Braised camel hump, anyone?
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
DHA PhotoAs you know, Tuesday was the beginning of the four-day Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” or “Kurban Bayramı” in Turkish. It started on Oct. 15 and ended on Oct. 18. According to my religion, since I am financially well off, more precisely, since I have enough resources to support my family for a year and some surplus, I am obliged to sacrifice a cattle or a smaller animal like a sheep or a goat.
I decided to go for a camel this year.
It needs seven people to sacrifice a camel. The price of a camel in Istanbul during this bayram was between about 4,500 and 9,000 Turkish Liras. So I needed six more people to chip in approximately 640 to 1,280 liras. (The math is correct. You don’t need to check it. You don’t take me at my word? Say it again? Good for you.)
I have never tasted camel meat, but I kind of reckon I’ll like it. I looked up recipes on how to cook the meat of the animal which is a very rare species for Turkey, especially for someone from Istanbul like me.
I searched the Internet for recipes on cooking a camel. Camel meat is cooked like lamb meat… (As if I cook lamb every other day…) I found instructions on how to braise the camel hump. There was a discussion on an Internet forum where one guy asked how to cook a camel. One commentator warned that the camel was a sacred animal (because the Prophet Muhammad rode it) and that one should not drink alcohol with it. Now, that’s a deal breaker. Is beer considered alcohol?
There was another recipe, Kuyrdak, a dish from Kazakhstan. There was also a hilarious exchange, but you need to use your Turkish skills to understand it:
-Make a “döner” out of the camel.
-How on earth am I going to rotate the camel?
-Light the fire, and the camel will automatically rotate itself around it.
-Whoa!, camel. (Yok deve)
I thought of creating my own specialty, maybe something like “double-seared, double-delicious, double-hump camel.”
By the way, I love the smell of animals and the smell of animal sh*t that pervades the entire city in these days. The smell starts prior to the Kurban Bayramı and reaches its peak on the first day of the feast. It gradually decreases, but somehow it lingers on well over a couple of more weeks wherever I happen to live at that time of the year. It tends to like me.
If you live in Etiler, Bahçeşehir, or, I don’t know, Nişantaşı or Bağdat Caddesi, you may not even notice it is the Feast of Sacrifice and that animals are being slaughtered outside slaughterhouses by devout and rich Muslim families.
Well, back to the animal smell and the smell of their feces. As I said, I love that intense animal smell which I think very much suits the surroundings in some parts of my city. That smell brings me back to my rural roots. Wait – I don’t have rural roots. I am an urban person, so are my parents and my grandparents. No chance of any of my ancestors or descendants enjoying the smell of the animals.
What’s wrong with me?
Back to sacrificing a camel: When I first mentioned in the office that I wanted to sacrifice a camel for this Kurban Bayramı, there was loud laughter. Nobody believed me. I repeatedly said I needed six more people to join in and chip in 640 liras. Beril and Hatice half-jokingly agreed. Levent was undecided. A non-Muslim colleague agreed, but I don’t know if that’s acceptable in our religion. I’ll ask an imam next time I see one.
If I had been successful in getting together seven people and sacrificing a camel, it would have been a symbolic re-enactment of Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram in place of his son. Abraham’s faith in God was being tested, about 4,000 years ago, and I totally believe in this ritual today. Although it does sometimes cross my mind to cut a piece off of my son these days when he pisses me off, a camel would have been enough… You thank the camel, my son…
Well, because I could not find six other partners, I wasn’t able to sacrifice a camel this year. But I’m hopeful for next year. Sacrifice, anyone?
On my way home, let me enjoy the animal smell once more, which is about to leave my city and my country sooner or later, but somehow seems to waft through the air just a bit more…