look at some delicious fruit as an amuse bouche topic:

The pile of herbs are “sabzi Kohee” or wild mountain herbs; and right behind it we have some loquats (azgil) and next to it we have that mythical and iconic Persian fruit of spring, that is: “gojeh sabz” aka, sour green plums.

Ok, so these are obviously not fruit, but I can’t help resist the impulse of sharing with you this yummy photo of a window display with tantalizing offerings of kooloocheh, n’oon panjareh (Persian “Window” candy) and “cake ‘eh Yazdi” (very similar to muffins.) If only calories did not count, it is quite possible that I would spend days if not weeks eating nothing but generous multiples of each of these every blessed day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Back to fruit. You should see the fruit stands and markets in Tehran right now! Bursting with incredible offerings of apricots, sour cherries, cherries, sour green plums, unripe grapes, grape leaves, mulberries (the white ones and also the yummy scarlet ones) and a very pretty and dainty kind of grape called “angoor yagooti” (which literally means ruby grape) that is just so special looking and delicious.  The photo above doesn’t begin to do it all justice. I wish we could have a mehmoonie together and eat it all!

Now on to the scholarly portion of our blog – where we find ourselves at the iconic main entrance gate of “Daneshgah Tehran” (Tehran University.)

My folks both got their undergraduate degrees here and my father was also a Professor here for awhile, so this particular and venerable institution certainly intrigues me but up to the particular day partially chronicled here, the satiation of the intrigue was confined to sporadic peeks through the gates, since one can’t ordinarily simply walk in to the campus.

There’s a project I’m working on that requires some interesting historical research and Zainab (the lovely lady pictured in the top photo of this post) who is an alumni at Tehran University, invited me to visit the reference library.  Oh joy! It was a treat to get to walk through this truly beautiful and timeless campus.

Ferdowsi, the poet, sits vigil in front of a campus building with calm repose.

What was it again that brought me here?

Hmmm. I am not going to entirely spill the beans yet, but I will coyly drop a hint that while I am still a food blogger by passion and vocation and inclination, that what occupies my days (and nearly all waking hours and a good portion of my dreaming REM hours) in recent months is work of an exciting yet entirely different nature … more on that later. It was a task related to this “work” that took me out of the office and had me traipsing around Tehran University.

I will, however, readily spill the beans that the cold war is over. (Or … is it?)

This is a poster for an exhibit on the subject of cold war (yes, that IS John F. Kennedy) at the Tehran University Library.

And here’s the lovely Zainab (a scholar and a fast friend and a genuinely wonderful person) posing with the statue of Moqam Farahani, the poet. This was also inside Tehran University’s main library; right next to the entrance to Iranian Studies Hall, one of its special reference departments.

I could read indexes like this just for fun. Couldn’t you?

Zainab and I got to spend an enchanting hour or two leafing through historical books and indexes … a la recherche du temps perdu!

We didn’t find what we were looking for, nevertheless, it was an exquisite pursuit. And I realized something: that some of my favorite people are those who love to delve and dig and research all manners of subjects.

And abruptly, just like that, here we are at the end of this mishmash post.

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Comments (9)

  • Greg and Bernadette 6 years ago Reply

    Uggh, so sorry to read about your loss. I’ve heard that the loss of a cell phone generally comes with the reactions that you went through. I will be extra careful after reading your story.
    I’ve been holding back from asking, but I hope you won’t mind too much if I ask you for help. I love both figs and quinces as well as your posts at Fig&Quince. I live in the United States in Maine. It’s very cold here in the winter, yet I grow both figs and quinces. My quinces grow outside in the ground, but my figs are in pots that I carry in and out every year. I have over 100 varieties that I’ve been testing to try and find one that I can grow in the ground so that I can share it with other gardeners here. So far all the figs I’ve tried can only survive by being buried each winter or carried in for protection. Both a good amount of extra work. As I am getting older and the work starts to become for difficult I’m really hoping to find figs that can survive without having to bury them. Iran may have a solution as it appears that there are wild mountain figs, “Anjeer Kohi”, there that can survive winters that are even colder than mine.
    Here is a description that I found online: “The mountain fig – ‘Anjeer Koki’ in Persian – is a wild variety growing on the rocky mountains of Iran, particularly those of Zibad. It withstands extreme temperatures and is mainly eaten dried.” “able to withstand temperatures of −40 °C (−40 °F). “
    And here is a picture of this amazing plant:
    Do you think that there would be any way for someone in the United States to get dried figs or just the seeds from these wild mountain figs from the Zibad mountains that have survived −40 °C? I’ve been dreaming of finding a way to locate and grow seeds from these plants for years. I’m hoping that since relations between Iran and the United States are improved that it might be possible, but I have no idea how to connect with someone who might be able to help me.
    I hope you will not mind too much having a stranger reach out to you to ask for help. Do you have any ideas for me?
    Thank you very much for you wonderful blog. Greg Martin

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Dear Greg, Hello! First of all, you are not a stranger! If you’ve been reading Fig & Qunce you are a cherished gentle reader and since you are into figs and quinces and growing them, you are a super deluxe awesome and much appreciated reader. So I do not mind at all that you reached out and am very intrigued by your query.
    I personally had not heard of Anjeer Kohee but I’m definitely at the right place to conduct a research into this for you and will do so. Just give me some time to find the right sources, etc. But consider it done. And I hope we can find the answer to your dilemma.
    By the way, if you ever want to write a guest post about growing figs and quinces and perhaps share a recipe using them, it would be amazing and you are always welcome to do so.
    Till soon,Azita

  • figurino 6 years ago Reply

    Sorry you lost your phone! How devastating. Hope you are slowly recovering from it. [😊]

    Thank you so much for your photo of noon panjare! loved it.


    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Appreciate the feedback dear Figurino! <3 Noon panjare is the best! 🙂

  • Dear Azita, I adore your post.

  • Gather and Graze 6 years ago Reply

    As always, it’s fabulous to get this insight into Iranian life through your adventures Azita! Would love to be able to explore those fruit markets with you and nibble on a few too many cakes and treats. M.xx

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Margot joon: That would be so lovely!!!! We’re putting it out in the universe, so ensh’allah it could happen 🙂 <3

  • Ruhiyyih Spock 6 years ago Reply

    Dearest Azita, your post exhudes kindness and love and you have touched my heart and brought me to tears this morning with your love of food, and love of culture, love of people in both Persia and the United States. I am writing you from Hawai’i–this attitude is also a part of our culture–so I hope you don’t mind if I claim you as our kindred spirit:)
    Ruhiyyih Napualani Spock

    Fig & Quince 6 years ago Reply

    Dear Ruhiyyih, I’m equally touched by your generously warm and loving comment. Thank you! I’m delighted to welcome you as a kindred spirit! Sending much love from Tehran your way to Hawai’i! <3 -azita

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