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Turkey Day In Turkey


After missing Thanksgiving in Paris last year due to illness, this year I doubled down by holding a lunch with some Turkish friends and going to a friend’s house for dinner.

I spent a week or so planning the menu in my head and trying to figure out how to get all the ingredients to make it a real feast for my first-time T-Day in Turkey guests.  I’m lucky to have a commissary for a turkey and all the squash and pumpkins for decorating the table – otherwise I would have been driving all over the city to see if I could get my hands on a bird.  Even though I usually see live turkeys while hiking outside of Ankara, no grocer seems to carry turkeys for cooking.  Fun fact – in Turkish, a turkey is called an Indian Chicken (hinti tavuk). Pumpkins and squash, the classic American fall harvest decoration items, are also hard to come by here.  At the regular markets in Turkey, you only see large, pale green pumpkins – the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving/fall bounty just isn’t part of the produce on offer here.

My cleaning day is Wednesday, and when my maid found out my guests were Turkish, she went into overdrive cleaning the common areas of my apartment.  Before the Turkish bayrams (holidays), where one of the customs is to visit neighbors and family, homes are deep-cleaned, full Navy Field Day style.  They even wash the windows!   I think the American standard must be a little different.  My maid also reminded me fifteen times before she left to close the door to my depot, or storage room.  Turks won’t understand something like this, she said over and over.  So, the morning of, after storing the pies and overcooked spiced nuts on my ironing board, I shut the door to the depot.  I don’t think anybody ever saw the excess of my American lifestyle!  On Wednesday we also chopped and peeled most of the vegetables, and I prepared the pies and dinner rolls, so that I’d only have to throw them in the oven when the turkey was done.

I was never a huge fan of turkey (the eating kind).  Growing up vegetarian, we only had a real turkey if we went to a grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving.  Otherwise, it was Tofurkey, or a Wham roll – stuff that makes every vegetable dish taste phenomenal.  So I never really learned how to cook a turkey.  I made one in 2001, and when we realized it was still not cooked when all of the other dishes were ready, we dumped it on the porch for the wildlife to share in the feast.  For my second attempt at cooking turkey, I consulted the oracle of google and learned all about brining.  Luckily I read all the info far enough in advance to transfer the turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator in time for it to thaw, almost completely, and still have time for brine.  I read lots of complicated instructions for brining and then went with a simple mix: brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, oranges, thyme sprigs, ice, and water.   I stirred it all together in a bucket lined with a turkey roasting bag, threw the turkey in, tied the bag closed, and threw it in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, I pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator and drained the brine to let it rest before I put it in the oven.  To make the most of the oven preheat time, I made spiced nuts.  A friend at the commissary recommended that I pick up allspice, since it’s frequently called for in pumpkin pie recipes.  This was great advice, since I thought I had all the spices that comprise allspice, only to learn that it’s actually a completely different thing.  The bonus was a recipe for spiced nuts right on the label!  It also made for great lost in translation joking when my guests asked what was in the nuts and the pie, and thought I was talking about cologne when I said I added allspice!  I had to grab the jar from the kitchen to prove that I wasn’t feeding them food laced with men’s perfume.

Cooking the turkey was pretty routine, I think, except that the skin quickly browned and I added the foil tent about 30 minutes into cooking.  My small oven heats very unevenly, but there was only one way to fit the turkey, so I had to make it work.  I’ve since ordered an oven thermometer so I can figure out what’s going on in there.

While the turkey was roasting, I finished setting the table and made all the sides: glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, green beans with tarragon, and stuffing.  I almost forgot to reheat the squash soup I had made the night before in the Vitamix (a great trick, by the way.  You can make hot soup from raw, uncooked ingredients.)  I thought everything was coming together well, but before I knew it, the guests had arrived, nothing was ready or plated, and the kitchen was a mess.  I joked that this was a real traditional Thanksgiving: when you show up and the food isn’t even ready.  The first Turkish know what do with a cooked turkey, luckily, since neither of the two Americans present had a clue.  With a pair of kitchen scissors and a knife, Meral cut the whole thing up and then decorated the platter with items from around the kitchen.


While she worked the turkey, my other guests started cleaning up my kitchen!  How amazing is that?  I was concentrating on the gravy, which I had never made before.  I was also explaining a lot of the recipes to my friends, as all of this American food was pretty new to them.

