Dear Food Getaway: Iran

I wouldn’t call my visit to Iran a ‘getaway,’ but it was certainly a profound culinary experience that brought me a little closer to my culture and my upbringing. 

Growing up, food belonged in two categories: Home food and everything else. Home food was stuff we ate at home during breakfasts, dinners and family gatherings; the stuff that differentiated me from others; the stuff that I loved but didn’t know how to appreciate. The breakfasts were decadent breads like sangak with savory spreads like French goat cheese and walnuts, butter and honey, and tea. The gatherings were full feasts of saffron rice, rich and meaty stews and kabobs. Instead of taking coffee breaks, we took tea breaks. Often, mom would indulge us by making our favorites for dinner too, like ghormeh sabzi. I say ‘indulge’ because cooking Persian food is incredibly time-consuming, so it’s been years since I’ve had a home-cooked meal like that (of course, mom still indulges me when I visit).

Imagine my excitement to visit a country where I could have home food for every meal! Not only that, everyone else knew about it, restaurants served it and it wasn’t a specialty. This—usually unique—piece of me is the norm in this place. It was like I’d gone into my food past and relived it. So here’s a glimpse into a few of the favorite, food-fueled moments from my trip. Pardon the low quality of some of the photos, it’s hard to stand still when you’re about to eat this stuff!

My love for ghormeh sabzi spans oceans. My grandmother knew that’s what I needed for dinner my first night in Iran, complete with rice and tadig, and koo-koo (an herby quiche without cheese).

My first full dinner in Iran, courtesy of grandma. Photo/Alma Bahman

My first full dinner in Iran, courtesy of grandma. Photo/Alma Bahman

Dear Merchant’s Pub & Plate,

Merchant's burger

Merchant’s burger

Lawrence restaurants, step up your game because there’s a new player in town. The Merchant’s burger is possibly the most flavorful burger I’ve ever tried that hasn’t made my stomach feel like I ate a brick. Tack on a delicious salad and perfectly paired glass of brew and I’m in heaven. The “gastro” part of gastropub is evident in the amazing dance of flavors. By the way, did I mention the dessert menu includes bacon? Oh yeah, candied bacon on top of ice cream on top of a blondie. Let that soak in for a moment.

And no, I’m not ashamed that I’m going back for dinner again two days later. I will become a fixture here, whether you like it or not.