I recently read a book about coffee culture — Fika specifically. A contributing factor to people’s enhanced quality of life is taking an hour or two out of one’s day and gather to converse and reconnect with one’s loved ones over coffee, or tea, or what-have-you. For the past few months, I have fostered a newfound appreciation for taking breaks at coffee shops. The process of going to a coffee shop, choosing a treat, waiting on it, and enjoying my beverage throughout a conversation has also challenged my relationship with coffee. Rather than a hasty pick-me-up, coffee is slowly becoming a companion to my conversations, or the little prize I give myself after a challenging task.
Appreciating coffee culture during winter break in Tehran led me to a unique cafe: the other day, as I settled into my sofa at the Hestooran cafe, I was taken aback when the waitress brought on the menus to our table with a set of magnifying glasses.
“بگردید و ببینید دلتون چی میخواد/Look and see what your دل wants.”
In farsi, the word دل means both the heart and the gut. The two vital organs — heart and gut — lead the decision-making process in the Persian language: what do I want to taste and what do I want to experience between the sips or bites I choose to order?
What one eats affects one’s mood and decision-making — this is what research about gut-brain axis covers nowadays. Waving the magnifying glass on the margins of the menu, I spotted small, detailed notes about the benefits of certain seeds, herbs, and legumes, and their relationships with different humors: Sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Like Greeks and Oriental traditional medicine that focus on such humors, Iranian traditional medicine is built upon the temperaments. Food is meant to nourish both the soul as well as the body — and the notes on the menu’s margins wove this tradition into our modern-day experience at the cafe.
Magnifying glasses, coupled with the earthy color and texture of menu call for a voyage into not only personal experiences with tastes and traditional medicine, but also nostalgic stories. Creating an experience of antiquity, the menu elicits conversations between generations: past generations who experienced the atmosphere of the cafe — stocked with old furnishing and traditional Iranian ambiance — on a daily basis and the younger generation that seeks novelty in such traditional settings. For our table, the menu was a starting point for my mother to share the lighter memories from her late teenage years. Over warm coffee, served in earthy-textured pottery mugs, generations reconnect.
Though a gesture, the magnifying glass accompanying the menus at Hestooran make visitors tune into what treats their gut and their mood. Taking out more time in choosing our foods might just be the tool we need to cherish the short breaks we take between work. It allows us to reconnect with our loved ones, and synchronize with our thoughts and gut.
Whether or not you visit the Hestooran cafe, allow the magnifying glasses to influence your journey in listening to your gut.
Wire and Rewire,