This weekend all the rooms reservations were cancelled at our countryside hotel. From fully booked with a waiting list we went to a quiet weekend mode. Besides the big Sunday breakfast that is always crowded it was – probably the first time this year – a weekend leisurely spend with the family. And very special guests. My friend and Le Cordon Bleu graduate Elena brought her teacher chef Gilles who is launching Le Cordon Bleu program in Istanbul. It was the weekend of conversations – about food, over food and while making it. Mom was turning one Turkish specialty after another, Elena was baking French pastry, chef Gilles was getting intensive introduction to Turkish food and culture and I.. I was a like phone whose lamentably squeaking dying battery started cheerful blinking once put to charge.
We started getting busy at Zelis Ciftligi in Sapanca on Friday. Shopping at the Friday market, serving dinner, doing prep for the Saturday morning baking and prep for the meze we would be serving on the weekend. Then the weekend when my day kicked off with 7 am baking, orchestrating the buffet preparation, then making staff lunch, then mid-term cleaning, skyping with my sister and parents, prep for dinner, serving dinner, cleaning up and closing down around 11 pm. On Sunday when I brought to anne – still in quarantine after her cancer treatment – a piece of wonderfully moist chocolate cake I baked that morning she said, “This is the first time I left the kitchen for so long and I am so relaxed”. And I have never been more exhausted.
The whole summer we have been making this salad for breakfast. Bol (full, a lot of, in Turkish) greens – parsley, dill, basil, mint, rocket salad and purslane which we were occasionally getting from Anamur, the Mediterranean home base of my husbands’ family. Then a bit of plum tomatoes, a hint of cucumber and red bell pepper – to give more color and substance to the otherwise green salad. Anne also puts cheese, usually leftovers and crumbles of the cheese she cuts for breakfast that morning – creamy ezine peyniri, soft string cheese and maybe some lor (cottage cheese). Then comes a splash of extra virgin olive oil, a memory of our culinary trip to Ayvalik. And a handful of olives – black and green – to throw on top of the salad right before serving. Eating bowl of this salad for breakfast has become a good tradition this summer.
It is characteristic how we do not grasp certain things before experiencing them. And our intellectual capacity keeps quiet until our hands or hearts learns. I sort of knew that cooking for a crowd takes stamina and organization. But have not discovered it until anne got into the hospital and I stayed back at the kitchen of our farmhouse with 8 to feed. Every day.
May has already been financially satisfying. I have made it to the breakeven – given my visa runs to Russia last year and ridiculously high rent I am paying right now in Istanbul. Which means I can give legitimate answers to the persistent questions my friends and parents still ask about the financial viability of my food career.
As Özge has started helping me with the food tours I can focus more on the cooking classes which I have been giving a lot recently. I have also had two big groups and piloted my idea of taking people to our countryside for cooking and food. Good busy times.
What’s next? What comes after the financial security is achieved again, 2 years after I quit my job? 5* vacation? A plan to conquer the rest of the world? Well, in my case it’s going to the countryside house, washing some dishes as our helper is away and then spending half a day to harvest nettle and making dry pasta. How is that for a reward?
As the season with the food tours and cooking classes have started in a big way I am less at the farmhouse. No wonder when I am there I appreciate the place more. This week I came for a few days without my laptop and camera left behind in Istanbul. So there was time for studying the blossoming garden, walking with Ömür, chatting with Özgür and foraging the wild herbs.
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.