Sovereignty in the kitchen

Sovereignty in the kitchen

Aylin Öney TAN -
Sovereignty in the kitchen Tomorrow morning the Parliament will be full of kids! Kids pretending to be parliamentarians, ministers, and of course one of them taking the place of the prime minister. The reason is that April 23 is the day of National Sovereignty, but it is also Children’s Day. Usually referred to as in short as “23 Nisan,” Turkish for April 23, the day is the first and only national holiday in the world dedicated to children.

The day marks the anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Parliament known shortly as the “Meclis,” meaning “Assembly.” The first “Meclis” was assembled three years prior to the announcement of the Turkish Republic. The young Parliament was declared on April 23, 1920, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, dedicated the National Assembly day to the children as a symbol of hope in the future. As a child, I remember being very proud of celebrating the first and only national holiday in the world dedicated to children. Nowadays, I only feel sad, as I see the day is more celebrated as a “meclis” day full of political debates, rather than a cheerful and colorful children’s day as Atatürk has hoped for.

When it comes to celebrating “23 Nisan,” the grown-ups become quite nostalgic remembering their own childhood. Nowadays, children seem less enthusiastic about the day, as they probably do not necessarily associate the day with a big treat or a special happening, or a great gift. In our childhood, there would be great parades, or so we thought, and parties or children’s balls thrown in City Halls or big hotels.

One of the first balls I ever attended was in the Ankara Palas, a prestigious hotel on Atatürk Avenue very close to the Parliament. The building now is in pathetically meaningless state, having totally lost its special atmosphere as it has been transformed in the name of restoration.

All the girls were dressed in fluffy-puff dresses and the boys had bow ties; we were like a bunch of miniature-sized prom party teenagers. The girls were trying to look like roses if they were wearing pink, or daisies if they were wearing yellow. I recall boys very quickly losing their intended shape, taking off their jackets, taking their shirts out of their trousers, ripping their bow-ties and so on. It was not great fun for me as I was timid mingling in the crowd. I remember watching my schoolmates running around, waiters trying to carry trays of lemonade glasses amid the wild crowd and myself standing still in a corner clutching a voucher ticket for free lemonade and biscuits, the wrinkled ticket becoming wet in my sweaty palm.

It must have been the mid-1960s and it was not the best party I had. Still I felt very proud to have a day dedicated to children as a national day, and very happy not to have school. I was more comfortable in the kitchen baking rather than being in the ballroom of Ankara Palas. That was a privilege I had, to have total control of the kitchen where my mother had given me full sovereignty, without having an adult to interfere. She was clever enough to hand over the responsibility, probably because she was very busy with writing all the time, but also she truly believed giving full responsibility was probably the best tool of education. This tactic of hers really paid off, as I became confident in the kitchen starting at an early age, paving my way to become a food writer.

When celebrating “23 Nisan,” it is relieving to see actual kids in the Parliament instead of the usual bunch of grown-ups behaving like kids! Even if it is only for a day, one feels like there might be hope for the future. Seeing children so confident in the “kitchen” of Turkey where all laws and decrees are whipped up, one can hope that these kids in the future will come up with better recipes!

Recipe of the Week:
It takes only a couple of minutes to make a child happy – if you have a microwave, of course! A cake, muffin or brownie in a cup can be whipped up in a matter of seconds and is ready to be eaten right away. This “Hot Nutella Cake” is an instant hit. I suggest, as it is the National Sovereignty Day, going local and using Sarelle, the near-identical Turkish cousin of the Italian stuff. Take a very big mug or a huge cup that holds 350 ml and put 3 tbsp each of sugar and cocoa powder and 4 tbsp of self-raising flour (or add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp. baking powder to 4 tbsp regular flour) in the cup and mix; add 3 tbsp each of milk, vegetable oil and Nutella, Sarelle or any type of hazelnut/chocolate spread. Mix the ingredients and add an egg. Give the whole thing a good stir whisking with a fork until smooth. At this stage you can add flavoring like a pinch of cinnamon or mixed spice, a few drops of vanilla or rum essence or a teaspoon of grated orange peel. There should be at least 3-4 cm from the level of cake batter to the rim of the cup or it may over flow. The batch will also be sufficient for two regular mugs, so you can divide the batter into two cups. Microwave at the highest speed for 2 1/2 -3 minutes. Voila! Serve with a scoop of ice-cream or a dollop of whipped cream. You can duplicate the recipe and divide into six regular cups and make six children happy.

Bite of the week

Fork of the Week

The ideal fork with kids is not indoors but outdoors. Pack sandwiches and go out to a park. The
mini assorted sandwiches of Şütte are the best picks for cold choices or grab a grilled cheese sandwich at your nearest “büfe,” sandwich kiosk. For the most nostalgic pick of yesteryear, go look for the Goralı sandwich. The original can be found in the original shop in Fındıkzade,

Cork of the Week

The only fizzy soft drink available in my childhood was a variety of plain soda pops generically called
“Gazoz.” The nostalgic brands include Uludağ and Niğde Gazozu; always go for the plain original
version of the former to be nostalgic. Of course, we have a recipe for the grown-ups who are nostalgic about their “gazoz” but need a kick to enjoy it after an exhausting day with the kids. Pour 4 cl. of Red Apple or Red Orange Binboa Vodka into a tall glass, squeeze a quarter of a lemon or half a lime, fill the glass with crushed ice and top with gazoz. Garnish with a slice of orange and a cocktail cherry for fun and enjoy!