Modernity yet to touch Cappadocia’s Nar village
Wilco Van HERPEN
In a room specially designed to be a ‘kitchen,’ women are making gözleme; a kind of pancake that can be filled with potatoes, cheese, meat etc.One of the reasons why, especially, foreigners (actually this is also the case for a lot of Turkish people) like to travel around the rural areas of Turkey is life is so completely different compared to their own life. We all live our life in nice, modern houses where we are surrounded by all different kinds of things that make life more comfortable. We have central heating, a bathroom with a Jacuzzi and the kitchen is filled with all different kinds of machines that help us prepare food in a shorter time with less effort.
How different is life in the countryside. Old houses are still inhabited by people of whom some were even born in those houses. In their kitchen, no ultra-modern oven or big freezers, they still prepare food the old way. And exactly that is what fascinates us, the modern (whatever that means) men. I think deep in our hearts we are a little bit jealous of those people; life seems so much more relaxed and looking with nostalgic eyes blurs the reality. I am sure most of the people who think about moving to such a small village, buying such a house and live there like the villagers should think twice. In spite of the fact that Turkish people are really very hospitable and warm when they receive you as a guest, living in such a small village is something else. You have to deal with the written and especially the unwritten rules of that society. But life is not relaxed at all in those villages.
Farewell to modernity
If you want to live a life without modern kitchen technology, I will hereby wish you good luck. Say farewell to your mixer, deepfreeze, blender, bread machine, fryer, microwave oven etc. All you have is a kusine (with a firewood heated oven that also is used to heat up the house or kitchen), a fireplace and your fridge. I know, I am exaggerating now but eventually I will come to my point…
From early spring on you have to work like crazy, preparing your garden for the new season, sowing your vegetables, taking care of it and once they are fully grown, prepare them for wintertime. This can vary from drying the vegetables and fruits to make conserve of it. And besides all of this you have your household to do; cleaning the house, repairing the house, cooking… (Finally I am getting there…)
A while ago I was in Nar village near Ürgüp in the Cappadocia region, where some aunties were preparing some local dishes for me. In the house where they would cook the food I did not see their “modern” kitchen. Instead Nuray brought me to a room that looked more like a storage room to me.
She told me she was born in this house and as far as she could remember her family had owned this house. Before Nuray started cooking she wanted to show me a small part of her house. We went back into the courtyard and entered her house via another door. This was the place where once the animals were kept in the stable, nowadays it is a storage room. The room was very cool, as if it was a natural fridge. This is one of the biggest advantages of the famous cave houses in Nar, Ürgüp, and Göreme.
Via a low door opening we entered another, smaller room and here a big surprise was waiting for me.
In one of the corners there was yet another door and when she opened that door I saw a long tunnel. It went on as far as the light could reach and the tunnel continued even beyond that point. This used to be a tunnel that was made during times that people sometimes had to escape from unwanted ‘guests’. The stone used to close the tunnel in order to protect people who had to escape from their enemies was, still after so many years, clearly visible. Nuray did not really know where the tunnel ended because part of the tunnel had collapsed years ago (she told me her father made it collapse) and she was not interested too much in the history of this tunnel. Looking at me with wondering eyes (why is this foreigner so excited about this useless tunnel?), she took me back to her ‘kitchen.’ A couple of old ladies were sitting on the floor, they already had prepared the dough. This dough needed to be turned after which it was filled with cheese and herbs. They were making gözleme; a kind of spicy pancake that can be filled with potatoes, cheese, minced meat etc. This room was specially designed to be a ‘kitchen’. In one of the corners there was a hole in the floor for the wood fire.
Somewhere at one side of the kitchen there was another small hole in the floor with a kind of air pipe that went to the bigger hole. The function of the air pipe was getting air to the fire so it would burn better. Two small windows in the room were opened and the smoke escaped via those windows but it was not always enough so sometimes the smoke in the kitchen agitated my eyes. The women were used to this situation and continued while chatting with each other.
Working like this normal for women
Within no time they produced more the 25 of those gözleme. They were delicious; the soft cheese combined with some fresh herbs; a slight smoked taste of the fire they backed it on; I loved it. I loved it even more because of the difficult situation those women were making this food. But for them working like this was as normal as for you making a conference call might be.
I have seen a lot of places in Turkey, spoken with many people and I would like to live such a life. But at the same time I wonder, am I capable of living such a life? That is why it is nice to dream about it and maybe one day I can move from my hyper comfortable house into such an old house and use a kusine or wood fire as those ladies still do.
In spite of those nostalgic and romantic thoughts I have to be realistic; one thing for sure; I will never get rid of my comfortable kitchen because I am far too used to it and love the way my kitchen tools make my life easier.