Eventually, we got it all together and were able to sit down to eat.  We started with butternut squash soup, which was a shock to my Turkish guests.  Here, squash is only served as a sweet dessert, and it took a little mental gymnastics to accept it as a savory dish.  I tried to make it more appealing by offering the spiced, roasted nuts on top.  One friend thought it was so neat because she had seen people eat it in American movies!  My friends were also really into the sparkling apple cider that I had picked up from the commissary – now I have to see if it can be found in any of the Turkish shops.

I really enjoyed sharing the meal, and the tradition of giving thanks, with all of my friends who had opened their home to me in the past.  We went around the table for each person to give thanks – the most popular: for families, friends, and a hope for world peace.  Some threw in a couple of digs at the government for fun.  Finally, it was time for pie, my favorite part of Thanksgiving!  Everybody loved it, but even more than the pie, they like the whipped cream in a can that went on top.


Due to the time zones, there was no football on for us to watch, but I think otherwise, my friends got a great first Thanksgiving, and I took great pleasure introducing them to our foodie holiday.  Instead of football, I relaxed with some schoolwork before heading out for a second dinner.

Sunday Hike: Fall Colors Spectacular With a Touch of Snow


After such an amazing summer, I’ve had a hard time adapting to the changing seasons and accepting the cooler temperatures of autumn.  I wanted to spend a few more days wiling the day away at a sunny cafe and driving with the top down.  This weekend’s hike to Seviller Valley (Gerede, Bolu) with amazing fall colors and hints of winter provided me a pleasant antidote.  Now that I’ve tasted the beauty of fall, I’m ready for the transition.

Fall hiking is tricky because you never know what kind of weather to expect at the top of the mountain.  Some friends chided me for all of my layers, and I even stashed a pair of light gloves in my pockets.  As they shivered, I was happy to spend the day taking jackets off and putting them back on as the clouds moved blocking the sun’s warmth.

At first the hike was pretty standard for this area of Turkey.  We passed by pine trees and fire roads and small villages.

Then we entered a clearing, where everyone was shocked to see patches of snow!  We threw snowballs and took tons of pictures – it’s the first snow any of us saw on the ground this season.  The guides said we were only at about 1000 m of elevation.


After another hour or so, we had lunch by this lake, where the solar-heated ground provided a perfect resting spot.

During lunch we all fretted at the graying sky and the quick moving clouds.  We consulted our smartphones for some consolation from the weather reports, which all promised sunshine and temps around 65, despite the chilly winds and gray skies we felt.  Luckily our path led us away from the gray and towards the sunnier areas.

We trekked down the mountain into glorious panoramas of the valley and a few teasers of the surprises in store.

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I was so happy to learn that the remainder of our path led right through this amazing scenery.  Once we descended the mountain, we walked along a small creek.  It was so beautiful that I think it’s fair to call it a burbling brook – is that a term?  Maybe it’s a bubbling brook?  Anyway.  Along with the beautiful sights in every direction, we were surrounded by the sounds and smells of falling leaves.

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I love learning about all the edibles along the paths in Turkey.  On Sunday I learned about two more.  Both berries were really tart, which is probably my least favorite taste, and after giving each a try I spit them back out.

Eventually we ascended from the creek valley along a path lined with leaves, which is another one of my favorite tokens of fall.  We also found a few surprises along the way.


On the way into the village, we passed by this house where the women were baking bread in the brick oven.  One of them summoned a hiker to her fence and offered a huge piece of fresh bread for us to share – incredible.  They also had a ton of turkeys around – it’s the first time I’ve seen them in Turkey.

The house was the first sign of an amazing Turkish country village – it turns out everybody had turkeys and freshly-baked bread.  We all managed to buy a hot oven-fresh loaf, for 5 TL (about $2.50) from the lady who bakes for the entire village.  Bonus: the bus smelled amazing for the whole ride.

Finally, a reminder of how small the world is.  Doesn’t this mosque look like it should be in a New England town?


See what keeps me smiling everyday in Turkey

Warning: Don’t watch this video if you’re hungry! Do click for a great view of Turkey’s food and producers, as well as lots of smiles!

