Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom

These days you will find me on my terrace soaking in the last rays of sunshine before the grey of Mersin’s winter takes over.  I will no doubt have a cup of çay (sorry guys it’s not particularly Türk – white with two sugar) and, depending on the time of day, perhaps a biscuit (or two) to tide me over until akşam yemeği (dinner).  Basking in the sunshine is also the perfect time for me to catch up on my reading.

Tulips

As a blogger I am always on the hunt for fellow bloggers and writers that live in Türkiye, telling their own anecdotes of life, love and the numerous catastrophes that befall them living in this crazy country.  One of my favourite’s is fellow Aussie, Lisa Morrow, with her blog insideoutinIstanbul.  Her blog is filled with tales and photographs of her life living in one of the most incredible cities on earth – İstanbul – so when I received a copy of her most recent book, Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom, I knew that I needed to find a comfy spot in the sun where I would no doubt be entrenched until I had finished the very last line.

Lisa’s descriptive style captures the sights, sounds and even the smells (remind me to never catch the no. 2 bus with her) of modern day İstanbul, giving me, the reader, not only a personal tour of her favourite haunts but drawing me in with little known stories of what is, without doubt, one of the most amazing cities in the world.  Her anecdotes of language barriers and Government bureaucracy or even her partner’s difficulties with something as simple as his name (Who?) was something that any expat living in İstanbul (or any other city for that matter) will recognise.

To quote the wonderful Molly Meldrum (I am now picturing anyone who is not Australian googling “Molly Meldrum” right now), “Do yourselves a favour”.  With the Christmas season fast approaching this will make an excellent stocking stuffer, in fact, I can think of one particular friend back in Sydney will be receiving it in the mail very soon.

Does anyone else have any recommendations for good Türk inspired reading?  With winter fast approaching it is time for me to hibernate until spring so any suggestions to help pass the time while in my self imposed exile will be greatly appreciated.

_________________________________________________________________________

Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like minded people who, like me, tends to hibernate during the winter months also loves Türkiye. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

Time for Baba

We have already delved into my childhood trauma of domates so today I thought I would open the door on my next therapy session – my complete retching disgust of patlıcan (aubergine or eggplant or just bleugh!).  I mean seriously even this photo of my finished recipe of Baba Ganoush cannot make it look even slightly appetizing!

babaganoush 2

Patlıcan is not a food that I would voluntarily consume.  It is slimy.  It is bitter.  Cooked it looks a bit goopy.  All black and weird and just ugh!  And just who would want to eat something that is named after an egg but is a plant?  Does that even make sense?  And while I am at it where did the name pineapple come from?  Practically everyone else in the world calls them ananas (including here in Türkiye) but again some crazy person came up with the idea of calling it a pineapple.  Salak!

The fact is that as a kid (and a teenager and even an adult) I hated patlıcan and refused to eat it.  It was running a very close second to domates as my most hated food and I was thankful that my mother did not cook anything “foreign”.  Just to clarify “foreign” also included Spaghetti Bolognese so the idea of anything really weird like eggplant in our evening meal would be practically unheard of (although I do have hazy memories of sitting down to liver or kidneys in our little orange Formica kitchen on more than one occasion).

The first time I came to Türkiye I tried “Baba” for the first time.  Wary (as it was made from a most hated vegetable) but surprised.  I loved it.  Back in Sydney I would have never made it.  I mean why bother to prepare it from scratch when you can get it home delivered by practically any Turkish or Middle Eastern restaurant for a reasonable price – and it would no doubt taste better too.  Here in the Village though home delivery is scarce (although not unheard of) but regardless I love “Baba” here because I get to make it myself – any excuse to mangal.  The Turk has questioned before whether Daughter and I are pyromaniacs.  Whenever anyone in the family is thinking about having a barbeque we are there chomping at the bit to get around the flames.  Me for “Baba” and Daughter … well I actually DO think she might be a pyromaniac but that’s for another day.

