my grandparents have a citrus orchard on the coast of the caspian sea in iran, and the last time i was there it was late spring, so my grandmother sent me and my aunt out to collect bitter orange blossoms for jam and orange blossom water.
we were out there all day, picking the sticky little flowers one by one. being a cook, i kept trying to come up with more efficient ways to pick the flowers, but nothing i tried worked. i even dug up a tarp out of some shed and tried to shake the flowers off the branches, but that was disastrous because it shook everything else off the tree too, and ended up creating more work.
after two days of picking blossoms, we brought them back to my grandmother. she saved about a quarter of the blossoms for jam, and distilled the rest. words cannot describe the perfume the blossoms released--the house smelled so sweet and citrusy i had to leave several times throughout the day.
the next day, i had to return to tehran, but my grandmother wanted to make me lunch first. the water in town is very hard, and unpotable, so everyone uses bottled water for everything. five years ago, my grandmother was hit by two cars, and though she's had an incredible recovery, she hasn't quite been the same since. there's a lot of forgetfulness and repetition of stories on her part--more than i remember, anyway.
as my friend arash might say, to make the story short, my grandma used the two liters of orange blossom water to rinse the rice. two days of work literally down the drain. i was so sad i had to leave before lunch was made. later, my grandma said that the rice was delicious. all i have to show for the work is this photo of my aunt with a rabbit she befriended beneath the orange trees.