What Will Sell Today?

DSC_1398adjsm I love Istanbul more each day.  Not every minute of course, but it is a comfortable, normal sort of place to live, and yet it is SO different!  Many times it feels like an earlier time in America.  The goods at the Sunday antique flea market conveys that.  I felt similarly visiting novelist Orhan Pamuk’s collection of obsessive effects in the Museum of Innocence (both a book, and a place in Istanbul), where he cataloged the 1970s Istanbul life of his lover.  That assemblage evoked in me the 1950s in the US  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Museum_of_Innocence.


I wish I had inquired about the globe on the left…but I sure don’t need more stuff.

This morning we met to “walk” with friends and cameras through the Feriköy Antika Pazarı.  It was a foggy, chilly day and when we finally reconvened for çay we needed its warmth.


Naturally, there are many things one would rarely, if ever, see in a US flea market!

Hamam slippers.

Hamam slippers.

Cascading tespih (prayer beads).

Cascading tespih (prayer beads).

Jim and I have joined the Istanbul Photography Club, a multi-national group of mostly expats.  We are also taking photo seminars, and tons of photos.  (I’ve yet to pick up a paint brush here…because painting takes chunks of quiet time, which I haven’t found).  I want, actually need, to paint, so must manage how much time I spend with the camera…it is seductive, but yet another thing which will keep me in front of the computer and away from the canvas.

The never empty tea pot...glasses will fill the tray to his left and will be delivered to the cold and weary sellers.

The never empty tea pot…glasses will fill the trays to his left and will be delivered to the cold and weary sellers.

No matter where one is in Istanbul, fresh food and drink is at hand.  Çayçılar (tea makers/runners) are ubiquitous, pouring and delivering to shopkeepers and vendors continuously.  This market also had two gözleme makers, rolling out yufka-like dough to make the Turkish version of crepes (using dough, not batter) filled with meat and vegetables.

I love gözleme...but we saved ourselves for lunch today, and didn't indulge.

I love gözleme…but we saved ourselves for lunch today, and didn’t indulge.

This market appropriates a weekday parking lot…surrounded by a gentrifying neighborhood of huge residential high rises.  Many of the sellers tables sit under a dark and, this morning, damp concrete structure. DSC_1362smAs usual, my forward motion was slowed by the inquiries and kindnesses of the people…AND my very slow, halting Turkish.  Always “where are you from”, and I’m happy to say, “Kadıköy’de, or Moda’da”, then I tell them I came here a year ago from US, or California.  Then we always get into a “conversation”, where I nod enthusiastically, apologize for my zayıf Türkçe (weak Turkish) and do my best to understand– “yavaş, tekrar” (slowly, again) and reply somewhat relevantly.  My 3D puzzle that is learning the Turkish language is still stuck on 1D.
DSC_1404shpnsm I didn’t succumb to impulse purchases, but there were many cool old things I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Over our çay we shared our treasures.  Linda bought a fabric print block which she expected would be more than she was willing to pay, and Nancy bought some children’s books. “For me!” she said, when I asked if they were for her grand-kids. That was a great idea, and I rushed over to buy some myself, paying 2 ½ TL ($1.25) for five, while having an engaging conversation in “Turklish” about making ceramic sculpture.  Now I have to learn to read those little books.



What a place! DSC_1370shpnsmDSC_1377shpnsmI can see myself going back periodically just for the color and pattern of it all.  Some of the sellers do a wonderful job of displaying their wares…and it is fun to revel in the nostalgia of the things.

If an ad follows this sentence…it is because I’m using the free version of WordPress.  Feel free to ignore it!  🙂

Home Cooking

By the time we are in our 60’s we’ve had a long life, as I have been reminded twice in the last two days.  Last night we joined an expat friend and her house-guests from Alaska for dinner at Çiya Sofrası ( http://ciya.com.tr/index_en.php ).

About “the Çiyas” as they call them on the English version of their website…”they” are a destination restaurant.  Frequently when a restaurant gets popular it expands into adjacent but separate storefronts.  There is another wonderful restaurant(s) we happened to walk by and enter in Beyoğlu last year, Ficcin.  It can seem kind of confusing to see several restaurants of the same name on a block…it requires coordination between dinner partners who arrive separately, but it works.  Çiya is about a 7 minute walk from our place, and we find it SO convenient when people we’d love to see volunteer to make the ferry trek from the European side of İstanbul to Kadıköy to eat there.  It is worth a trek from anywhere in the world, in my opinion.

