It is fashionable to speculate on minimalism. Run minimalism experiments in clothing, eating, working and living in general. Cut down, get rid of, recycle, re-use, reduce. Sometimes out of real need. Sometimes of plain curiosity.
I must confess I have had a few minimalism projects in progress too. No clothes shopping, no coffee, no alcohol, no meat, no Twitter, no email, no television. These projects are at the different stages currently. With different results. Yet with the single learning.
I originally thought that giving up a thing or a craving is cutting the redundant. Simplifying. Practicing humbleness. And going back to those things or cravings is a weakness. Lack of will. Cowardice.
In time I have learned that some things stick and some do not. I still don’t eat meat after 3 years but I got back to coffee and way more Twitter than only a few months ago.
I have learned that all minimalism experiments are not about abandoning. But about understanding value. About excluding things from your life temporary to see how important they really are for you. About emptying some space – physical and mental – to let the important come in.
Take clothing. Last summer when I went to Russia for a visit I reviewed my clothes stored at the parents’ house. Ridiculously revealing outfits for the student parties in Norway. Colorful loose cottons and export-rejected MaxMaras and Gaps from India. Formal suits in executive deep blue and dark grey I wore to the client meetings in Russia and Ukraine. Not including clothes I gave to my sister or to my mom. Which in many cases meant only the change of the storage place.
What a waste! Depressed by the thought I gave a vow of not buying any more clothes for a year. Until July, 2012. So that I have time to wear all that clothes that I owe, to understand what really fits and what I really need going forward.
Özgür would grin when reading this. Because I have been borrowing his clothes. Two pairs of jeans and numerous T-shirts. I have my excises. Özgür does not wear all hundred T-shirts he owns at the same time. Plus I miss my husband when in Istanbul. So wearing his clothes I feel he is somewhat closer. And hence there is less need for shopping therapy.
And then on the countryside I don’t need any new clothes. Because whatever I put on will all smell fried meatballs and deep-fried eggplant and zucchini in a minute. And no one sees me at the kitchen anyway.
I attempted to cheat a few times though. I would go into the shops, eye something and even try it. And then walk away. Some of you know how I had to pass on a very beautiful dress.
A few weeks ago I cheated for real: I bought two shirts and two scarves. To celebrate spring. They all were so beautiful. I felt that it would be right to get them. That I would not regret afterwards.
The cheat day was really important. It showed that I am not a shopping manic. Even when given a poetic license. I don’t crave for any shopping any more. It showed that cutting down does not mean eliminating completely. Cutting down means refining your thoughts. Refining your taste.
After months of abstaining I would not drink Turkish coffee other than Fazil Bey’s or Turkish wine other than Sarafin’s Fume Blanc. Because when you give up something temporarily you can go back to only enough of it, the best of it. And this is the purpose of every minimalism experiment.
I feel that fresh green beans are minimalistic by nature. I have experimented with them for a bit but got back to this simple preparation. They call only for one or two additional ingredients. Maybe onion, some tomato. And good olive oil. Like in the Turkish zeytinyağlı taze fasulye.
I was long time misled by the title of this dish. “Taze” (fresh) sounded to me as if the green beans are only slightly cooked revealing their crunchy deliciousness. With time I have learned that with “zeytinyagli”, vegetable dishes cooked in olive oil, being “slightly cooked” is out of question. A good hour of simmering in a covered skillet or even a pressure cooker would be a golden standard for any self-respecting “zeytinyagli”.
And still I like this take on fresh green beans. With only onion, some tomato. And good olive oil.
Fresh Green Beans Cooking in Olive Oil (Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye)
Fresh green beans elegantly chopped and delicately simmered with onion and tomato in good olive oil.
Source: Adapted from The Sultan’s Kitchen by Özcan Ozan
Prep Time: 20 Min
Cook Time: 40 Min
Total Time: 1 Hr
- 100 ml olive oil
- 1 medium size onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 2 medium size tomato peeled and finely diced
- 500 gram green beans
- 1 tsp salt
- 300 ml hot water
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Prepare beans: Wash the beans and trim off their pointy ends. Cut each one diagonally at the angle of 60° – each bean will turn into a few 0.3 cm wide stripes. The cutting is the key to the more juicy result and little bit more exciting presentation than you can normally expect from a green bean.
- Cook beans: Heat the oil in a large skillet, add onions and garlic and cook over the medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, or until soft. Stir in tomato and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Add water, bring to boil and cover the skillet with a lid. Let simmer for 40 minutes – the beans will become tender but still not too soft.
- Serve: Transfer the beans into a large bowl, cool down and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (one hour, ideally). Serve chilled with fresh white bread or pita.
- Shopping tip: It’s always great to get your hands on fresh bean. To check the freshness when buying break one – if the bean willingly snaps back at you that’s your boy (or girl)!: As fresh as it gets.