Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015 - No comments

Home is Where Your Tastebuds Sing

"You just can't find ________ (insert tomato paste/peppers/cheese) here like you can in my hometown."

This is probably the most common phrase I've heard as I've done interviews for my book about hometown longing.  And with good reason.  In the same way as poutine in British Columbia or pork barbecue in Minnesota "just aren't the same", transplants to "the big cities" are forever pining for "the food mom always made" and lugging favourite local staples home from wherever it is they come from.   Any Turk knows that dried apricots should be from Malatya and garlicky mantı is best from Kayseri and no one stuffs grape leaves like old Aunt Ayşe back in the village.

In honour of the fact that one's palate is always longing for home, every year our city puts on a "Regional Delicacies Exhibition" - a conference-salon-turned-smorgasbord offering fare from most of our eighty-one provinces.  Curious foodies and homesick "can't-find-this-anywhere" ingredient seekers converge on the fair to taste test and stock up to their hearts' content.  

Not one to miss out on a morning of samples (who else used to love scoring "lunch" by hitting up all the booths at Costco?) and sure that I'd find useful information for my book, I headed down to the exhibition.  I got to munch on hazelnuts from Trabzon (terribly expensive this year due to an early frost and a devastated harvest), clotted cream from Afyon, and my longtime favourite, mulberry pestil (like fruit leather) from Gümüşhane.  And I may or may not have come home with a sack-full of goodies....

Here's a sampling of my "edible research" from that day.

"Eat honey, live longer."

Marmalades made from rosehip, hawthorn, and kızılcık, a relative of the cranberry.

"Sausages" made from mulberry and pomegranate fruit leather stuffed with walnuts.  I'm a total sucker for this stuff.

Pots of pickled peppers.

A special variety of garlic native to my Turkish dad's hometown.

This guy was proud to tell me about all the varieties of roasted 
chickpeas that come from Çorum.

The ballı susamlı fıstık (honey sesame peanuts - bottom right) are
 a staple in our snack cupboard, but the honey poppyseed 
chickpeas (bottom middle) were a fun new treat.

Spices and wafers from Kahramanmaraş.  One of my good friends is from there, and I have no doubt she'll return home from winter vacation next week with several jars of fiery pepper paste (far right).

Pişmaniye - "Turkish fairy floss".

The name pişmaniye comes from the verb "to regret."  
I understood why when I walked away from that booth with 
strands of sugary goodness all over my black coat...

"Stinky cheese" from Erzurum.

Several packets of yaprak sarması (stuffed grape leaves) 
found their way home into our fridge.

Spiced mean for dürüm kebap on the grill.

Peppers headed for the grill at the Hatay tent.  (Having made several visits to the town in Hatay where this crew was from, this was a fun spot to visit.)

Katıklı ekmek - spiced flatbread made on a metal disc over the fire.

Wishing that, after all my "bits of this and that", I still had room left for lunch!