My glorious childhood in Tabriz

Written by Delafrooz Yazdi

Family photo, Delafrooz Yazdi pictured middle of the bottom row

Family photo, Delafrooz Yazdi pictured middle of the bottom row

I was born in Trabzon in Turkey to an Iranian family. When I was about four years old my family went back to Tabriz. We travelled on the back of a cart which took several days and nights to take us to our destination. My abiding memory as we entered Tabriz was of scenes of destruction and devastation wreaked by the floods of 1934.

We had our extended family in Tabriz and my days were spent playing with my cousins in the vast gardens of the various houses belonging to my uncle. As his wealth grew, he acquired more houses in the close proximity of his main home and by the time we got there he had eight. These were all close together and were somehow linked, as I remember. Some were numbered and others had names. The first house was prepared to receive guests and had a separate entrance.  The second was the largest where my uncle’s wife and children lived. It had a large garden with old fruit trees including huge mulberry trees and green gauges. Grapevines were draped over supporting frames called ‘gana’ in Azeri. I remember playing under the trees and gorging ourselves on the fruit. House number 3 was named after the swimming pool it housed, ‘gul hayati’. All of us, including the children of the servants, used to bathe together in the pool. We would put a large copper tray on the water and pile on top until our accumulated weight would exceed the tolerance of the tray and we would all end up in the pool, screaming and laughing all the way. House number 4 was called the hay house and as the name suggests was used to store hay. After swimming we would lie on the bales of hay to dry ourselves. We would only go back home at meal times and, surprisingly, our parents were not particularly bothered about not hearing from us until then.

In my uncle’s household hardly anything was bought in. Fruit and agricultural produce was brought in on carts from his farms and anything else was made in-house. Servants would slaughter a camel and make ‘Qormah [1]’ with the flesh for the winter. This was stored in large earthenware containers topped with fat and left in the coldest place in the basement. All the way throughout the winter months the meat thus prepared was used in various stews and aashes. A few times a month the servants would make ‘lavaash’ , a wafer thin flat bread which would dry crisp almost immediately and would be piled high in special rooms. As the daily need arose, a few would be taken, lightly sprinkled with water and wrapped in a clean cotton cloth to be served with the meal later.

The fruit from the trees in the garden was spread on large sheets to dry or be made into jams or rolled out into thin fruit rolls. Various nuts and seeds were roasted and stored in readiness to be served as snacks.

From a month before the New Year, Nowruz, celebrations on the spring equinox, activities were heightened in the household. Some servants were frantically busy making delicately shaped delicious sweats while others embarked on a deep and thorough spring clean of the whole house.

It was an idyllic childhood, as I remember it, with all the exaggeration of the joy and diminution of the hardship and pain that inevitably accompanies such memories.

 


[1] The meat was separated from the bones and cut into cubes. It was then fried with onions, turmeric and other spices and cooked before being poured into vats for storage.

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