Making a cooking program in a fairytale village in the Black Sea
Wilco van Herpen Hürriyet Daily News
The menu of the cooking program was corn bread, corn bread with anchovies, rice with anchovies and colored greens puree, prepared by a Black Sea local.I make cooking programs in a documentary style. A while ago, I went to the Black Sea province of Trabzon. It was during a barbeque with Ferdi, my fishermen friend, that he invited me to come with him to visit his mother-in-law, Fatma. The funny thing is that Trabzon is famous for its hamsi (anchovies), but in there, you just find two anchovy dishes.
Ferdi invited me to come with him to his mother-in-law’s village because if you want more variety in your anchovy dishes, you have to go to the villages around Trabzon. These are the places where they have five, 10, maybe even more different kinds of anchovy recipes. His explanation is that because of the hectic life in the city, people over there do not find the time to create original dishes. In the villages they have many different kinds of vegetables growing in their gardens and, also very importantly, they have time – more time than in the big city.
Together with my cameramen, Aydın, and my production assistant, Demre, we got in the car and went to Aktepe village, which is about a 30-minute drive from Trabzon. The higher we went up in the mountains, the more snow we saw and the last part of the road was very slippery because of the ice. Aktepe is an old village but, unfortunately, not so many old houses remain. The advantage of snow is that it changes every place into a fairytale. On top of it all, we were on the Black Sea coast; summer or winter, this place is always a fairytale.
Fatma was waiting for us outside in the freezing cold. Yesterday it snowed across the whole region, although most of the people did not believe it would snow again. But this is the Black Sea; sometimes you can see and feel four seasons in one day. After a warm welcome outside, we entered an ice-cold house. You might not believe it, but this is actually what I like about the winters in Turkey. During winter, houses in the Netherlands are entirely warmed up: from the living room to the bedrooms, the entire house is warm. In the rural areas of Turkey the way of heating houses is different. You find a stove in every room but the people just heat the rooms where they stay in. In Fatma’s house the stove in the kitchen was red hot. This kind of warmth is so much better than the central heating system that we people in the big cities now.
Four dishes prepared for program
Breakfast was finished; it was now a race against the clock. Fatma was going to make four different dishes, two of them anchovy dishes.
Ferdi told me his anchovy philosophy: It is stupid to make 1,001 different kinds of anchovies when simple is best. What he meant was that people nowadays are making such strange anchovy dishes, like stuffed anchovy (do you know how small this fish is?!), or anchovy dessert (which I wanted to try but could not find. I wonder if this really is nice), just for the sake of telling people that they created a new recipe. The best way to eat anchovies was either fried with maize flour, or straight from the barbeque. But there is always an exception. The way his mother-in-law makes hamsi is different. Hers are old and well-tried recipes.
Fatma started cooking. On today’s menu was corn bread, corn bread with anchovies, rice with anchovies and, last but not least, colored greens puree. Within a short time, there was food cooking anywhere there was a fire or a hot place. Fatma started sweating; this was the first time she had made all this food for television. Aydın, panicked. As a cameraman you have to film all the different stages of preparing food in order to show it to the viewer, but at the speed Fatma was working it was not possible to follow everything. Aydın looked at me and I smiled. I understood how he felt but there was nothing we could do. Fatma cut vegetables, mixed dough, cleaned anchovies, fried onions and put the colored greens in the blender all at about the same time. An hour and a half later all the dishes were ready.
Weeks later Fatma was still bragging about her record: preparing four different dishes for television in an hour and a half.