Faces of Turkey from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

Paying the rent and the Foreigner Tax

Today I finally paid my March rent. It was due on the 15th, but when I tried to pay it the first time I was refused, after about 20 minutes of insisting that I have been paying this same bill since September, because I don’t have a kimlik (national identity card).
After talking to lots of Turks, somebody suggested that I might be able to pay it with a tax card – I do have one of those, from way back when I registered my car. I finally dug it out this morning and, armed with all of my identifications, went back to a different branch of the bank.
At Bank Asya, my landlord’s choice, you simply push a button indicating what kind of customer you are and want service you want, and then you wait. I just emailed my landlord to see of she has an account anywhere else, because unfortunately I always have to wait a very long time.
I’m obviously a yabanci (foreigner) with both hair and skin too light to ever be mistaken for a Turk. At this branch, there were two tellers offering counter service, both busy with customers when I drew my number. One finished then directly looked at me as the next customer waiting and busied himself with paperwork. I guess he didn’t want to have to try and speak another language. Another Turk arrived and, immediately apprising the situation, marched directly to the paperwork guy and completed his transaction in about two minutes. More customers showed up, drew numbers, and joined me in staring at Mr. Paperwork in disbelief. Finally the other teller finished and called my number. Almost immediately, the other guy continued on with work by calling the next number – thanks a lot, random Bank Teller Man.
I managed to go through the various presentations of identity and cash handover in about 5 minutes and all in Turkish. Meanwhile, Mr. I Can’t Be Bothered To Help a Foreigner was receiving a royal smack down from a little old covered lady for his attitude – karma is a bitch, man.

It’s starting to look a lot like … New Year’s?

If I didn’t know better, I would think that Turkey, an almost entirely Muslim country, was celebrating Christmas.  All the malls and shopping centers in Ankara are decorated like this:Image

Even though that’s Santa Claus, here in Turkey we’re actually celebrating New Year’s.  In the last week I’ve been to several New Year parties with predominantly red and green stuff everywhere.  We even sang Christmas carols at one, and got gifts from under the tree at another.  It takes an hour to find a parking spot at the mall, and every shop is offering holiday sales and pre-wrapped items.  On New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, everybody gathers around the tree and opens presents.  Usually there are parties and family celebrations.Image

So what’s this all about? A Turkish friend told me that Turks love to decorate, so in order to have the tree and the lights they just adopted the non-religious aspects of the Western Christmas traditions and then Turkified it by doing it all in the name of a Happy New Year.

I think some people love to decorate, and some people just love to party.  Either way, it works for me!

this store is on a street with so many lights that I think it's brighter at night than during the day.

this store is on a street with so many lights that I think it’s brighter at night than during the day.

Hamsi (anchovies)

I’ve had hamsi a few times, but didn’t know the difference between those from the Black Sea and Marmara. I’m in Istanbul now (right between both seas) and will see what I can find. But doesn’t a road trip for anchovies sound awesome?

Chasing Anchovies on Turkey’s Black Sea Coast

Milk Expectations and Reality


A few examples of Turkish milk. Notice the picture of the goat on the corner of the far-left bottle – that’s really important!

The first time I was duped by Turkish milk, I blamed it on ignorance and my American upbringing.

When I poured this milk onto my cereal, I was surprised to see little white gel blobs plopping onto my Special K, followed by a mostly clear liquid.  “What is this stuff?” I asked myself.  I had just bought the milk that morning, and even checked the date, so I knew it was fresh.  Just to be sure, I checked the date again (they use the European/military style of date here, so 10/9/12 means 10 September, not 9 October).  Then I sniffed the bowl.  Besides the boxed cereal smell, there was nothing sour or rotten.  I tried stirring the cereal to some uniform consistency, but really couldn’t destroy or reshape the blobs.  I didn’t want to waste the bowl of cereal (they rarely have my faves at the commissary, and the Turkish version tastes like cardboard) so I dropped a spoonful of the weird looking gel/flake/water mixture into my mouth.  And then I spit it all out and threw away the milk carton – I didn’t know what was wrong, but I couldn’t keep eating it.

A veterinarian friend later told me that the milk was probably not homogenized, which is the process that keeps breaks down the milk fats so they remain suspended in the liquid for a uniform liquid consistency.  It’s also what allows for us to have all of our peculiar levels of fat in milk in America.  “Haven’t you seen old people shaking a gallon of milk before they pour it?” she asked me.  Before milk in America was always homogenized, you had to shake the milk bottle before pouring to get the palatable look.  Who knew?  I learned the Turkish word for homogenized (pretty easy, homojenize) and now look for it on the bottles, although it rarely shows up.  Annoyed at myself for throwing away a carton of good milk, I now routinely shake my milk too, no matter what the label states.

