After spending a month in Tanzania and South Africa, Erin, Liz, and I hopped on a plane to Turkey for a multi-week tour of the country and an excessive amount of döner kabobs. Why head to a random Eurasian country after Africa, you ask? Well because it’s simply on the way home. Kind of like getting gas in Tracy on the drive from Los Angeles to Pleasanton on I-5. We had to pass over the neighborhood, so why not just stop in for a twinkie and a coffee? Exactly, you’ve gotta do it.
Istanbul is a stunning city dotted with hundreds of intricately designed mosques and with a rich history of sultans, harems, and military conquests that I surely knew more about when I was in 6th grade than I do now. Thankfully, our group has expanded to include a few history buffs so I was able to ask questions like, “Why am I being woken up at 5:30am by voices coming through megaphones that are so loud they may as well be mounted in my bedroom? And more importantly, who do I need to call to make it stop?” Answers: the Islamic call to prayer and Allah.
We spent the days soaking in the sights and battling often overwhelming entrance lines of fellow tourists. We pushed our way through the Topkapi Palace, jockeyed for seats on a ferry up and down the Bosphorus Straight, and passed on the Hagia Sophia due to the queue of 300+. It was a bit overwhelming, so I welcomed the opportunity to get off the street and get our hands dirty (literally) in a Turkish cooking class. I love eating and can generally use a knife if someone shows me what to do with it, so it was sure to be a good time. And indeed it was. After four hours of chopping, kneading, and avoiding 3rd degree burns, it was time to eat! Hearty lentil soup, zucchini cakes with yoghurt sauce, stuffed eggplant, minced meat wrapped in grape leaves, and sponge cookies—OH. MY. WORD. And we had made (or at least done a lot of work towards) it all. My cooking repertoire expanded from two dishes (scrambled eggs and yellow chicken curry) to seven. That’s a 350% increase—thank you Cooking Alaturka! Now, as long as I don’t lose the recipes, I will hopefully be able to recreate something that’s half as good in twice the time. If I’m lucky.
My one complaint from the experience: my non-stirring/chopping/drizzling hand was free of a wine glass until we sat down to eat. I realize this was for the best as my ability to finely chop mint sprigs (and my general desire to do so in the first place) would have surely deteriorated in an inverse correlation as the number of glasses increased. But hey, I’m on vacation. If I want some of the juice, give me the juice.
Photos are up for those of you who like to torture yourself by looking at pictures of food that you can’t have. I’ve also included shots from the Bosphorus Cruise, where my feet touched Asian soil for the first time (Istanbul is split between the European and Asian continents). Life on the road continues to be sweet, and in recent days, quite savory as well.