Life is short

Life is short

Aylin Öney Tan -
Life is short

DHA Photo

Life is short, so is February. A few days shorter than other months, February did not even exist once. The month seems to be aware of this fact; it is packed with earthly and worldly days and festivals, all related to the momentary lapse of the individual’s existence on earth - Carnival, Valentine’s Day and others all have roots in pre-Christian Pagan-Roman celebrations and festivities related to lust and gluttony. February is the month when carnivals of all sorts pop-up in every corner of the world, turning the globe into a giant communal party ground. 

Paradoxically, February gets its name from purification. February is the time for a final indulgence in worldly tastes before the Lenten period of the Liturgical calendar in Christianity. The fasting days of Lent last for six weeks, and can be even longer in the case of Orthodox Armenians. It is the period when all worldly pleasures are set aside. Food and drinks which can be “enjoyed” during Lent are scarce. Lent fasting can mean going totally vegan and dry or, as observed by more relaxed Churches, abstaining from your favorite food like chocolate and sweets or staying clear of alcohol. Before Lent, all rich food and drink has to be waved farewell; Carnival, on the contrary, is the final chance to go earthly before turning spiritually to the divine celestial sky. In a way, Carnival becomes a chance to consume all excesses to the excess. 

The word Carnival actually means a farewell to “carne,” meat, as it is time to “levare,” to take meat off the table. Together with meat, all the grease and fat, all the eggs and cheese and all the wine and booze will be away for a long time, until Easter. Lent will be unruffled days of collecting oneself together; practically a physical and spiritual detox time. The name of the month comes from the word “Februum,” meaning purification. The purification ritual that was held on the full moon in February was called “Februa” or “Februalia” in Roman times. Washing with water, or even better with rainwater, of which February is never short of, was the key to getting clean and pure again after the days of excessiveness. 

Despite the shortness of the month, the nights are still long and occasions are plenty. February is sweet, as it is short. Be it a romantic weekend escape for Valentine’s Day or watching the Fall of Angel with the crowds in Venice or indulging in carnivorous feasts, celebrate the ephemeral moment and then go for the purification of the “Februa!”

Destination of February: For a divine weekend out of this world, head for the “Sacred House” in Cappadocia.

They have deals for Valentine’s weekend, which includes upgrading in their stupendous rooms, a majestic candlelit dinner with wine at Angels & The Searchers Restaurant, a massage at the Inferno Spa and lots more. The eclectic architecture and over-the-top interior of the castle-like old mansion has strong Venetian influences. Its bar is stocked with elegant Murano glasses, so a night there is like Lupercalian carnival pleasures intertwined with the romance of Valentine’s. What else could you ask for from the short and sweet February?

Fork of the Week: “Vino Steak House” in Göztepe. The relaxed Anatolian side of Istanbul is the address you’ve been seeking for indulgence. Unlike other fashionable meat restaurants, they won’t rob your wallet. A heavenly (or rather earthly) hamburger with a lovely glass of wine won’t be more expensive than a regular café elsewhere. The secret is, they have an agreement with “Online Mahzen,” one of Turkey’s leading wine suppliers, and they only charge a modest 30 Turkish Liras for corkage. A shared plate of lamb rack is tempting, served with steamy jacket potatoes and buttered spinach, ideal for a seductive Valentine’s Day dinner. The two-story building, designed by the late Emin Onat, architect of the Mausoleum of Atatürk, has separate rooms that can be reserved for larger party groups, perfect for a lavish feast of meat, just before Lent.

Cork of the Week: Choose any wine from the extensive list of 350 wines from 14 countries. Our pick for lunch was a divine (or hellishly attractive) Chateau Kalpak from Thrace, but I’ll surely come back for the meaty Malbecs they stock. 

Activity of the Week: If you’re not interested in indulging and would rather commit yourself to serenity and simplicity with elegance, go for a pairing of “Sushi & Sumi-e.” This is not a taste pairing, but an amazing soothing dual experience of food and art. Sushi, an art in itself, accompanies the Japanese art of Sumi-e at Sushi-Co Nişantaşı every Monday and Saturday, at a course organized by Sumi-e masters.