If I can impart any one lesson on you all, dear readers, it is this:
Never disrespect the bread [in Azerbaijan].
It's not the cheek kissing or the Allah phrases that will mess you up, it's the odd behavior when it comes to bread. I first encountered this when I accidentally dropped a piece of bread on the floor. I had never seen my host mom move so fast, but in 3 seconds flat she had that bread picked up, kissed three times, and placed on top of the refrigerator. She looked at me sternly (like I had intentionally dropped the bread) and returned to stirring the milk.
We never spoke about it again.
To this day, I am still a unsure as to why bread is so important; I just know that it is. If I drop the bread now, I immediately scoop up the offended piece, kiss it, and place on something high up. I try to never throw old bread away, but if I have to, I wrap it up in a plastic bag and hang it from my door. It is always gone by morning.
Novruz [link] hits and all that wheat grass pops up, it seems like Azerbaijanis can't get enough of spring, planting, and abundance. You just seem to know that Azerbaijanis respect the Earth for giving them food and show that respect through treating bread with kid-gloves (it coming from one of the most valued and basic grains).
Of course, I could be entirely wrong, but I kind of think I am right.
It kind of goes with many of the other Azerbaijani beliefs and actions about food, but we will talk about that at a later date...
Anyway, the point is that if you ever come to the 'Baijan, don't waste bread. Don't drop it; don't throw it away, and certainly don't throw a chunk at your friend on the other side of the table. That is a big no-no...