Now when I am supposed to spread love for Turkish food disguised as recipes and excitement about eating it in the form of Istanbul restaurant recommendations I am here admitting the fact that may as well be suicidal for this blog. I AM FED UP WITH TURKISH FOOD. If this is the last post you going to read here before you flee hungry and disappointed – so be it, my Turkish food rant.
I am bored with the poverty of Turkish salad scene. Tremendously rich produce could inspire Turks to make as many as two salads – shepherd (çoban) and green. They both feature finest chopping that borders with mincing and signature seasonings – impossible quantities of lemon juice and – just to get it to the Turkish idea of perfection – fruit vinegar.
I am sick with spreading yoghurt with a bit of crashed garlic onto anything cooked. I am tired of converting every single vegetable and green into a zeytinyağlı, dish stewed in olive oil. Invariably with some tomatoes, garlic and onion. And invariably cooked with riviera, the lowest grade of olive oil available.
Please, don’t feed me more Turkish soups. Let us not pretend they are soups on the first place. Liquid bechamel sauce, sour dough, or thick fish stew turned into a soup meant to stuff you on the cheap.
And no! no! absolute no! to the Turkish sweets. I understand that long time ago some cook got so bewildered by the revelation of how hot dough can soak up indefinite quantities of sugar syrup and at once applied the principle to different kinds of dough to produce the classics – baklava, ekmek kadaif, tel kadaif, sekerpare, lokma, revani. Why not to simply drink the sugar syrup?
As you read this you may have many facts to confront me with. You may ask: what about world’ most exquisite flavors native to Turkey – pistachio, pomegranate molasses, charcoal grilled eggplant? Yes, they are enjoyed on special feasts but we don’t eat them every day.
What about ethnic eateries, you may inquire. Ethnic eateries are acceptable as long as they feature some version of Turkish food. Italian, Indian or Chinese becomes Turkish.
I consider myself a very accommodating person and have been fine with omni-Turkish food around me. But this is not the food I have been eating for the 29 years of my life on the regular basis.
I want my pasta with something besides butter, I want my Russian buckwheat porridge for breakfast, I want to bake things with real butter instead of margarine and vegetable oil. I want stinky French cheeses (and I beg you not to tell me French have stolen it from Turks). I want rich Middle Eastern bread spreads. I want Moroccan couscous. Indian curries. Salads so nutritious they can work as mains. Good chocolate.
A week ago when everyone was anticipating the lunch of chicken I put fresh pasta dough together. “Will it look really bad if I make a meal for myself only?” – I asked Özgür, my eternal advocate within the realm of my Turkish family. He looked surprised by my desperation, “It is perfectly fine” – he comforted me.
I sauteed serious quantity of onion and garlic in highest grade olive oil, then added zucchini and red bell pepper and as soon as they started browning I crowded the skillet with finely diced tomato. As the tomato was getting exhausted by the steaming I briefly boiled my fresh pasta. Drained it, threw into the sauce, added pungent eski kasar and freshly chopped basil. I stack a fork into the pan and fed a few bites to my passing by husband. His face took a very rare expression – he looked regretting having said no to my suggestion to double the portion. I picked a plate and got to my room..
I felt really bad. I have both cooked something nicer for myself and now was eating it alone.
When we eat at the countryside house in 90% cases I would have had more exquisite meals if I were to cook only for us two. But I see how living with 8 others you need to be more careful about the cost and more humble with the ingredients. This is why if I was to make this pasta for all of us there would be less sauce, more pasta and more down-to earth cheese.
Then it is not nice to eat something others around would not have. My mother-in-law scolded me harshly once when at a simple dinner for which we had a typical Turkish breakfast fare I asked Özgür whether he would like a boiled egg. “You must ask everybody!” – his mother told me. Unless you are sick or missed the normal meal hours because of your work duties you should join a meal and eat what everybody else is eating
Food is always shared in Turkey. With sojourner on a long bus ride, with a guest walking in as we are having our meal. And of course with your family. However little there is there to share. I witness over and over again how those dishes that could be enough for 3 people will not be finished by 10 of us as everyone will be reluctant to take the last bit. Because it is not polite. And because of this politeness with have a fridge full with tiny containers of “polite” leftovers which always end up in the dogs food so I started feeding those last bits off forcefully so we would not put a remaining spoon back to the fridge. There is politeness and there is common sense.
Guilty in not sharing my food that very evening I put together lasagna made from my fresh dough for everybody. It was a big hit. Yenge wondered, “Would you make it with feta next time?” and the grandma praised, “You made a very good börek!“.
What we eat is indeed conditioned by how we were socialized to eat and no one can’t be blamed for that. That’s why I some love börek and some have a soft spot for pasta. Sprinkled with pistachio. And no yogurt on top!