For a long time, I have been looking for the perfect breakfast in Istanbul. I always feel something is lacking. A good delicacy shop will have amazing cheese, pastırma and olives but will never impress with the bread and pastry. A good bakery will offer great pastry, but the rest will be sub-par. An array of places along the Bosphorus takes ages to get to in the weekend traffic and tends to be so crowded that even the best view in the world does not save the affair. So I grew to believe that the best breakfast is always at home.
When traveling I am always looking forward to my breakfasts. I could never quite buy into the idea of Asian morning meal with a spicy stew kicking off the day. Nor I am a huge fan of the European “coffee and pastry” concept. That’s why Turkey is a safe heaven for me: Turkish breakfast is a full-fledged meal with its own “breakfast only” items. In fact the Turkish breakfast idea is so powerful that you can substitute any meal of a day with breakfast (but not the other way around).
I love that Turkish breakfast comes in many ways: you can put its basic version on the table within 5 minutes or, as legitimately, spend the whole morning preparing it. I prefer putting together a basic version and then giving it a quick touch of sophistication.
Bottle of Turkish sparkling wine and the occasion of my 30th birthday both had already added a delicious festive note to the regular Turkish breakfast fare but I was looking for more. I took the breakfast staples out of the fridge to see what I can do this time.
Truly good eateries are not mere food outlets: they grow beyond the products they sell and become institutions. Kaymakçı Pando at Beşiktaş market does serve delicious kaymak, or clotted cream. But you come here as much as for the legends and rituals still nurtured and observed at this family-run eatery that I suspect has only slightly changed since 1895 when it first opened its doors.
“He has got interesting relationships with food, my brother. He needs to find something beautiful that would be worth eating” – Özgür’s sister Özge says.
Is not that interesting that some people are more fussy about their food then the others? It does not take much effort to figure out good food and become reasonably fussy, if you ask me. We all practice eating three times a day for many years which gives a natural ground to develop substantial expertise in food. Yet, some people are happy with any food they get and some are very particular about what they are eating.
If there is an iconic food that many Istanbulites would swear by, it is menemen, scrambled eggs cooked with tomatoes and green peppers and traditionally served in a tin-lined copper pan with two handles (sahan). The eggs are a bit undercooked: there is a definite joy in breaking a large piece off the white bread, dipping it onto the moist eggs and munch this deliciousness enriched by the tomatoes and crunchy peppers.
Only half-awake, barefoot, wearing the gotten-as-gifts pink-bears-patterned chemise and little heart-shaped pendant on a silver chain I was sitting at the kitchen of Reyhan Hanım* and could not believe my luck – a most elaborate breakfast was served on the table. I seemed to have scored the highest points in the life draw: not only I met the love of my life, this wonderful Turkish man, and now his lovely and welcoming parents but also the whole heritage of Turkish cuisine is pouring down on me.