I did learn one brand that meets my American expectations – Günlük süt (which means daily milk) that is low-fat.  I think it’s the most popular brand, since its place on the shelf is frequently empty.  When it’s not available, I stare in bewilderment at the dairy aisle.  I’ve learned not to buy ayran, a salty yogurt/water drink that comes in bottles packaged deceptively like plain milk, or kefir, a fermented milk product similar to buttermilk.

On my last purchase, I wasn’t paying enough attention to the labels.  I bought a bottle of milk produced at the Ataturk Forest Farm, which is a farm and zoo right outside of Ankara.  I thought it was local and probably organic.  Once again I poured it on my cereal, and although it looked okay, there was an odd taste.  I did the date and smell checks again.  Although it definitely had a fresh scent, there was something a little off.  I tried another bite of the cereal, and once again couldn’t stomach the odd milk.  I thought it would be okay in coffee, since there clearly wasn’t anything wrong with the milk.  Even the coffee couldn’t overpower the slightly sour tinge though.

When I examined the bottle again, I saw the drawing of a goat, and read “keci,” which means goat, on the list of ingredients,.  I’m a compulsive reader, and will skip right over a cartoon to read the captions first – it’s no surprise I missed the obvious goat on the milk bottle.  So the weirdness could be attributed to goat milk, which I guess will do in a pinch, but tastes odd for an American raised on the cow stuff.

Having had to learn the lesson twice, I now know to read the labels of everything I buy in Turkey.

A harder pill to swallow is how easy life in America is, at least compared to most of the rest of the world.  Even 7-11 sells a variety of milks.  When a lactose-intolerant friend visited, we tried to find a dairy alternative, like soy or almond milk, with no success.  When I go abroad, although I usually drop expectations of American life, little things like this always remind me how lucky we are.

Hopefully the next food surprise will be pleasant.

Arguing is a way of life here.

Moving to a new place always requires adjustments.  No matter whether it’s a new neighborhood in your city, a new city in your state, a new state in your own country, or a different country altogether, there are simple systems that you’ve got to work out.  Thanks to the preponderance of national corporations and institutions, moving around America throughout the last 12 years has been pretty easy for me.  My biggest concerns are usually pretty trivial – where to get my hair cut, and where to buy fresh organic produce.   Most people would definitely consider these to be first world problems.

For everything else, in America getting something is as simple as visiting a website or making a phone call.  If I want to find out when a store is open, or how to order, I go to their website and get the information.  It’s that easy.  Most of the time, I can do it all via some app on my phone.

In Turkey, it’s not that easy.  Since my last post about paying the water bill, everything this week involved arguing.  When you don’t know how the system works, it’s much harder to navigate.  My brother in Hawaii just got his Internet turned on, and we were able to skype tonight (which was awesome!!!).  It reminded me of getting Internet activated at my current apartment in Ankara, which wasn’t hard, but required a whole lot of verbal fighting on my part.  First, I kept going to the wrong TurkSat branch offices (just like dealing with the banks).  I think each manager gets to decide which services they provide, or which customers they help.  Just like the banks, I finally found somebody to help me at Branch #3.  When they evaluated all of my documents, they determined that even though I had internet at my first apartment, it was illegally obtained, and they could not transfer it to my new location (this is due to my unique resident status as a NATO soldier in Turkey – that alone always requires at least an extra forty-five minutes).  As a stranger in a strange land, there is probably nothing more important than the internet.  Sure, I can go to a cafe and use the wifi, but reaching out to friends, family, and creditors in the comfort of your own home is key.   While typing this, I’m watching the Army-Navy game, chatting on facebook, researching a paper, and playing Scrabble with some guy in Minnesota.  Although feasible, simultaneously conducting all of these activities would be awkward at any cafe in Ankara.

At the TurkSat office, the clerk typed thousands of things into his computer program and determined that there was no legal way he could transfer my service (that I already paid for).  So I decided to go to Level 2 and raised my voice while threatening to cancel my account.  This would require a refund of the previously paid-for services, which I knew no one was about to give me (in my experience, refunds don’t happen in Turkey).  The guy asked his supervisor for help.  Then the supervisor had to call his supervisors, and so on, until finally, everybody agreed that I could indeed transfer my Internet service to my new address.   It’s amazing how this process always takes forty-five minutes and just about all of my patience.  Wow, thanks Turksat.