Like most of my recipes they were passed on to me by either my darling mother in law (who I still miss every single day) or my sister in law Songul.  I do not use specific quantities or measurements I just keep adding ingredients until it tastes pretty damn good.

baba

So what you need:

2 patlıcan (aubergine), 2 biber (pepper), as many yeşil biber (green chilli) as you can handle and 3-4 domates (tomato)

4 sarımsak (garlic) cloves

Limon (lemon) juice

A good dollop of nar eksisi (pomegranate molasses) and another good dollop of zeytin yağı (olive oil).

Tuz (salt) and karabiber (pepper) to taste

To make “the Baba” you toss the patlıcan, biber and domates onto the coals of your mangal to chargrill them.

Once they are charred and soft through I peel off the skin (usually burning my fingers in the process) before cutting them up.  Some people mash or use a blender on the vegetables but I prefer a more rustic Baba plus the quicker it is finished the quicker I can consume it.  Before you go any further let the patlıcan drain for a little while to remove some of the excess juice that they build up during cooking.  Once drained I add way too much sarımsak (garlic) as well as the juice of one limon, and nar eksisi.  I season with tuz ve karabiber and finally add the zeytin yağı (olive oil) – check the consistency as it can get a little runny if there is too much olive oil.  Some people use tahini in their “Baba” but not me.  I am not a huge fan of it at any time (unless I am making hummus of course but that recipe is yet another therapy inspired post).

This recipe is so simple and I try to make it at least once a week (like I said any excuse to mangal).  If there is no mangal going on outside I can make “the Baba” by cooking the vegetables in the oven (cut a few slices into the vegetable to speed up the cooking time) or sometimes I cook it using a közmatik (a great little Türk invention to cook your patlıcan perfectly on the stovetop) but I prefer the really smoky taste that they take on when cooked on the mangal plus the flames that draw me in like a Siren calling a sailor to his death – OMG maybe I am a pyromaniac!

This, yoğurtlu patlican and acile ezme always makes up part of my meze when barbequing.  A night with the family just isn’t complete without it on the table.  I can’t get enough of it!

Afiyet olsun!

_________________________________________________________________________

Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like minded people who, like me, is open to trying new and strange foods and also loves Türkiye. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

Weddings and Funerals

In my pre-village life I could count the number of weddings that I had been to on one hand (including my own).  I could also count the number of funerals that I had been to on my other hand (including both of my parents).  Now since our move to Türkiye our life is inundated with them both and honestly, enough is enough!

wedding

Thankfully this year’s düğün (wedding) season has started to slow now that we have moved into autumn although I did come home to find yet another invitation on my door step yesterday afternoon.  This one is for The Turk’s second cousin’s daughter (for feck’s sake), yet another person that I have never met in my entire life.  That’s fine although as the yabancı I am usually dragged around the room like a trophy.  Between you and me I think having the yabancı at your wedding is a sign that you have really made it.  A yabancı is a real drawcard.  Regardless a Turkish wedding reception is great fun, whether you know the wedding party or not and usually the whole village turns out for the event.

Here in the village it is not uncommon for a wedding to go for two or three days not including the nikah.  There is the kina gecesi (bridal henna party) where all the bride’s female family members, friends and neighbours get together on the night before the wedding to paint the thick ochre paste on her hands and feet.  Then you have the traditional village reception usually held in the school grounds or on the bride’s street where jeans and t-shirts are acceptable attire and, finally if finances allow, the salon reception where you will find yourself dressed up like a starlet on Oscar night with more sparkle, makeup and hairspray than you thought you could wear in a lifetime.  The latter two nights are jammed packed with earth rattling Turkish müzik coupled with pounding drums, all night dancing, fireworks and tribal yelling  – after all the more noise you make, the happier you are.  The only downside to a Turkish wedding is they are generally alcohol free.  The Turk and I have taken to hiding the little baby bottles of Angora and an opener in my Fossil handbag so if you ever see me lugging around a huge handbag at a wedding don’t shake it too much.  Desperate measures people.

