Tahini Cookies with Apricot Compote and Sumac
My dad hates getting up early in the morning. If left alone, he’d probably sleep until 11am every day. But he did it. He did it every damn morning of my childhood, weekends too. Rising to darkness, he’d shower, iron his shirt and slacks (my father can press clothes with a tailor’s precision) dress himself, eat, and get out the door to bake the bread that fed our family—all in a half hour.
I’d rise about an hour later, but I felt his presence every morning in the steamy bathroom that trapped the smell of the cologne he’s worn for 30 years, the light hum of the voices on the morning news he’d left on in the other room, and, without fail, from the sight of the crumb-filled, half-finished Tetley tea that sat on his side of the kitchen table.
It’s curious that my dad drank Tetley in the morning (and still does). Persian, he comes from a tea culture. Tea is the national drink for a reason: Iran’s coastal climate and topography are perfect for tea cultivation, and Iranians drink tea after every meal. The tea is often brewed in glass pots with a cylindrical infuser and poured into small, slender, filigreed glasses. An Iranian tea set is quite the vision, the ceremony of drinking from it an aesthetician’s wet dream. The glasses seem to deliver a cautionary message: The hot glass will scorch your fingertips if you drink the tea when it is too hot for its flavor to be appreciated. The aroma of Iranian black tea is nothing like stateside tea, and the ritual surrounding drinking it brings together families, friends, and strangers. When there is tea, there are no divides; Iranian Muslims and Jews sip together in the tea houses that are found on every corner (though any divides are sensationalized anyway). Place a lump of pure cane sugar on your tongue, sip, close your eyes, breathe, let the marijuana-like high roll over you, and repeat—this is how Persian tea should be enjoyed. Drink it in the summer, no matter the temperature; drink it in the winter to thaw chilled bones. Drink it with rock candy (the confection originated in Iran, not at seaside American candy shops); swirl your crystal-laden stick in the warm amber liquid and let it melt. Drink it with rose-scented pistachio nougat.