First and most important: I discovered I have a real penchant for Turkish coffee. It arrives in a tiny cup, always accompanied by a glass of water, and was almost always good. I wonder whether it is like drinking ouzo as a student: when you get home it no longer has the same allure. But in fact I think the coffee itself was good quality, as Jude said that her western white coffees were also good.
I don’t think I drank any alcohol in ten days. A pity really, as I should have tried Turkish wine, which presumably is similar to Bulgarian and Georgian. But I was happy with a glass of Aryan, a kind of watered down yoghurt drink.
My first night in Istanbul I found myself in my hotel room with no water to drink. I learnt the hard way to ensure I had bottled water with me at all times. Even the Turks do not seem to drink tap water in Istanbul, instead paying one lira (20-25p) for a small bottle.
The other mainstay of life in Turkey is bread. I have never thought of myself as a bread fan (except for my addiction to toast) but I would definitely like to learn more about bread in Turkey – another visit needed. Towards the end of my stay I was beginning to appreciate the range of breads on offer, both leavened and unleavened, in so many forms, some savoury some sweet, some with sesame and poppy seeds, some like pancakes…
Maddie also enjoyed discovering this paper thin bread:
I think Maddie has also inherited my sweet tooth. We both enjoyed out Turkish Delight samples. I was particularly surprised as I have never liked Turkish Delight, but here they seem to have branched out into varieties more like nougat. And then, of course, as a fan of nuts and honey, I much appreciated the widespread availability of shops selling baklava. So desserts were never a problem for our family – oh I forgot to mention the delicious rice pudding we had on a couple of occasions. How do the Turks manage, with all these delights to seduce them off a sensible regime?
Main courses were more variable. In our restaurant meals we were invariably offered a wide range of meat dishes, and in huge quantities. I basically liked these, though I would have liked them to be more spicy on occasions, but we did begin to crave the sight of a plate of vegetables. The plates of salad were not particularly appetising; I am used to salad being dressed.
But on the whole we ate well and a lot. It is just a pity that my real gastronomic experience happened after the family left.
Goji Apartments, my last stay in Istanbul, is run by a young man, Goksen, whom I knew immediately and instinctively to be generous and trustworthy. Breakfast (free) he said, would be downstairs, in the family restaurant, run by his parents. He didn’t mention that breakfast would be huge and delicious and made by his absolutely delightful parents.
Musa, his dad, came out from the kitchen to greet me. He doesn’t speak a word of English, but the international language of sweet smiles was sufficient. Any attempt to restrict breakfasts to bread and coffee had to be abandoned. Musa insisted I had the full works, starting with delicious soup (a huge choice each day, I had mushroom the first and rice and yoghurt the second) cooked by his wife. Then a boiled egg and a huge plate of salad, and a variety of vegetable based things I could not name. I did not like to ask them as Goksen was hard at work serving breakfast (equally huge portions) to the tables of working men who obviously knew how to start the day well.
Then Goksen brought some delicious bread (there was already a basket of bread on the table) together with jam made by his mother – strawberry the first day and quince the second. On the second day I asked if there was any of the same bread as yesterday. Goksen started to say No, but his father indicated yes, and arrived shortly with some made specially for me. What I didnt know was that I would be getting that day’s special offer of bread as well. So by the end of the meal I was well and truly breaded out.
I arrived rather late for lunch and Goksen said apologetically there were only two dishes left. Fine, I replied, and proceeded to be served with two giant portions of both! One was aubergine based, the other basically rice and lentils. Both were delicious. The flavours delicated distinctive and not overcooked as in other restaurants. In fact in two days the relative absence of vegetables the previous eight days was more than made up.
Goksen showed me with some pride a magazine article written some years ago about his parents. They are a little older now, but all that was said in the article is still true. This was a real discovery of quality working class gastronomic fare, served by a warm hearted family.