In a small village in Azerbaijan I tasted a jam that changed my mind forever. But first, the setting…
Lahic it sits at the almost end of a long road that hugs a mountainside some 3 hours from Baku. It was only 35 years ago that the foot/cow path that led to the village was made into an actual road. We shared this road with cows and umbrella’d children on the way to school. We bought syrup and sox and pomegranates from the trunks of cars like contraband.
Known for its copper smiths and working shops, some 900 Azeri call this earthquake zone home. Craftsmen line the narrow main street and hammer away during the daylight hours. We heard about a local museum and climbed the stairs off the main road to take a look. The one room museum sits in a former mosque and is run by just one man, a veteran of the Nagoro-Karabakh War who showed us the scar that ran the length of his skull. THIS was his job now and he explained with pride, every object and portrait in the room.
Every time we turned around Haciyev seemed to come out of the woodwork with his tattered copy of Lonely Planet in hand. His guesthouse was featured in the book and he wanted to make sure we knew we had options of where to lay our head, and that his wife makes good cabbage soup and to please come take a look. Next time, we promise, and buy a pair of his wife’s handmade sox.
At breakfast that first morning I tasted something new, intense, and transformative. Gizil gul murabba – rose petal jam. Jagged bits of flower parts, sticky, sweet, and overpowering – almost. Brewed from roses gathered in the spring, parts layered with sugar and distilled in the dark. I’m intrigued with the craggy bits of flower parts and how they turn my head and taste bud. Pistils and stamens, filaments and pollen anthers, rose buds and hips, bud eyes and unions, ovules and ovaries. Ovaries? How could I live this long without knowing that flowers have ovaries? I have totally disregarded the depth and breadth of the flower until this very minute. I’ve always tried to stop and smell the flowers but now, because of some random jam, I will do so with new eyes.