Twelve nights and one sunny morning

Twelve nights and one sunny morning

Aylin Öney Tan - aylinoneytan@yahoo.com
Twelve nights and one sunny morning

Thankfully, the effect of Saturn is leaving us; it will be a relief, at least for my fellow Scorpios and I. Tonight might be our last stressful night after an agonizing three years; according to astrology, it will be a night of transition and transformation; our chance to burn the past and start a new era. Tonight is a full moon, which also coincides with the Twelfth Night, the last night of the Christmas period, just before the Epiphany.

Twelve seems to be a mythical and magical number. The year is 12 months long; accordingly there are 12 signs. Likewise, there are 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac, which turn up every 12 years. In all religions, the number 12 has parallel significances. Shiites and Alevis believe in 12 imams, and there were 12 apostles of Jesus at the last supper. To start with deities, there were 12 gods in Greek mythology; the divine hero Heracles was obliged to perform 12 labors; the Norse god Odin had 12 sons; so did the biblical Jacob, with his sons being the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. There are 12 feasts to celebrate in Orthodox Christianity. Actually, Christianity seems to embrace the number 12 the most. In Catholic culture, St. Mary is depicted with a halo of 12 stars; no wonder the European Union chose 12 stars to adorn its flag. The foundation of Roman law was based on “Duodecim Tabulae,” the Twelve Tables. Twelve is also about transformation. Childhood ends at the age of 12, which is the start of the tumultuous teenage years towards adolescence.

The day after the Twelfth Night is Epiphany, the day of revelation. In Istanbul, Epiphany day is special for the Greek and Armenian communities. The Armenian Orthodox Church celebrates the day as both the nativity and baptism of Christ; it is actually the Armenian Christmas referred to as “Surp Diznunt,” meaning “Holy Birth.” The Greek Orthodox Church puts emphasis on the baptism and enlightenment; hence the day is called “Ta Fota,” simply meaning “The Lights.” For young Greek men, it is the time to dive into the cold waters to race to grab a wooden cross, thrown to the sea by the Patriarch. The icy shock of plunging into the water is definitely a realistic way of enacting a baptism, and it will surely lighten heads suffering hangover from the Twelfth Night. Let it be your night tonight, because tomorrow will be sunny in your souls!

Bite of the week

Recipe of the Week: Jan. 6 is Christmas for Orthodox Armenians. Traditionally a sweet pudding called Anuş Abur, very similar to Aşure, is prepared to celebrate the bounty and fertility of the coming year. Anuş Abur means “sweet soup,” and I just discovered that most recipes have 12 ingredients, though religiously it does not have significance. That might be a lucky coincidence, a sign to celebrate the Epiphany with one of the most ancient recipes. Start making this recipe on the Twelfth Night and have your 12 ingredients ready:

1.) 500 g whole wheat berries; 2.) 400 g sugar; 3.) 3 lt. water; 4.) 250 g. dried apricots; 5.) 250 g. raisins; 6.) 250 g almonds; 7.) Grated peel of one orange; 8.) 1 cup rose water. 9.) 1 tsp cinnamon; 10.) Pine nuts; 11.) Currants; and 12.) Pomegranate seeds. Soak the berries overnight in water. The next day, drain and put into a pot with 3 lt. water. Boil till they burst open; mix in chopped apricots, raisins, blanched almonds, and orange peel and boil for another 20 minutes, then add the sugar and rose water. At this stage you may also add a pinch of salt to enhance flavor. Bring the mixture to a boil again and turn off the heat. Transfer into individual bowls. Sprinkle with cinnamon and decorate with pine nuts, currants and pomegranate seeds.

Fork & Cork of the Week: The Twelfth Night and apples are intertwined in British culture. The Twelfth night is the night to go out “wassailing.” Stemming from the Old Norse salute phrase “ves heil,” wassailing is about blessing the apple orchards, but also the drinking of hot mulled cider to be merry! This traditional recipe calls for cider, but as cider is not available in Turkey, experiment by using white wine & apple juice with a shot of Calvados, brandy or rum for a kick. The latter will make your wassail taste more like egg-nog, as this recipe calls for eggs.

Core a few smallish apples similar to the Amasya variety (4 to 6 will be just right); fill the cavity with brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon; place on a baking pan together with an orange studded with a handful of cloves; bake the apples and the orange until brown, or about 40 minutes in moderate heat. Heat 2 lt. of apple cider, white wine or apple juice with a stick of cinnamon, a generous slice of ginger, one star anise, a few allspice berries and a generous pinch of grated nutmeg. Do not boil if using apple juice. Add 1 cup of brandy or rum. Meanwhile, separate six eggs; beat the yolks and whites separately, and then fold in together; pour in a ladle of hot drink while folding and tempering constantly; add the rest of the mulled drink taking care not to curdle the eggs. Pour the whole lot over the baked fruit. Serve in mugs with a spoon to scoop up the quartered apples.