Mercimek Corbasi? Sigara Borek? Adana Kofte?Plus a fine locally made beverage to accompany your delicious meal! Does that perhaps sound familiar with regards to a potential order in your favorite Turkish restaurant here in Kusadasi?
You might not like soup (corba) as a starter and opt for something equally tasty, or you prefer fish (balik) instead of grilled meat but chances are that more often than not you will eat out the local way; that is in a restaurant where Turkish dishes dominate the menu. Granted, it could have taken you a few weeks before you overcame your gourmet stage fright so to speak – stage fright as in ‘will I like the new food which I never tried before’ – but once you sat down for the first time in one such great eatery, mastered the menu and enjoyed every bit, you have truly arrived.
Why would I devote an entire column to all things foodie? Well, traveler’s history has it that if your stomach feels well your whole body and soul feel well. And no one should feel ashamed to admit that getting used to new ingredients, herbs, spices or the way a particular dish is cooked can take a while. But with a little linguistic preparation there should be no obstacle in becoming a Turkish food aficionado reasonably fast.
Actually, I had written about a food subject some time ago for this newspaper by means of introducing Turkish cuisine to new arrivals. What made me reconsider the issue is that as you may recall from my previous three articles, I recently spent some time away from our shared resort, traveling abroad. Thus said no better time to reflect about the Turkish way of life than from overseas! Because when you do not have access to what you did almost every day for such a long period of time you will either miss it, or come to the conclusion it was never the right thing for you anyways. Call it the ‘long distance sobering up effect’ if you like. However, in my case it has quickly turned into a ‘cannot wait to be back in Turkey’ situation. So are there any homesickness remedies available where I am at the moment before heading back to the splendid Aegean shores? Of course there are – locate your nearest Turkish run restaurant and off you go!
Exactly this is what I did last Saturday and the choice of starter and main course I mentioned in my first paragraph is what I had. Fittingly named ‘Yildiz’ or Star, the menu on offer was not necessarily a mile long but the thirty or so traditional dishes were good enough a variety to seriously being transported across time zones and continents. A friendly welcome both in the language of the host country and in Turkish; family run with (almost grown up) teenagers helping out to keep the packed place afloat besides earning some much appreciated pocket monies. After all it was a weekend and supposedly all school homework had long been taken care of.
Guests of Turkish origin were eating happily side by side with ‘locals ‘yet what I so much love back home in Turkey was duplicated right here, too: it does not matter from where a person originally hails from! We share a town, our planet or in this case, a restaurant floor. Good food, nice drinks, superb service bring us all together. And the fact that pictures of Istanbul or Cappadocia graded the walls made feeling at home most certainly even easier.
But let me mention two more scientific observations as well if I may. First, the word integration is often misinterpreted. To me it does not automatically stand for assimilation. My opposite number at dinner was addressed in Turkish whereas myself was spoken to in German. The owner, the chef, the friendly waiting staff all took pride in representing ‘their’ Turkey whilst feeling equally proud to now living in ‘our’ country which nevertheless at the same time has become theirs, too. Confused?
What I want to say is that moving abroad, living abroad should never result in neglecting; erasing ones’ own cultural richness including language. Same as me in Kusadasi: I speak in my own language in the company of fellow expats whenever possible yet whilst addressing Turkish friends and neighbors, or staff in a restaurant, do indeed try to employ my intermediate Turkish.
Second, we can learn quite a lot from Turkish family life. No matter whether home or abroad the family is the center piece of attraction, everything else comes second. The difference I notice is however that in Turkey many different generations sit and live together, often under one shared roof. Abroad, families tend to be smaller, rather like our nucleus family, i.e. parents and children and that was it. But still the importance of family life is maintained, protected, cherished.
Turkey has become a wonderful modern country where speed, efficiency, entrepreneurship and doing things ever faster, ever better matter. But most definitely two issues seem to stay the same, appear to remain intact: family and food.
If you wish to prepare your own Turkish meal at home and are keen on combining tradition with nouvelle cuisine why not take a look at Huseyin Ozerand; his cookbook link: http://www.huseyinozer.co.uk/en/ – you then click onto Cookbook; I know this master chef in person – a true culinary gentleman.
I consider myself as very lucky indeed to have been introduced to both during my first almost twelve years in Turkey. Now that I took a short break before hopefully embarking on my next decade+ I realized that those ‘two F’ are vital in order to try and reach personal happiness; a fine meal in the company of your extended family – nothing more to add. Enjoy your spring in Kusadasi or wherever you may peruse these lines, my pleasure as always.
Source: Klaus Jurgens