Archives for category: Food

New Year 2013, Turkey

When I lived in Japan, come New Year, my Japanese friends would tell me that how you spend the first day of the new year is indicative of how you will spend the rest of the year. Turkish people, I learned, share the same belief. If you just spent your New Year’s day hungover and lying on the couch watching VH1 or a marathon of Hallmark movies, you probably want to reserve taking on this belief until next year ;). Somehow I adopted it and haven’t taken the time to undo it, so New Year’s day I like to do something fun and active with people I love. Last year, I went hiking in South Mountain Reservation with my Turkish friends Burçin and Hatice and Hatice’s family. It wasn’t lost on Hatice, her family, nor myself that we were together again this New Year’s day…In Turkey!
Beliefs are powerful!
So despite our late night revelries and 4am bedtime, this is what we did with the intention to carry it through the year:

  • Took a wooded walk (in a beautiful area called Sapanca)
  • Ate delicious, fresh food and drank tea and coffee
  • Spent time with people we love
  • Gave and received Reiki (we hosted a Reiki circle last night (January 1) for the local neighborhood women)

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Now, here are some things I learned about spending New Year’s Eve in Turkey:

  • Spend the evening with your family or friends
  • Give small gifts (books, CDs, clothes or cute accessories are typical)
  • Dine on roast turkey, pickled tomatoes and dolma‘s
  • Wear red knickers (that were given to you by someone else)
  • Carry a passport in your pocket (if you wish to travel in the new year)

Hatice’s mom (I love her!) blessed me with the gift of red knickers, but between all the dolma-eating, Rakı sipping and gift sharing, I didn’t get around to putting them on, so I tucked them in next to my passport and carried them with me in my little shoulder bag.

We greeted 12am coming up the escalators to Nişantaşı, a quarter of Istanbul famous for its shops and cafes. People kissed and shouted, “Happy New Year” in Turkish –I still haven’t learned it, sorry! We joined the throng and squeezed ourselves into the crowd following the music towards the heart of a street party (a DJ was playing music on an outdoor stage). A little while later, with some effort, we popped ourselves back out to walk along Abdi İpekçi Street, Turkey’s most expensive shopping street. We finished the night with Starbucks and the drive back to Izmit for our 4am bedtime.

Noted moment New Year’s Eve 2013?  Pre-dinner belly dancing lesson in the kitchen. Dear Belly Dancing, you are elusive, but I am determined to get you!
Once is enough moment New Year’s Eve 2013? Being sandwiched between revelers doing the fake-horseriding move to Gangnam Style. Why can’t I escape this song? Why?!
Noted moment New Year’s Day 2013?  The flock of starlings dancing in the sky.

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Turkey_food

Food in Turkey!

Two words: Fresh and delicious.

My first meal (after a grilled spicy tuna salad sandwich at Starbucks, yes, Starbucks, while waiting for my checked suitcases that took the next flight out of my stopover destination, Zurich), was dinner at a mom-and-pop fish restaurant in Izmit. My plate was served to me with three fish complete with heads and tails, a grilled green pepper and a thick onion slice. After my initial shock from the milky eyeballs and Sophie-sized teeth gaping at me, I concentrated on peeling the meat of the fish away from the bones and was eventually adequately distracted by how good it tasted.

Breakfast is cheese (feta and a light solid cheese), olives, toast, tomato in olive oil and oregano, honey on the comb, and a yummy spread made from tahini and a thick sweet grape syrup called, tahin pekmez.

Fruit is so fresh and juicy. You can eat a lemon like an orange.

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For my first dinner in Istanbul, we went to Balikci Sabahattin. We had cheese, salad, fruit, steamed eggplant, a hot pepper spread, fish and a melon that had a skin that looked like a watermelon but tasted a bit like rock melon (cantaloupe). It paired perfectly with the creamy feta cheese from the cheese plate. Fresh, light and fulfilling.

Back in Izmit…Wednesday nights are Happy Hour at the Business Complex for Tüpraş, a petroleum company and apparently the largest company in Turkey. My friend and gorgeous host, Hatice, is teaching yoga there. After yoga we went to the company’s “social building” for dinner and afterwards drinks. There I had a traditional soup called, tarhana. You can tell that eons of history has contributed to the perfection in the hearty, tangy flavour. When I finished, I felt like I had just been fed by my Turkish buiuk anne (grandmother).

My favorite thing so far?  Hatice’s homemade lentil soup.
My good-to-have-once-but-let’s-not-do-that-again? Street-vendor grilled corn on the cob.