Turkish Cooking Class
Hannah and I were lucky enough to start the day with a very cultural experience. We had signed up the previous evening for a cooking class that was held in the kitchen of the home of a cook that worked at the restaurant we had been to the previous day. She didn't know any English, but our waiter friend was able to be a translator for us.
The house was a cave house, which was pretty interesting, and that meant that some of the walls of the house were actually made of the rock behind the house, making it into a cave. We were greeted very warmly, and she made us comfortable with slippers and aprons to wear when we were cooking. We started off making lentil soup, which is a very common and traditional meal in Turkey. We had really enjoyed what we had been served in the restaurant and were glad that we would be able to learn and make the same dish we had eaten and enjoyed before. It was a simple dish, but it was good to start on something easy as we had to wait a little for our translator because he was out getting some of the ingredients we needed for the other courses.
The second course was stuffed eggplants, which was a lot easier than it looks. Hannah helped her fry the eggplants in oil, and then we both made the stuffing. The stuffing was made from meat, tomatoes, peppers, onions some spices and a lot of salt. We also made some long grain rice with traditional Turkish rice mixed in as well. After the stuffing was finished we were shown how to cut them open and fill them with the meat and vegetables. After this we garnished them with peppers and tomatoes, and soaked them in hot water and tomato paste, and then off they were into the oven to bake for half an hour.
Eating the Results of Hannah and Abby's Turkish Cooking Class
The third dish we were taught how to make was a spinach and rice dish that we had eaten the previous night as well. This was simple too, as we just cooked the rice, and then added it to a mixture of spinach, meat, some vegetables and other spices. It was very similar to the stuffing of the eggplants, except there was spinach and rice, and a lot less meat.
My parents walked in at about this time, which was perfect, as the soup was at its final stage before it was ready to be consumed. We puréed it with a hand-held mixer and then served it along with the other courses. While the table was being set though, we learned one last thing. It was a traditional dessert that we had seen before in Kas. It's hard to explain but it is a jelly like consistency and is made up of flour, milk, egg, oil and a date jam, which is more like a honey.
Overall it was a great experience, and my parents were happy too because they knew that we would be able to cook these for them later on, and they even got to eat the finished products. And Hannah and I would also like to give a really big thank-you to our Aunty Helen who gave us some money to make this kind of thing possible.
Here are two videos from our cooking experience: Video 1 and Video 2
Ben writing now:
It was wonderful to piggyback onto Hannah and Abby’s cooking experience. We were invited to come and eat the lunch that the girls had helped prepare. It was a chance to be a bit of a voyeur in a Turkish home. As Abby already noted, it was partly a cave home and was heated with a wood stove that doubled as a second cook range when all the burners on the modern gas range were in use. It was a kitchen with all the modern conveniences such as a dishwasher but at the same time seemed to hold a healthy connection with an earlier time as well.
Our conversations revealed the alphabet soup and smorgasbord that the world community has become. It also reminded us that there is a lot of hurt and tragedy in the world. Our waiter friend, Abas, who Muriel alluded to in yesterday’s blog post, is an Afghan political refugee waiting for permission to emigrate to Australia. He worked for the American military as a computer technician and was in danger of retaliation from the Taliban. He is alienated from his family (nine brothers and sisters) due to his decision to work for the Americans and putting everyone at risk. He says he can't think of them right now, he needs to move forward and go to university and make a life. He is quite bright. Abas became fluent in Turkish within a few months and is now working as waiter, translator and part time Turkish cooking instructor and living in his employer’s home as a semi-adopted son. The mother, who gave the cooking lessons, had just lost a son in the past year in a traffic accident. Her husband has taken to drinking as a result of the grief. He awoke around 11:00 am and joined us for the meal and looked quite a bit worse for wear. We learned that their other son met a girl from Australia and has moved to Australia. Their new daughter-in-law has an Australian father and a Chinese mother. These are just a few of the many tidbits that we picked up in the brief span of a meal. Each interaction helps us build a better understanding of the world. We are incredibly interconnected.
When we were pleasantly stuffed, we said our goodbyes and handed out another Canada pin and keychain and hit the road. We were told by a few different people that we had a good five hours of driving ahead of us. Little did they know what kind of driving Muriel and I do. We ended up getting to Ankara in three hours. We may have bumped a fair bit above what may have been the speed limit but there seems to be quite a variation in how fast people drive—there are some pretty old cars still on the road and they are ones doing less than 80 km/h.
As usual, figuring out the exact location of our accommodation was like solving a world puzzle. Sometimes we are given very little information and the address we get if very cryptic. In this case we had an address that was overflowing with possibilities and variations. Ankara is a city of over four million so there are many neighbourhoods with names that sometimes substitute for the overall name of Ankara. After quite a few tries of entering information in different combinations of old and new street names and various neighbourhood names we got the magic combination. In the end, it was a breeze to find our apartment. We arrived two hours earlier than our arranged meeting time with our apartment host so we explored our neighbourhood and went grocery shopping. Ankara appears to be a very clean city with wide streets and ample traffic but very manageable in the middle of the day. In some areas it looks like Edmonton or Calgary without the ethnic diversity. We finished our shopping and still had half an hour to kill so went to a pastry shop and sat at a sidewalk table. The temperature was at least eighteen degrees. We had three small pastries and each had some sort of drink and the total for our repast was a mere 5 lira. Muriel actually went back to the counter to double-check, thinking that they must have missed either the drinks or the pastries. No, it all cost just three dollars Canadian.
Our Anakara Apartment
We went to our nice looking apartment building and rang the buzzer of apartment block 14, unit number 6. There was someone home, but they did not speak English and certainly had no idea who we were. That was strange. We took another look at all the address data and considered the possiblity that the information could also read apartment block number 6 and unit 14. Oops! We walked down the street a few buildings and found a quite drab building which indeed had 14 units. Oh well, we are used to not getting it right the first time. We are now taking it in stride.
No one was home, but within 15 minutes Gaeten arrived. Fortunately, we found the apartment was much more pleasant than the outside of the building would have led us to believe. Gaeten spoke excellent English but he did not have a Turkish accent. We discovered that he is a Belgian married to a Turk and has been living in Turkey for the last two and a half years. The whole mixing of nationalities and societies continues. It certainly can only help make the world a kinder and more tolerant place.
The kids enjoyed the fact that they each get their own room tonight. The place has one and a half bathrooms but the kids really are only considering it to be one and a quarter since the half bathroom is the kind with just a hole in the floor with two footpads to stand on. It also turns out the hot tub (that Muriel was keeping a secret) in the apartment advertisement is just the half bathtub that forms the bottom of the shower. I guess you call that lost in translation. It’s a good thing Muriel kept the hot tub information to herself.