Date: Mar 21  1999

T & A and TV in Turkiye

(That's "Travel" and "Appetite" and Television...what did you

OK, let's get one thing out at the beginning. Meredith and I are
vegetarians. As such, this report will have a very personal skew to
it. We know that there's a whole world of food that we don't eat,
and some dishes look and smell terrific, and have great reputations.
You'll have to discover those for yourself.
Here in Turkey we've been having some fish on odd
occasions, but that's unusual. 

Turkey is one of the few countries in the world with a net food
surplus. The tremendous size of the country, with a size
that spans many climate zones, ensures a good amount of year-round

The variety of fruits and vegatables, and their quality, are simply
wonderful. There are some things that we're accustomed to that are
hard to get here, but the local mega-supermarket has a good
"exotica" selection where avocados, coconuts, and fresh ginger are

The food in Turkey is a good reflection of it's liminal position
between Europe and the Middle East. Typical Middle Eastern
items such as chick peas, eggplant, grape leaves, and flat pita-like
breads are everywhere, but the preparations are often more detailed,
with many different spices. I've yet to see fallafel, for example.

The most well-known types of food in Turkey are doner (sliced lamb,
cooked on a spit--New York's ubiquitous gyro in a pita), pide
(Turkish "pizza"--a flat bread with meat, vegatables, or egg cooked
on top) and mezes.

Mezes is the collective term for a huge assortment of small cold
appetizers. Usually vegetarian, the selection will vary nightly at
every restraunt. Common choices include a spicy chopped tomato
chili, various stuffed "things" (stuffed grape leaves, stuffed
cabbage, stuffed peppers) known as dolma (literally "stuffed"), and
chick peas or beans in a garlic-tomato sauce. 

There's a tremendous variety of breads, loaves
reminiscient of baguettes, large round loaves, flat breads covered
with onions and tomatoes, much like a foccaccia. The national street
snack is a simit, a soft pretzel-like ring covered with sesame
seeds. They vary region to region, but are universally good,
especially hot out of the oven.

Yogurt--it's not just for breakfast anymore. I thought I liked
yogurt before I came here. I had my preferences (Danon strawberry,
sometimes Whitneys), but didn't care that much for plain yogurt. I
was such an ignorant fool. Fully 2/3 of a large supermarket aisle is
devoted to yogurt, with a small enclave at one end with infant-sized
containers of yogurt with fruit. The rest covers a range of flavors
and textures that are unseen in the U.S. There is yogurt that's
close to sour cream, and packaged varieties with garlic. It's
typical to have yogurt with every meal, and the range of flavors
keeps it from being boring.

When the call goes out for blood donation here, they could type
donors as "normal, "elma" (apple), and "ada" (an sweet orange flavor).
Tea is truely the lifeblood of Turkey. Tea here is served in
delicate, tulip shaped glasses, and drunk by the gallon. It's
almost impossible to enter any proper Turkish shop, home, or
business and not be offered tea. Everyone takes a break at the
barber the midst of a haircut...for tea.

Turkish coffee. It's thick, and very strong, and not anywhere near
as bitter as the stuff that goes by that name in the U.S. It's a
very finely ground coffee, boiled rather than filtered. Since the
beans aren't as "dark roasted" it's less bitter than an
Italian espresso, while being stronger. It's always served as a
digestive, not as a sit-at-the-cafe drink.
We just got a TV (the Turkish shows are really wild--everything from
"Gunsmoke" dubbed into Turkish to long interviews with professors about
Islam to game/variety shows with scantilly clad women and large old drag
queens...let's just say that the media image reflects the contrasts and
contradictions of the country).
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