From sun and chirping birds I arrived to the up-to-the-knee snow. It took 1.5 hours to get from Istanbul to Sapanca and then 2.5 hours to drive up to our farmhouse. We stopped by the car workshop to put on tire chains. We then lost one of the chains as we climbed the hill and stopped to look for it and fix it again. We dropped the car by the gate and climbed the last 100 meters with bags and new gas cylinder through the up-to-the-knee snow and the complete darkness. There had been no electricity since the morning. Very typical for this winter.
The whole winter has been a bit of a struggle. Snow would block the road and keep us waiting for the bulldozer to clear the way. Power cuts would cut off our Internet lines, electric devices and heating. We would be taking turns to take shower. And sleep in thermal underwear.
My mother-in-law did not despair and used it as a opportunity to give us a lesson of minimalism: making our own bread, preparing simple meals, running in-house laundry and socializing by the fireplace. Minimalism proved financially viable as somehow on the most snowy weeks we had most guests. By Friday the road would get clear and in a magical way (which I suspect was not so magical for Adem Abi who handled the issue) we would transport our guests up the hill to their warm rooms and the Gypsy-themed party.
Well.. besides financial return I have got a couple more minimalism lessons this winter..
Power cuts strengthen relationships
Electric lines in Turkey are as tender as the heat-loving Turks themselves and get easily panicked at the fist sight of cold and snow. This winter the power cuts were frequent. Once the whole region stayed without electricity for a day. And however much I could freak out about the gone Internet connection at the end I would join others at the parent’s house for tea, chat and jokes.
Long time for me the house of Özgür’s parents was a sacred place I would not dare to enter without a burning need or Özgür by my side. Not that they were so unwelcoming but I was so distant. Yet after a couple of evenings without electricity I would be sneaking to the parents’ house on my own. To say hi, bring tea, do ironing or watch a soap opera in the company of anne and Ömür, Özgür’s cousin. Who knew if we were discussing intricacies of the married life with anne so freely now if not the power cuts?
Sharing manual labor has better socializing than fancy networking events
Most of the time this winter you needed winter tires or least tire chains and a lot of determination to get to our farmhouse. While our clients had either our laundry service seemed to have none. So we had piles of bedsheets to be changed every week. Which with the laundry of eight regular inhabitants of the place meant that anne’s house turned into a huge laundromat.
3 irons and 1 iron press went out of order and I am praying that the washing machine will sustain the current routine of 4-5 wash-ups a day. Because our cleaning lady does not do laundry (and many other things) it’s mostly left for anne and Ömür. I would come to help now and then. Through this ironing sessions I found way more to share with the curly-haired short girl who spent most of her life at the small town of Anamur than I could find with many women at the professional networking events in Istanbul. She’s given me good lessons of patience when I could only say a few words in Turkish and care when I was sick. I am so sad she is leaving us this week.
With few options you make better use of what you have
One night I came from Istanbul to the complete darkness at the farmhouse. We were 10 dinner-awaiting people. Anne had two huge basins with dough she put to rise that morning. The stone oven has to be fired hours ahead to get to the required temperature and it was not. I would have been desperate.
She was not. She quickly re-purposed the dough, “I am going to fry some” and made pişi, Turkish home-style donuts by which Turkish kid swears and they continue swearing even as adults. We had them with Turkish breakfast set – always ready at every house in this country as a backup in case the proper meal fails for whatever reason. That was a satisfying dinner for 10.
My last winter salad is the pure manifestation of minimalism which I learned this winter (I thought before the artichokes and asparagus have really come into the scene and the snow is still here I would share the recipe). It is made of leftovers, little pieces of delicious this and that which could have been through otherwise. Winter is over but good habits are worth keeping.
Last Winter Salad
Excellent way to turn unexciting leftovers into a delightful salad
Serves: 2 (as a main dish or 4 as a starter)
- 5 tbsp boiled wheat berries (can be replaced with rice)
- 3 tbsp boiled green lentils
- 3 tbsp walnuts coarsely chopped
- 100 g anchovy fillets (I has some left after making anchovy rice)
- 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds (or any sour berries)
- 1 medium size pickled cucumber
- 2 slices stale bread
- 2 tbsp dill finely chopped
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- pinch salt
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Dice the bread and toast for a few minutes in on a hot frying pan greased with butter. You can also first toast bread in a toaster and then dice it.
- On a separate frying pan cook anchovy or other small fish of choice in little butter. If you deal with large fish filet I suggest you blanch it: boil it in large quantity of water until the fish starts flaking. Then with your hands flake it into little chunks.
- Combine the ingredients – I like doing it with my hands to feel the texture and give quality control to my chopping in case there are large lumps or chunks that need to be broken. Season with olive oil, alt and freshly ground pepper