When we were together nine days earlier, I had impulsively invited Emre, his wife Serpil and his aunt Kamer to an American Christmas dinner. My family’s tradition is to cook the same menu for Christmas as Thanksgiving. The menu includes as appetizer, Jim’s boiled shrimp and homemade cocktail sauce. Roasted turkey stuffed with a bread oyster dressing (including mild Italian sausage, apples, celery, onions, canned oysters, water chestnuts, raisins and walnuts); gravy; mashed potatoes; minced sweet potatoes baked with marshmallows, lime and ginger; fresh green beans with sautéed onions and bacon; and cranberry sauce follow. Dessert is freshly baked pumpkin pie with whipped cream, augmented by whatever sweets our guests have brought along.
I thought the challenge would be fun – and it will be, NEXT YEAR. After all, we had 5 chairs, 5 sets of dishes and flatware…it could work! We had nine days to find a turkey – they can be found, but not everywhere – and other substitutes. Maybe we would find turkey Italian sausage but not bacon; celery root, but not the stalks is available, and I quickly realized seeking out canned oysters and water chestnuts felt overwhelming, since I’m still looking for a comforter to sleep under.
In these same nine days we also had to source, shop and buy “white furniture” – a dishwasher, washing machine, refrigerator, vacuum, microwave and TV for our newly leased apartment in Moda, in the hopes of moving over there right after the New Year. A later blog post will deal with shopping, but a couple of comments here…imported goods are expensive, buying Turkish is the way to go. IKEA, which is underwhelming is more expensive than the much more impressive and better quality TepeHome, a Turkish home furnishings store.
We are seriously motivated to leave Cihangir, because on January 2 we begin Turkish lessons M-F from 9am-1pm in Kadiköy, and we’ll be commuting an hour each way until we move. Also necessary to move in is a bed and internet. All of this is straightforward, unless you have no idea which stores have stuff you like, and their locations.
One night about six days before our début, we were at the American Women of Istanbul Christmas party and I was telling Joy (http://myturkishjoys.blogspot.com/) my worries. She’s worked out a lot of the substitutions and shared how to cook pumpkin in lieu of Libby’s canned. She told me to find a Turkish tatlı (sweet) pumpkin, cut it up and roast it in a plastic roasting bag called a fırın torbası . About all I got of that was the sweet pumpkin part (I did know the word tatlı). My brain did not compute roasting in plastic, or how I’d ever find those bags in the grocery where I’m always on my smart phone trying to figure out what something is, or its Turkish name.
We were looking for baggies, and I did see the fırın torbası. By that time, I’d decided that what I was making for our Christmas Eve dinner was reservations – or rather, paket (takeout). On Christmas Eve morning, worried that I’d sold the American theme too convincingly, I texted our friends telling them we were looking forward to seeing them and the menu was Turkish. It wasn’t just the ingredients, it was what we had, or didn’t, in our kitchen to cook with, including a cook top and oven that uses propane—and was the tank even full? In another post, I’ll talk about gas tanks.