As I was making my breakfast this morning (French baguette with butter and apricot jam), I couldn't help but think of the bread in Iran and how much I missed it. Bread is a staple of the Iranian diet, and buying fresh bread is still one of those rituals that people do every day, so it's important to live close to a noonvah, bread bakery. When we were apartment hunting in Tehran, one of the perks of the place we got was the barbari noonvah just up the street. Those who don't live close to one can buy in bulk and freeze it. Still, there is nothing like buying fresh, hot bread and eating it on the way home. When I was little, I loved it when the adults would send my cousins and me to buy bread for the evening. We would always buy an extra for the walk back home. We'd talk and laugh and tear off pieces from our special "walk home loaf".
Going to the noonvah is quite an event. It's a game of survival of the fittest. There are two lines at any noonvah- "one loaf" (this line is always shorter) and "2 or more" (always longer). If you go with someone, you play it strategically by both standing in the line to buy one. That way, you each get one, and it's faster. In Iran, the concept of standing in line is merely a suggestion. But at the noonvah, it's even worse. Standing in an orderly fashion and waiting your turn will not only brand you as a khareji, foreigner, but it may also send you home empty-handed. I imagine it's the smell of bread that makes otherwise reasonable people turn into lions fighting over the carcass. You just shout out how many you want, throw your money on the table and hope the baker hands you the bread first.
My second favorite is sangak. This bread is usually made with wheat flour and baked on rocks. (Sang means rock in Persian). Sangak is a good bread for noon-panir-gerdu ba chai shirin, bread with feta cheese and walnuts and sweet tea. When you get this bread, you have to make sure there are no stray rocks on it and, if so, flick them off right there in the noonvah- but carefully because they are quite hot.
Noon ghandi, also known as shirmal, is another kind of bread that has saffron and is slightly sweet. This is a nice choice in the morning with breakfast.