This post, however, is not about Çiya, but rather about memories and a different miniature food place in Moda.

A TV Food personality...our newest cookbook.

A Turkish TV Food personality…our newest cookbook. (this book is not related to Çiya either…)

So, we ate delectably with Barbara, Scott and Cindy last night, and as we unfurled the stories of our lives for each other we were amazed at how long our tongues had become.  Then this afternoon with our Türkçe tutor we (trying) repeated the recitations in Turkish. The trick to keeping peoples’ attention is to paint with a VERY broad brush.

The Silver Palate Store on the cover.  This is one of 3 Silver Palate cookbooks I brought from California, out of 9 books total.

The Silver Palate Store on the cover. This is one of 3 Silver Palate cookbooks I brought from California.

I moved from Los Angeles to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1976.  In 1977 on Columbus Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd a tiny food shop opened called The Silver Palate.  I walked by it for years.   Two women catered prepared foods, originally cooked in their home kitchen around the corner, via their storefront and developed a line of foodstuffs that are still sold in various locations.  They sold the store in 1988 and it closed in 1993.  Sheila Lukens and Julie Rosso also wrote several cookbooks, the first being The Silver Palate Cookbook.  At its 25th anniversary re-issue they said:

It took slight madness to open our little store in 1977. Florence Fabricant was writing an article on the renaissance of Columbus Avenue, … she was on a deadline and called and said, “What are you calling your store?” We didn’t know. “Why don’t you call it The Silver Palate,” she said.

1980s nostalgia..their hair, their clothing...

1980s nostalgia..their hair, their clothing…

I wasn’t  their target customer because I cooked, and I’m not sure I ever bought a meal there.  But I have been cooking out of their books since they were published, and of the 9 cookbooks I brought to Turkey, 3 of them are dog-eared Silver Palate editions.

The back cover of a very ratty The New Basics Cookbook.  More 80s nostalgia, including food presentation...

The back cover of a very ratty The New Basics Cookbook. More 80s nostalgia, including food presentation…

What this has to do with Istanbul is Bizim Ev.  Istanbul and Turkish cuisine with its regional variety is foodie Nirvana.  There are many Istanbul and Turkey food bloggers, and tracking down the great places is easy.  Once you start following their advice you learn that the look of the place doesn’t mean much.  Pick any place with a lot of Turks and you’ll likely have a good, if not great, meal.

Jim, with lunch.

Jim, with lunch.

When we first moved to Turkey we didn’t have the energy or, actually, the bravery to cook.  Figuring it all out took so much time.  I stood in grocery aisles frozen, eyes glued to my smart phone, trying to figure out what I needed was called, and to understand what I was looking at any time it wasn’t patently obvious.  So, we ate a lot of take out.  Walk down any large street and there are steam tables loaded with food.  Istiklal Caddesi has many of these mutfaklar (kitchens), Karadeniz (Black Sea) Mutfağı, Kayseri (town near Kapadokya) Mutfağı and so on.  We also found our favorite kebapçı and balıkçı (kebap and fish houses), and we’d pick up food on our way in.  After awhile, however, the food all started to taste alike, we outfitted our own kitchen with the basics and we began to cook.

Handmade mantı pasta for sale, Kayseri style, by the kilo.  Mantı is like small raviolis.

Handmade mantı pasta for sale, Kayseri style, by the kilo. Mantı is like small raviolis.

There are still those days when we are tired and there is no food in the house.  Enter Bizim Ev (means Our House).  Not surprisingly, this is a common name for a restaurant.  Our Bizim Ev is a 5 minute walk away.  It is a tiny storefront, about as big as The Silver Palate was.  What comes out of it is a miracle for the tired and hungry.


I’d walked by it many times and it looked like a tiny bakery – that’s because homemade borek is sitting in the window case.  It has a table or two inside…and one or two outside, which no one was ever sitting at.  And, it has Nezahat Hanım, a woman who appears to be in her 50s and cooks like an angel.  It is a truism that all food is compared to Mom’s here in Turkey.  We’ve found our own Turkish mother.  Her husband Ali Bey works with her… it was always him I’d see as I walked past, he’d be closing up the place before our dinnertime, at the end of their day.  (Those hours confused me also, bakeries are often open quite late).

Nezahat Hanım dishing up our lunch.

Nezahat Hanım dishing up our lunch.

