Lent, Life and Longevity

Lent, Life and Longevity

Last week was hectic. I was late for my next appointment, I had to rush out as soon as possible, but I just could not move; I was nailed listening to the ‘young’ man aged 83 years, standing straight up, and talking lively on secrets of longevity and life after 80, with an assertive and highly convincing tone through experience and wisdom. I was already an admirer of his photography, I remotely knew him as a person, but only now I was actually listening to him. Izzet Keribar, one of renowned photographers in Turkey, a former successful businessman in textile sector, a keen collector of antique porcelain; he is apparently a man of great achievements, a standing monument of celebrating life.

This week’s article was supposed to be on fasting and feasting, or vice versa, as it is the time of carnivals and feasting before the fasting period of Lent, and of course the fasting of Lenten period is followed by the festive tables of Easter. This pattern of feasting, fasting and feasting again is not only observed in Christian religion, but almost all religions and cultures in the world celebrate repeated patterns of fasting and feasting, especially those in temperate climate zones where annual seasonal changes are good causes for the celebration of life cycles. When I listened to the talk of Izzet Keribar, along with other distinguished speakers, I noticed once again that all these old traditions and religious practices are actually like a manual for living better, happier and longer. Our traditions and religious rituals are all to make us have healthy daily routines, with seasonal feasting occasions to satisfy our tendency to indulge, and to take a break to detox and regulate our eating habits.

The event was organized by Swiss Chamber of Commerce in Turkey in collaboration with Swiss Business Hub Turkey to celebrate the forthcoming Women’s Day, and the theme was “Longevity: Tips for staying long in the game”. Switzerland naturally has an image synonymous with health. Sky-piercing snow-capped high summits of Swiss Alps with crystal clear blue background; green grass carpeting gently covering endless slopes with happy cows dotted around; buckets of creamy white milk pouring to be turned into delicious cheeses or milk chocolates. Everything about Swiss landscape resonates with health and long life. Even from our childhood hero Heidi with her rosy cheeks and her bursting energy running around barefoot, we have connotations of health and Swiss landscape. There is another hidden aspect about heroically happy Heidi: her wise grandfather, leading a content healthy elderly life. Heidi’s quest of wandering and learning is surely fuelled with wisdom of her elderly grandfather who takes care of her.  

Women’s Day was a cleverly chosen occasion as women naturally are carriers of message through word of mouth, and they are sensitive to everything related to a better life. Women care much for their appearance, but even weight watching and exercise must be done primarily for health reasons rather than looking good. Women are open and quick to adopt new ideas, and needless to say they have a fondness for new diet fads. Until recently fasting was considered something only connected to religious beliefs, now science is telling us that it is actually good for your health. Intermittent fasting is a new trend, but if you have a look back to fasting traditions of various religions, the concept is already there. Think about going vegan and practicing occasional intermittent fasting days for seven long months like the Orthodox Armenians, or trying the 24 hour Yom Kippur fast once in your life, it is harder than most detox programs we dread. Exercise is the same; think about Namaz, the Muslim prayer that gives an exercise five times a day, all focused on knees, necks and shoulders, plus the soul cleansing benefit of praying. Frequenting the church, the synagogue and the mosque is all about tying the community together and socializing. All the festive meals we share with family is to strengthen family ties, that is why all Chinese are practically migrating once a year to celebrate Chinese New Year, or all Americans unite with family for Thanksgiving. After all, we are not lonely creatures; we need each other to feel better. 

The prescription is already written wisely by our ancestors. Exercise daily; walk to work; eat with friends and family; indulge once in a while, but remember to detox and abstain from earthly pleasures frequently; we all have our guilty pleasures, but remember to abstain from them once in a while; control your appetite not to exaggerate; sleep long and tight; work happily, love your work; never give up learning; be open to explore new ideas; get together with family to connect. We definitely have to look back, learn from past wisdom to create a healthy future for us. Tips for staying long in the game lies in learning from the past! 

Fork of the Week: Tahini is a rescue item in the Lenten period. Creamy, nutty and almost buttery, the tahini is actually pure ground sesame with high sesame oil content. That is why it is a favorite Lenten ingredient, especially in Anatolian Armenian cookery. It is completely vegan and safe to use when abstaining from everything meat, dairy and eggs. This recipe of bean salad with tahini sauce is healthy and wholesome, fit for any diet, for Lent or loosing weight. Take a pack of boiled white beans in water; drain reserving the juice, put in a bowl. In another small bowl mix about 4-5 tablespoons of tahini, dilute with a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water of boiled beans, add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice or apple vinegar, salt to taste. Pour over the beans; add copious amounts of chopped spring onions and flat leaf parsley. Toss to serve. Same can be done with boiled chick peas. 

Cork of the Week: Some people take the Lent period not as fasting or going vegan, but trying to stay away form their guilty pleasures, such as sweets, chocolate or drinks. If you choose abstaining from alcohol, we need to elaborate our mocktails, or heartwarming warm drinks. This coffee named Cappuccino Oriental, inspired from Istanbul, is so comforting that is acts like cradle that soothes the soul. Fill a cappuccino cup with about 60 ml hot foamed milk, add 10 ml cinnamon syrup; prepare a ristretto (25 ml) coffee, preferably with the new spicy Café Istanbul capsule, mix it to the cup. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon dust and ground cloves to top. Enjoy life at its best!


İzzet Keribar,