cenaze-islemleri

Although most of the weddings are out of the way for the season a cenaze (funeral) can happen at any time of year; actually here in the Village they seem to happen all the time.  The first funeral I attended here was for my mother in law.  It was heartbreaking.  Since then, however, I seem to find myself constantly attending funerals from people in the village, again usually people that I have never met.  Of course I have to attend.  It is respectful to be seen by the side of The Turk at these events however personally I find funerals highly emotional and, even though I may not have known the person, I hide behind huge sunglasses teary eyed.  A funeral will also go on for days (7 days to be exact) and it is necessary to attend every single day, drink copious amounts of çay and, in my case anyway, burst into tears at every prayer.  Sadly I now know there is a funeral even before The Turk can open his mouth because I spot the dark blue jacket neatly hung over a chair ready to be slipped on.  At that point I usually blurt out, “Oh no!  Who’s died now!” because the dark blue jacket is his funeral jacket.

I’ve got to tell you, you run the whole gauntlet of emotions living here in the Village from the excitement of an over the top wedding, the comedy of a ridiculous family feud or the emotions of a neighbour’s death.  Even with all the drama that goes on around me I am incredibly happy with my life as it is right now – and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

_________________________________________________________________________

Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like minded people who, like me, love all people regardless of their race, religion and creed, but also loves Türkiye. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

I am Human

This morning my heart weeps; the world has again been struck by tragedy. Over 150 victims killed in six separate terrorist attacks in and around Paris, France with IS apparently taking responsibility for these attacks.

Paris

As you all know I live in a country that is 98% Muslim.  Most Muslims are ordinary, peace-loving people with their own set of dreams and problems and should be treated with the same respect we give to any other fellow human being.  I live in a real community where love and support is evident wherever you go.  These are not people bred with hatred.

What many of you may not have known (due mainly to the fact that news coverage was nearly non-existent in other countries) is that only yesterday there was two suicide bombings attributed to IS killing 43 people in Beirut.  Another incident in Baghdad with 18 victims.  Türkiye also recently suffered at the hands of IS with an attack that killed nearly 100 people and injured over 400 more at a peace rally in Ankara.  I chose not to write about that terrorist attack in an attempt to fill my feed with only positive stories but I guess I can’t keep myself quiet today.  These attacks are not solely being directed at you or at me.  These attacks by IS are indiscriminate.  We are all targets – Muslim, Christian or other.

Today my social media newsfeed is filled with putrid spewings of hatred from people who I have long considered friends.  I have been shocked by some of the statements made.  Do you feel that way about all Muslims?  What about The Turk?  Do you feel that way about him as well?  Should he be vilified for his religion.  Of course not.  To one particular person who wrote on their Facebook that “all terrorists are Muslim” I say this to you – hate is born by people exactly like you.  You are no better than a terrorist with your rabid hatred.

Throughout history religion has been used as an excuse, or driving force, for some of the worst atrocities imaginable. From pre-history to modern history, religion is, for many people, just an excuse to kill other people. Not post 9/11.  We can go throughout history and talk of religious atrocities.  I shall name a few although honestly I shouldn’t need to.  We all learnt about them at school.  Does the Inquisition ring a bell to you?  How about those witch hunts in Massachusetts?  All about religion.  Let’s go further back in history to Roman times with Nero persecuting all Christians.  And what about Jesus?  He was persecuted for his religion as well.  Maybe we should consider the Aztecs who killed tens of thousands a year to appease the Gods.  I could continue but I won’t.

Your religion (if you have one) is only one part of who you are.  I cannot understand why we have so much hatred and violence.  The perception that people of one nationality, political affiliation, religion, or colour of skin are more superior or inferior than another. We are one people. We are all humans trying to get through this thing called LIFE. It is hard, unfair, and trying – but we all deserve a chance to live it. No one’s life should be taken by another for any reason. No one’s life is more valuable than another’s.

