The other day we all happened to be in town – me and Özgür for our clients and anne for her doctor. Done and starving by the afternoon we thought, “Why not to eat at the Kadıköy market?” This was the first time for me in Istanbul together my mother-in-law and as the Kadıköy market is my territory I was determined to get her the best. Fish at Kadı Nimet Balıkçısı followed by the baklava from Bilgeoğlu and washed down with seriously good Turkish coffee at Fazil Bey. Failure-proof plan. Or so I thought.
My mother-in-law’s kitchen assistant has left and the weekend has come. 30 hours at the kitchen. I don’t know if I should write about the complexities of working with the family members (read – husbands), the joys of having good relationships with your Turkish mother-in-law, the power of yoga to keep your body going after you fall on a wet staircase and hurt your back, mundanity of skinning tomatoes, dreams of hamam, reminiscences of my consulting job which also required working under pressure, the irony of fate which got me back into long hours after I ran away from them and emptiness in my head after all that. There must be a major theme to this weekend and to the post. And I think it is how being bound can be so empowering.
My mother-in-law (anne) had been unwell for a while: not really eating anything, getting quickly tired and easily irritable. She’s got diabetes which explains some of the symptoms but not all. So she thought it was time for a thorough check-up. Anne went to her doctor in Bolu, a small town in the North-Western Turkey, who was so determined to find out the wrongs that he hospitalized her for a week.
Friday came and anne still was not sure whether she would return the next day. Who will make the fresh pastry for the guests Sunday morning? I said, “No problem. I can make börek“. Özgür called his mom and got the authorization. “Olga has seen me making it many times. But she can call me in the morning for directions,”- anne said on phone.
She came back Saturday night canceling the need for my help. But I was impressed she granted me the permission to step into the sacred territory she has not been sharing with her assistants – making pastry. Letting in me, the one who does not know her bulgurs? What happened?
As-a-matter-of-factly she said leaving the kitchen after the night of cooking for over 30 guests, “After the guests leave put the bread dough to rise overnight. In the morning we might be short on bread and the road may be closed because of snow”. I was humbled by the responsibility my mother-in-law has passed on me and mildly outraged by the scope – there was some 5-6 kg of dough to handle.
Things slow down in winter: people travel less and to much warmer places than Istanbul. I do fewer food walks and cooking classes. Short days tempt you to do less and think more, or even better stare at the enchanting fireplace to the howling sound of the wind outside.
In between doing what you used to do and thinking what you can be doing there is the third state of being – experimenting. Usually rather risky affair calling for time to run the trial-and-error and yet not promising a certain outcome experimenting sounds very right to do off season.
There are no handy tips or recipes today. I am still gathering my courage to continue posting any. I had a cooking failure. Failure to use the right ingredient and do justice to it. Failure to cook something decent in the eyes of Zeliha Hanım, a strict judge of all my cooking endeavors in Sapanca. Failure to show up at the kitchen for a few days after.