Eventually, I read about this shop, and one day we walked in, carrying home a paket for lunch.  It did not taste the same as all the other kitchens.  Nezahat Hanım’s food is fresh, beautifully cooked, not oily, and delicious no matter what items we choose.  She cooks a limited menu each day. There is no steam table.


After rereading the article, http://istanbuleats.com/2011/12/bizim-ev-the-stash-house/  I must go try all of the borek, which Jim has realized he does like after all!  (see post https://2istanbul.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/entry-in-the-diary/).

Bizim Ev is reminds me of my early adult days in Manhattan.  I’m not sure whether I love that link to my younger self or the food better.

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.

A House is Not a Home…

Until you figure out how to use the stove.  What is not straight-forward is how much propane remains in the tank. The flame sort of sputtered and I hoped I’d be able to finish cooking.  We’ve got to “speak” with Doḡan, the kapıcı (building superintendent) who is a lovely man, to know how to gauge the tank and get it filled when necessary.  He laughed with me when I wrote a sentence using Google Translate about transferring the electricity account to our name, but it got the job done.

Cabbages on steroids.

Cabbages on steroids.


A friend online mentioned cabbage soup, and the cabbages I’ve seen here popped into my head. It was raw and gray today, and I’m sick with a cold, so wanted the comfort of homemade soup.  I went to the store and crafted a cabbage soup.  We have at least another month to go before our shipment from California will deliver our big stock pot, knives, ladles, and other things that will give us a functional kitchen.  Right now we have a few kitchen furnishings to get by— pressing every piece into creative use as circumstance requires.  We’ve been using our glass food storage containers for soup/cereal bowls.  It works, but sets a weird table.


Easily 3x the size of California green cabbages.

Easily 3x the size of California green cabbages.

The scale and embellishment of our apartment and the furniture left here by the owner gives the place a bit of an Old (Europe) World feel.  Our matched paper towel placemats and napkins contemporize the formal dining table.


We might grow very fond of these extremely comfortable dining chairs.

We might grow very fond of these extremely comfortable dining chairs.

Composing my soup as I shopped, I bought the cabbage, potatoes, canned tomatoes and beans, eggplant, onions, and garlic.  This, however, was not going to interest Jim.  I’d had a sausage/cheese tost (like a grilled sandwich) for breakfast yesterday that I’d enjoyed.  So, I bought a packaged sausage from the meat section, having no idea what it would taste like, but deducing it was 100% beef.  I shopped at Migros, a Turkish grocery chain now owned by international private equity.  Their fresh spinach and other greens were unappetizing, so my soup is of limited hue (and corresponding nutrients).

Our pots look different here, but these actually cook well, as do the very hot burners.

Our pots look different here, but these actually cook well, as do the very hot burners.

I sautéed all ingredients, using some fresh tomatoes and carrots we had in the refrigerator, and ignored the beans I’d bought. Spreading it between two of our four pans, I added some dried herbs, and then my newest favorite replacement for Balsamic vinegar, Nar Ekşili sos – a sweet/sour pomegranate sauce.  At the end I added a little water and brought it to a boil, turning it into a stew.  The sausage is flavorful and quite spicy, while the cabbage and carrots retain crunch.  It was a healthy cold weather meal that inaugurated our kitchen.

Kadiköy çarşı is nearby everyday...I need to make its acquaintance.

Kadiköy çarşı is nearby everyday…I need to make its acquaintance.

I’m going to back-burner Migros. It is easy to fall into one of their many stores and I’ve been lazy. Shopping at the wrong place is a poor excuse to leave green out of my soup. It is time to familiarize myself with the everyday Kadiköy çarşı, and visit the Salı Pazarı (Tuesday market).  Within easy walking distance is magnificent food – no more Migros, except for whatever they do best.  I feel the same way about IKEA and Starbucks.

Old time candy shop.

Old time candy shop.

Many young Türks like the western stores; they are global and seem modern. They do offer a different experience and aesthetic.  IKEA products, for example, are dissimilar to those offered in Turkish stores.  American expats have told me they also like IKEA because it is cheap and familiar. We are looking for a solution for our guest room, liking the space usage of a sofa-bed, but wanting something comfortable for our friends.  IKEA seemed to have a good option, although not cheap, but it was unacceptably difficult to purchase because of the way they do business.  “Good, Cheap, Fast – Pick Two” is one way I judge value.  IKEA is 0 for 3 so far.  TepeHome our Turkish find continues to be 3 for 3 (see https://2istanbul.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/of-the-season-shopping-part-1/ ), but a limited group of their products suit our taste.  We’ve about run the gamut of their offerings.  One of my friends hates the dishes we chose (https://2istanbul.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/shopping-for-basics-in-istanbul-part-2/ ), but she hasn’t seen how we are integrating it.  When she does see our place, she’ll understand, and we are liking them as we use them.