To those in Paris, and those affected by this horrible massacre, my thoughts are with you today.

_________________________________________________________________________

Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like minded people who, like me, love all people regardless of their race, religion and creed, but also loves Türkiye. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

Looking for Lychee

Driving in Mersin is a bit of a hit and miss situation for me most of the time and I don’t mean being hit or missing other cars, dolmuş or pedestrians.  This is more of a situation where trying to find where you are going is literally impossible.  Street maps just don’t exist.  Directions are either shouted at you by a crazed local or at best scribbled on the back of napkins and my GPS in the car spends most of its time telling me I am either driving in the deniz or going through a fecking mountain.  The city itself isn’t very wide, you can drive from the beach to the foot of the hills in probably 15 minutes but to drive the length of the city can take you a good two hours from go to woe!

Mersin city

Right now our little expat group is in the midst of arranging our Christmas party and in order to do so we have been zipping around checking out a few different restaurants.  This week we went to check a relatively new restaurant named Lychee.

Lychee should have – SHOULD HAVE – been relatively easy for me to find.  It was on a main road, a road that I travelled regularly, and the restaurant looked huge so common sense tells me that it will be pretty easy to locate.  Yes?  NO!

When I say that this restaurant is located in a vortex or perhaps a black hole, you need to believe me.  When I also say that I could never go on The Amazing Race because I can get lost in the confines of a paper bag you should believe that too.  No really. My body has no internal GPS system actually I have no sense of direction at all.  This could possibly be a chronic medical condition.  It will be named “NoSense-itus”.  It is definitely hereditary and although I don’t know who precisely I can blame (being adopted and all that) but I think its a condition that should be researched so future generations are saved from this affliction.

The plan was to go to Lychee for lunch on Wednesday and me, being terribly efficient, thought I should locate the restaurant to ensure that I will have no problems finding it on the day (as I do tend to misplace myself on a regular basis).  I looked up its website.  A bit confusing, not really about the restaurant, more about some kind of food consultancy group.  What the what?  So I went to my backup plan of Facebook.  Facebook really can be considered the new Google for Mersin restaurants.  Google may not have the information (as restaurants here rarely have websites) but Facebook bloody well will because everyone loves to ‘check in’.  But on their Facebook page the restaurant’s address is noted as “centre”.  Centre?  Centre of the city?  Centre of the universe?  Centre of the vortex? What the feck is centre?

My first attempt to locate the restaurant was a complete failure.  After punching in the address into my GPS in the car I arrived at vacant land about 4 blocks from where the actual restaurant was finally located.  My second attempt, using Google maps, was more successful.  I made it to the location but still couldn’t find the restaurant.  I parked my car and even walked up and down the block but the restaurant still remained hidden in the vortex opening only to those who are worthy.

Feck my life!

“This place does not exist!” I shouted for the world to hear.

“Ummm yes it does stupid Aussie girl.”

*Sigh*

And of course the masses were right.  After standing on the street and calling out “Abracadabra” the restaurant appeared before me, like the Room of Requirement (Muggle nerd alert).

Lychee collage

Having finally found it I just want to say, the restaurant was lovely.  The service was good, although initially the waiter was slightly traumatized by my wanting a bottle of wine with only one glass (in fact the waiter sent the manager over to check that it was my intention to drink the bottle myself.  Really?  You will consume all of this?  Ummm don’t judge me mate just bring me the bottle!).  The food was European cuisine and delicious, in fact there were way too many options for just one visit!  The cocktail list was as long as my arm and (apparently) sensational.  The prices were spot on, in fact they were downright reasonable compared to the prices at Marina (just saying).

The search continues for our Christmas party destination but Lychee is definitely now on rotation and will be visited by us ladies again soon (again assuming the vortex opens for me).

_________________________________________________________________________

Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like minded people who, like me, sometimes might – just might – get lost inside a paper bag, but loves Türkiye. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.