One of the staple diets of fine Turkish everyday food has just gone posh, at least in London. So what is on the menu? Delicious simit, often referred to as Turkish bagels although most fellow expatriates I know happily employ the Turkish term, simit.
People eat them as they are ‘au naturel’ or cut in half and for example topped with cream cheese. Alternatively you can take them home and rewarm them in the oven with or without toppings. My favorite would be the former; that is, cut one simit into two halves, then slice them into two same size crescents and top them with yellow cheese and off they go into the oven for a few minutes. Onto a plate, decorate on the side with cucumber and a slice of tomato – bingo!
Picture yourself not in your very own home here in Turkey, but in a busy town or city center anywhere in this enterprising nation, of course including Kusadasi, and you could enjoy the same delicacies in a café or specialist simit bakery outlet.
Now imagine my surprise when on an extended week-end trip to London early this October I was greeted by a huge billboard on the King’s Road informing passers-by that on this building site and very shortly, a brand-new SimitSarayi branch would open. I do not normally give away company or business names in my columns but let me use this well-known domestic chain now investing overseas as a proud representative of an equally proud and so Turkey-typical craft in general terms.
Social media aficionado as my family are; the first thing I did was to take a photo and send it to my daughter – smiles all over her face she told me, paired with her own level of daddy’s initial surprise, too. A few clicks thereafter I was linked to their Facebook and Twitter accounts and happily reposted photos of their offers such as glass of tea or indeed a simit! The even better news is that they are already in town with a few locations including in Piccadilly Circus.
Why have I chosen this seemingly small issue to create something supposedly bigger out of it? Well, I truly believe in that introducing newcomers to a particular country by means of showcasing their foods and beverages and culinary traditions works out perfectly well. In the case of simit it has a two-way function: on the one hand, those who have not as of yet visited Turkey will get a first glimpse, and taste, of a great snack which is so much more nutritious and ‘good-looking’ than your average standard fast-food burger. On the other hand those of us who either reside in Turkey or have spent many memorable holidays here will happily oblige and from time to time indulge in having a simit, toppings or not.
To me and my family locating a good Turkish restaurant or indeed, coffee house, too, abroad is somehow like a part of Turkey. The moment you step onto the premises there might be Turkish music, perhaps some photos or posters with images of Istanbul or our seaside or Cappadocia. Some of the staff will for sure be of Turkish origin in case we want to further practice our knowledge of the Turkish language (a discrete reference and reminder to my article published last month).
Granted, there are extremely top-class Turkish eateries in the capital including HuseyinOzer’s world-famous cuisine whom I have the great honor to know in person. But, for an everyday, or every other day, trip down memory lane a simit house is perhaps better suited as after all it is much more affordable when compared with a full sit down meal as mouthwatering its taste would be for sure.
So what about back here in Turkey: do I write about simit only as a clever marketing tool or do I really eat the stuff on a regular basis? I do! My grandmother loves them, so would children and grandchildren. Our supermarket sells them, so does my long-time favorite street vendor next to the entrance to the central park. You may have them for breakfast or afternoon tea, seldom for lunch or as single dinner mains. Not every day, correct. And why would one as there are hundreds of Turkish meals and snacks and foodstuffs. But most definitely on a regular basis!
Talking or writing about food one is never really that far away from a recipe courtesy of Delia Smith. Or a quote for that matter: ‘Food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed… I think food is, actually, very beautiful in itself’ (lifted from brainyquote.com).
With these endnotes and much food for thought I leave you enjoying our November days and weeks in Kusadasi.