Our matchless values and our cuisine
REFİKA BİRGÜLA new project has been launched led by the head of the Executive Committee of Doğan Holding, Begümhan Doğan Faralyalı, and daily Hürriyet on “our shared values.” In my opinion, one of our ultimate values that absolutely has to be included in this project is food. Here is a list of possible reasons:
FOOD: We eat some of the most delicious and freshest food in the world.
WE KNOW HOW TO COOK: Even the staunchest of us all who says, “I don’t know how to cook,” is better than those who say, “I know how to cook,” in several places in Europe.
SETTING GOOD TABLES: We eat by setting the table. The tables set are very important. Despite individualism, this custom has not been lost all together. It could be on the floor, on the table, or during a picnic, but we set our meals with an abundance of food prepared with a variety of ingredients.
WE WORK FOR BREAD: And we share our bread. Our meals are shared with our mothers, fathers and our children who have reached their 30s but have never grown up or with the brother or sister who has lost his or her job.
OUR HOSPITALITY: This unique form of our hospitality reaches incredible dimensions, so much so that you can understand the extent of this when you are abroad. A student who lives with a British family or a young man living with a German family will come back to Turkey having shed quite a few kilos. There is no abundance. O bowl of soup is your share; you cannot get a second one. In our country, on the other hand, we are constantly engaged in an effort to offer the most of and the best of whatever we have. There is always chocolate reserved for guests. It is walnut paste in Cyprus, some other local food in the Black Sea town or Central Anatolia cities. We insist that the visitor “must have” just one cup of coffee or some tea…
COOKED IN POTS: Everybody’s food is cooked in pots with a lid on in Turkey. In our country, we cook our food in closed pots. Problems and food are solved or boiled altogether; everybody gets their own share; they all mix together…
KIDS COME FIRST: Water and food go to the little one first. In our traditions, kids should be fed first. The mother who has not fed her child/children cannot be at ease. In my opinion, if we had invented the passenger plane first, I’m sure we would have made this announcement, “Put the oxygen mask first on your child and then on yourself.”
A CUP OF BLACK COFFEE: This is a country where a single cup of coffee offered is to be remembered for 40 years. Or a cup of bitter coffee commits one to 40 years of friendship. All of this meaning that a favor done or a meal provided to somebody is never to be forgotten.
FERTILE LAND: This country is the land of fertility and abundance. In every region, an exceptional product is grown; the range of variety includes figs, cotton, bananas, tea, sugar beets, avocados and quinoa. We are losing these values of ours; appropriate regulations should be introduced as soon as possible.
RICHNESS IN DISHES: We have a cuisine that has more than 300 meatball varieties, hundreds of dolma (stuffed) vegetables, kebab, olive oil dishes, appetizers, sweets and milk puddings. We have a population that knows how to cook an egg in more than 1,000 ways…
WINTER PREPARATIONS: Our traditions for preparing for the winter are all together a separate topic. At this time of the year, in at least seven of any 10 households, there are boxes or jars in cupboards filled with tomatoes or tomato paste sent from the village by relatives. This depot coming from 150 years ago has become a national richness in my country. As a matter of fact, underneath all this abundance, there is preparation for winter, the time of shortage.
YOUR NEIGHBOR: We cannot go to bed with a full stomach when our neighbor is hungry. We may move to huge modern residential complexes but if we do not get to know our neighbor and be friendly enough to know about their situation, we feel a bit uncomfortable.
CREATIVENESS: We have imagined and made meatballs from lentils, we have stuffed cherry leaves, we eat our yogurt with salt and a bit burnt, we dry out our heavy cream. We have been able to maintain and carry them into modern times. We may live in an apartment building and even if we do not have a balcony, we are able to barbeque on the windowsill.
Think of such a handicraft as our “yufka” (phyllo dough), think of the value of the masters creating spoons out of boxwood, as well as our enamel, glass, copper utensil masters. Think of how food cooked in them is so much more delicious than that cooked with plastic and Teflon.
Instead of talking about our differences, center your conversations on these; be happy, let your soul be enlightened. Go past the giant market and stop by the green grocer at the corner of your home. Chat with him, smile to him, make him smile, be grateful…