They say that you cannot have your cake and eat it. We are all familiar with that proverb which amongst various options one could figuratively speaking translate into do not bite off more than you can chew, talking about life in general and not limited to the actual thing, the cake. Yet here in Turkey one would be forgiven to question whether the idiomatic usage is really correct.
Now picture yourself in a patisserie where counting the number of sweets and cakes and other products requires a pocket calculator such enormous is the sweet choice on display. Here it is possible to first have your cake, then eat it, and then have your cake again. How come? Please let me explain.
A patisserie, or depending from where you originally hail from upmarket café, is called a Pastane in the Turkish language. However, when combined with the name of the establishment it is common to refer to it, for example, as Yaz Pastanesi, with the ‘si’ added.
Some may be small, some big and some are seriously big, for sure. Most will have tables inside and perhaps a terrace outside. I have been to some coming in the form of a garden restaurant, too! No matter the size what unites them all would be a charming welcome often accompanied by a ‘drink on the house’ so to speak – during summers a cup of ice-cold lemonade perhaps, during somewhat colder climes a glass of tea or a similarly hot beverage.
There should be a number of small trays placed near the counter(s) from which we can sample some of the chocolates or produce on offer as every good Pastane will not simply sell cakes but a lot more, including miniature chocolates or cookies.
Assuming you would want to eat there and then it makes good sense to approach the displays and choose according to your liking instead of only taking a look at the menu. Good news is that even for first time visitors and for those who not as of yet master enough of the Turkish language ordering is easy as what you see is what you get. And as our friendly Turkish hosts and neighbors are extremely welcoming chances are that they wish to demonstrate their very own knowledge of English by explaining what could be hidden underneath a deliciously looking chocolate coating should you so inquire.
Once nicely settled into your comfortable chair and equipped with your favorite sweet and a beverage the time has come to engage in people watching, in a positive sense of course. As a Pastane is a true micro-cosmos of daily life in Turkey. Everyone frequents them, single visitors and entire families, business people and tourists, schoolchildren and retired folk.
And now the really interesting observation starts. Here we not merely come and eat cake, far from it. Here we actually buy made to order birthday, wedding, anniversary cakes. A good Pastane will have a booklet, or as I witnessed quite regularly, a complete volume resembling a small town’s yellow pages with photos and prices and descriptions of what type of cake you can have freshly prepared for you.
And there is more in store. Some Pastane now offer a full-fledged lunch menu including small steaks cooked to order. There shall be free wireless as has become standard in all four corners of this great nation. There could be soft music in the background, too.
And if all this would not merit more than one visit anyhow I have a final surprise waiting for you. Whatever you saw on the menu and on the display in the entrance hall except for some items can be taken home or given away as a present to someone else. It shall be finely packaged even if you simply want to keep it for yourself.
You expect guests for afternoon tea? Head to the Pastane. You wish to entertain dinner guests and need a perfectly matching cake? Go to the Pastane. Your spouse has a wedding anniversary and so will you? A visit to the Pastane is the logic choice.
And then there is the option to keep it all to yourself, cake or sweet wise. A little indulgence every now and then is totally permissible or is it not? Hence my introductory paragraph hinted at this famous ‘have cake’ saying. What I had in mind is that after you enjoyed your sweet and/or cake and are ready to stroll back home you might wish to buy another item to keep in the fridge for some hours or a day and then consume it in the comfort of your own four walls. Had a cake and ate it? Most certainly – yet you can keep it too, in case you buy another take away add-on.
Day-to-day life, or daily life, whichever way you prefer to refer to it, is so amazingly varied in Turkey. Our shared town is a perfect example for this reflection. You only need to venture out from your beaten tracks and do more things as the locals would do them. Going to a Pastane is one of those fascinating activities me and my family seldom leave aside for more than a week if at all that long. But as is the case with all things delicious – enjoy responsibly, sweet Pastane tooth or not as of yet.
Enjoy September in our fine resort.