Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008 - No comments

The Ramadan Pazar

Guys selling cigarette-roller-like gizmos to that will make your sarma (rice rolled in grape leaves) a snap, evil eye candles and half-priced Qu'rans, and enough Turkish Delight to make your teeth hurt - it doesn't get any more festive than this! For the entire month of Ramadan, the seaside boardwalk is transformed into a dizzying kaleidoscope of colours, smells and sounds. It's a fun place to browse through during the day, but it really comes alive at night when everyone has broken their fast and turns out to live it up at the amusement park, spend their cash on useless trinkets and take in the free concerts and other entertainment. Oh, and don't forget the snacks - you can cram your mouth full of sunflower seeds, cotton candy, sugary pastries and corn doctored with everything from barbecue sauce to chocolate syrup. (Go figure.)

I took a stroll through the pazar a few days ago hoping to get a few fun shots, and I was not disappointed. I even found myself with a temporary "job" when a girl I'd been chatting with asked me to watch her jewelry stand while she went to the bathroom! (Gotta love the trust level around here. :) )

I am so glad I live amongst a colourful people who know how to celebrate!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008 - No comments

Home Cookin', Turkish Style

In honour of Ramadan, which, no matter what anyone tells you, is about fasting as much as it is about feasting, I wanted to share with you the recipe for my very favourite Turkish dish. Before moving here, the thought of eggplant made me gag, but now it is at the top of my list. I was forever converted when, during my first Ramadan in country, I sampled my Turkish mom's Ali Nazik. It's a traditional dish from Gaziantep, her hometown. Give it a try.

Afiyet olsun - bon appetit!

** For more yummy recipes like this one, check out**

Ali Nazik

Ali Nazik

2 medium eggplants or roasted eggplant in a jar
1 large cubanelle pepper or regular green pepper
150 gr medium or regular ground beef, cooked with salt and pepper
1/2 cup yogurt with salt and smashed garlic, at room temperate

1 tbsp butter
1 tsp red pepper, powdered
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper, powdered

Set the oven to broil (grill), and heat it up. Make holes in the eggplants with a fork so that it will roast better. Place the eggplants and green pepper on an oven tray and place in the oven. Roast the green pepper for about 15 minutes and the eggplant for about 35-40 minutes. Turn them over occasionally during roasting.

Peel off the skins from both the eggplant and green pepper (discard seeds), and cut in small pieces. Put them in a pyrex dish (I used 10 inch / 25 cm round pyrex). Put back in the warm oven. Note that at this point the oven's turned off, and you just want to keep the food warm.

Also if you used roasted eggplant in a jar, you should just roast the green pepper.

When the rest of the ingredients are prepared, take the pyrex out of the oven and pour the yogurt on top. Then put the cooked ground beef on top of the yogurt.

Lastly, melt the butter in a small pan and add the peppers. When it starts bubbling, pour over the ground beef.

Serve Ali Nazik immediately while still warm.

Ali Nazik originates from the Gaziantep Region of Turkey.

Saturday, September 20, 2008 - 4 comments

Taste Testing a New Design

Along with the photo cards I make and sell, I'm experimenting with some creative new designs. (Please, no harassing me about my coffee obsession!) Any feedback? Would they be a seller?

Saturday, September 20, 2008 - 1 comment

Savoury Sludge

Call it caffeinated sludge or call it delightful - either way, Turkish coffee is an experience to be lived. Sipping its strong, frothy goodness makes me feel like a like a local, if nothing else. My personal preference is to savour it slowly along with a good book at Fazıl Bey's in Kadıköy, my old Istanbul stomping ground. (The ambience is great, plus it comes with a morsel of Turish Delight!) But as soon as I perfect the art of making it at home, my grapevine-covered balcony will become my own personal cafe.

