Entry in the Diary

I’ve set myself up here, because you’ve told me I must include photos.  My daily life has gotten too busy to be out with my camera much, heck to even BE out.  Mondays, like today, are filled with Turkish homework and then preparation and delivery as a facilitator in a 2-hour online Soliya session (www.soliya.net).

It is now 7:30pm, and I have more homework but decided to scroll Facebook while I ate dinner.  A fellow blogger is saying it for me today!  http://lovelifeistanbul.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/a-lesson-in-abundance-from-turkey/

Here, a yabancı whose name and gender I don’t know is recounting a street story – they are so often available to all of us, when we are out and walking slowly –walking slowly in itself is the subject of a post as yet unwritten.

Slowly enough, that is, to follow the music.

Although I live here, I am yearning to visit Istanbul…A friend and I have our first hammam (public bath) date on Thursday.  You’ll hear all about it, eventually. I am mindfully documenting eating establishments and experiences…our first visitors arrive soon.

As you know, I watch ferries traveling from my window, and late last week, I’d had it!  No time to go anywhere, I hadn’t been on a ferry for over a week!  If I hadn’t found a friend to travel with me to Istiklal Caddesi just for çay, I would have simply taken a round trip ferry ride by myself!

It isn’t exactly all work and no play, we’ve entertained at home.  We hosted a birthday party for a French friend, organized by a German friend, both from Turkish class, and their Turkish girlfriend, and wife and baby, respectively.  I got up early Saturday morning and added a bakkal (small grocery, although this one’s on steroids) and a couple of bakery stops to Lucy’s walk. We fired up the çay samovar, I cooked Turkish scrambled eggs, called menemen, and ate pastırma (Turkish “bacon” made of dried, cured beef) for the first time.

The birthday boy brought börek from a good bakery.  This version of börek resembled lasagna stuffed with cheese and herbs and wrapped in a phyllo crust, without the sauce, but laden with butter. Börek is ubiquitous and comes in many variations.  It is also sort of like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead…when she was good, she was very very good, and when she was bad, she was horrid.  Jim first encountered such a horrid börek, he thinks he doesn’t like it, even after eating a good one. Arne and his wife baked a succulent chocolate birthday cake, so after our rich Turkish breakfast, we sang Happy Birthday in English and served it.

Enjoy the post I have linked to.  There is a Syrian angle to the story.  Not surprisingly, there are many Syrians in Turkey, each with a heartrending report.

Prelude to Entertaining for the First Time in Turkey

 

Photo op at Cevahir Mall. Turkey is the home of St. Nicholas, who apparently didn't have a beard.

Photo op at Cevahir Mall. Turkey is the home of St. Nicholas, who apparently didn’t have a beard.

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.

Poinsettia at IKEA, the majesty of this bush is lost in translation.

Poinsettia at IKEA, the majesty of this bush is lost in translation.

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.

Zzzz?  The big yellow bag holds all of our sweaters and coats -- the mall is HOT!

Zzzz? The big yellow bag holds all of our sweaters and coats — the mall is HOT!

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.

IMG_4325

Mall food courts are fancy. Stick to the Turkish shops for a good meal.

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.

Shopping for lights...

Shopping for lights…

These were in a pretentious store where they wanted no photos!  How can one shop without photos?

These were in a pretentious store where they wanted no photos! How can one shop without photos?

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.

Jim loves meeting new people.

Jim loves meeting new people.

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.

All this Santa and Christmas stuff is for New Year's celebrations.

All this Santa and Christmas stuff is for New Year’s celebrations.