The Turkish friends who visited our temporary place in Cihangir which, like many tourist holiday apartments, was furnished broadly with IKEA products commented that the place looked very contemporary.  White on white on white is very popular here, at IKEA and in Turkish stores.  White isn’t our “color”.

I'd rather go Turkish!

I’d rather go Turkish!

Rather than continuing to meet people at Starbucks, I’m going to see what Kahve Dünyası (translation Coffee World) is like.  It’s a Turkish chain with many locations and if they’ve got good filtre kahve, that’s going to become my meeting place.  I’ll report back.




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.


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.

Warning: Food Porn

Friday was Jim’s 65th birthday.  Just in front of the tram stop at Fındlıkı station is this shop:

Elif'li Pasta and Cafe

Elif’li Pasta and Cafe

and, it provided our takeout dinner.  Pasta means this:

He could "eat a whole tray of that stuff and not blink an eye"...

He could “eat a whole tray of that stuff and not blink an eye”…

So, pasta (pastries) was our main course, topping off the signing of our lease on an apartment in Moda.

It got very cold as the sun dropped in the afternoon, our realtor was talking snow, although there is none in the forecast so far. Istanbullus LOVE the outdoors.  In our new home town of Moda (as of January 1) people dine al fresco in mid December, aided by establishment-provided pashminas and patio heaters.  I wonder what it will take to get us all inside?

Our visitors will need to ride the glorious ferry to see the tourist gems of the ages, but when they work their way back to Anatolia, they will revel in Moda and Kadiköy’s charms too…

Basically, we took the first flat we looked at…we did look at another in Kabataş/Beyoğlu, which we really liked, and in some respects was more suitable, but the Moda place has a wide open view of the Sea of Marmara, facing west.  That means big boats and daily sunsets.  The street in front is very quiet, the Kadiköy/Moda Tramvay is 1/2 block away if for some reason we don’t want a 10 minute stroll along the water to the ferry, and directly down steps is a big park on the corniche for our athletic water dog.

Beyoğlu is charming in an old European way, with very narrow, VERY steep  cobblestoned streets and long sheer stairsteps.  There are tiny groceries, several to a block, but none of the goods inside have inspired us to step into the kitchen.

On our reconnaissance trip in May, we walked many of the streets we do now. We ranged all over Beyoğlu, up along the Golden Horn to Fener and Balat, we scaled the Asian cliffs of Kuzguncuk, ruling it out because it felt a bit far away from the center.  Taking Istanbul’s traffic into consideration, we chose against Beşiktaş because we would have been reliant on street-bound buses   We learned the hard way one long Sunday afternoon, when every bus that stopped was full and we walked all the way home, that rail and water were desirable. Were it not for an American friend who was living in Moda, we may not have made our way over there, but the minute we stepped off the ferry in Kadiköy, it felt more “us”.  It was a bit more “beachy”, lighter, more open.  It is still very urban, and today it felt like a smaller town in Europe.  Moda (a neighborhood) in larger Kadiköy has enough going on to be interesting and yet seems small enough to be personal.  We were Upper West Siders in Manhattan in the early 80’s when hookers worked Broadway above 84th street and beyond 96th Street was the DMZ. I chose my NY apartment, partly because I could hear birds over the street noise.

So, here is a sampling of what caught our eye as we roamed our future neighborhood just before we signed our rental lease.


This'll get us in the kitchen!

This’ll get us in the kitchen!


From the marzipan garden

From the marzipan garden

How about a mushroom omelet?

How about a mushroom omelet?

Türks love sweets...for a minute I thought I was in Paris.

Türks love sweets…maybe more than Jim does.

Eat those fruits and veggies!

Eat those fruits and veggies!

This is available in December!

This is available in December!

Türks have been uniformly welcoming to us.  We really need to speak the language to live here, but when we are standing on the street perplexed, trying to communicate in our only language, English, a local who does speak English always steps in to help out.

And, consumerism is alive and well…all customers are welcome…

"A nice bath for junior, don't you think?"

“A nice bath for junior, don’t you think?”

"I'll play bad cop..."

“I’ll play bad cop…”

Sonra görüsürüz!  (see you later)