As tradition dictates, one must drink a glass of water to "cleanse the palette" before imbibing - so as not to corrupt the flavour, I presume. Then the coffee is enjoyed slowly, froth first. (Remember, this is an age-old ritual, not a frenzied caffeine fix.) It's nearly impossible to drain the whole cup, unless your insides are made of steel, as the grounds are as thick as mud on the bottom of the cup. With whatever's left inside, Turks will sit around and tell each other's fortunes based on what they see in the grounds. (Good thing I don't put stock in that - mine always just turns out black.....) :)

Making this strong brew is an art in itself - check out the process at

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008 - 1 comment

Autumn's in the Air....

.....or at least I am trying to pretend it is. As often as I can stand to, I like to put on a pair of jeans as an invitation for fall to show its lovely face. Most of the time I just end up sweaty. I am pleased to say, though, that this week it is almost cool enough to start off the night in my mosquito-net-on-the-balcony bed with my blanket. (Versus it finally cooling down enough at 2 AM to cover up.) Either way, with visions of caramel apples, crunchy leaves, Tennessee tobacco barns and bouquets of newly sharpened pencils (You've Got Mail, anyone?) in my head, I am having fun make-believing.

While it's still in the muggy thirties all day every day, there is one spot in this otherwise dry and dusty village where one can get a bit of cool air and some refreshment for the soul: the Duden Waterfall. Pride and joy of our little town, the tourist buses from Antalya dump their short-shorts clad Germans here by the hundreds every day. But not before 10 AM. In the early morning hours, it's the perfect place for a quiet time. Apparently, I've become enough of a regular to get the "locals discount," too. A lira is a small price to pay for some precious solitude. And when the wind rustles over the canopy of trees and sends its gift of graceful leaves fluttering down around me, my heart comes alive to the glory of autumn...

This place is gonna be my salvation.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008 - No comments

Rude Awakening


The sweetness of my dreams was shattered by the distant sound of an explosion. I shook the slumber from my fuzzy head as my eyes struggled to bring the stars into focus through the haze of the mosquito net. It had to be late – these weren’t the same ones that winked at me as I’d drifted off to sleep on my little mattress on the terrace. (It's still way too hot at night to sleep inside.) I checked my phone – 3:44 AM. A glance around told me that my three companions were still sleeping peacefully. Had that awful sound been only in my dreams?


No question now. I mentally scanned the list of “usual reasons for gunshots in the night.” Wedding? No, it was a weeknight. Football victory? Too late at night for a match to be letting out. Some guy off to do his military service? Nope, wrong season. It was more of a deep thud than a pop, anyway. A bomb, maybe? Nah, our town is too inconsequential to bomb.


And then it hit me. Suhoor.

A conversation with a friend the next day confirmed it. That “boom” had in fact been the cannon that is fired to announce to the sleepy world that it’s time for Suhoor, the Ramadan pre-dawn meal. That same cannon startles me every evening at sundown when it is fired just as the reading of the evening ezan (call to prayer) signals that it’s time for iftar, the meal where those who have been fasting all day satisfy their empty tummies.

Ramadan makes me more than a little homesick for my family in Istanbul. I recall how my Turkish mom, Yuksel, would creep into our room in the dead of night and wake up Didem and I to groggily slurp our soup and eat our eggs before the sun came up. (We always loved to peek outside to see whose lights were on and who was skipping out.) Then later, as twilight approached, Yuksel would give me a lira and send me off to the bakery to stand in the queue with all the others who wanted their Ramadan pidesi (special yummy bread available only during the month of fasting) hot off the press, just in time for iftar.

I find it amusing that they would use a cannon to tell everyone it’s time to eat. Everyone has the flyer from their local supermarket stuck to the fridge, informing them when the sun will go up and down each day this month. If the call to prayer isn’t loud enough for you, you can always wait for the name of your city to flash across the screen during the evening news when it’s your turn. Better yet, phone companies offer a service where the ezan will sound from your cell when it’s time to pick up your fork. Ah, the convenience modern technology has brought to ancient tradition. I suppose the cannon is more for nostalgia than function. Same goes for the davulcular (drummers) who bang their way through the neighbourhoods in the middle of the night, calling all housewives to get up and get cooking. I think it’s kind of charming, really. It adds to the festiveness in the air.

Then again, I don’t live next-door to the cannon.