The following week, the techs showed up at my apartment and after a cursory look at my utility cabinet insisted that I had to get an electrician to pull the wire up to my floor, and then call them back to install the cable.  Luckily my neighbor happened to pop out of his door when they were trying to explain this to me, and came to my rescue by digging into my cabinet until he found the cable.  (Now I’m forever indebted, and paying off my indenture by constantly conversing with his son in English).  After the cable technicians were shown the cable, it took about 5 minutes to finish the job and provide me with cable and internet – yay!!!!

The good thing about having to argue with everything is that it improves your language skills.  The bad thing is that once you realize that only an argument will get you there, you’ve got to brace yourself for every transaction.  And you get really used to arguing.

Professionally, I used to accomplish a lot more by consensus building than by picking fights, but when I return to the naval community, who knows what I’ll do.  After six months of living in Turkey, I’ve probably become too accustomed to arguing on a regular basis.   Half the time, I don’t even realize it’s happening until I’ve been yelling for a few minutes.  Wow – how did that happen?

My most recent argument involves exercise.  Although I’ve occasionally gotten into running, I’ve never been a huge fitness nut.  But in order to enjoy all the Turkish food and keep anything like a figure, I’ve got to run.  Right across my street is this beautiful track in a Turkish Army housing area.


It’s pretty rare to see people running on the streets of Ankara.  Standby for a future post on driving in Turkey, but I’m pretty sure that it’s just as unsafe to run on the streets as it is to drive on them.

It seems that in Eastern Europe, and maybe all of Europe, working out in public is odd and unseemly.  As a friend in Romania described, running on the streets is akin to someone coming up to your cafe table and doing jumping jacks in front of you and all the other diners, nonstop.  So you have to go to a track, or a gym, to get your sweat on.

I thought since this place is across the street, and I’m military, it would be no problem to run there.  So I ran over there.  Even though you can go right up to all the housing units, the commissary, and the restaurant, two guards are posted at the track.  Closely resembling MWR employees in America (generally not the best and the brightest) they intervened when I tried just walking in.  I showed them my American and Turkish military cards but again was met with no success, no entry.  To run on this track, I need an “entry card.”  At least I think that’s what he said.  When I asked how to get one, he said to ask my Turkish boss.  Who else could I ask?  Well, I don’t know, he replies.  So I ask the other guy.  He has no idea either.  Then I try for the sympathy vote, and ask if they’ll let me on, just this one time.  Absolutely not…not without the mysterious but absolutely necessary “entry card.”  I kept asking, in as many different ways as I could think of, how to get a card, with pretty much the same answer – these guys really weren’t sure.   Now I know how it feels to be a civilian living near military bases in America.  I briefly considered hanging out at the entrance, and stalking people who do have access, to find out how to get my own.  Maybe another day – I couldn’t waste the mid-afternoon warmth.

When I finally gave up on the track, I ran over to the Presidential Complex and ran around it instead.  Once you cross the street, there are no stops, so it’s around 3.5 miles and hilly, making it a better workout than the track anyway.

The gray area is the presidential complex - easier to run than on regular, traffic-ridden streets.

The gray area is the presidential complex – easier to run than on regular, traffic-ridden streets.  The blue dot is where I live – no big deal.

I’m going to have to find some active duty Army friends to figure out how I can run on that track though – I don’t care about the fitness benefits anymore – now I just hate being told “No.”

Today the water company called to see if I was dead.

Today the water company called to see if I was dead.  They didn’t call me; they called my apartment building management.  After a year of unpaid bills, my apartment reached the company’s tolerance for giving free water.  Apparently they really don’t want to shut off the water, though, because they still make the last ditch effort to ensure that nobody needs it.

So when I walked into my building this afternoon, the security guard presented me with 6 months of water bills that my landlady had kindly dropped off, after they found my mailbox empty and guessed she probably had them.  She’s a little loopy – I’ve only lived in the apartment for three months!  Since I really value running water, however, I decided to just pay the bills, and then talk to her son, who is easier to deal with, and arrange to take it out of the rent.

Amazingly, 6 months of water for the apartment only added up to about $80.  The real cost was in time and patience wasted in trying to pay the bill.  On Turkish utility bills, a box at the bottom lists all the places where you can pay.

I had a tutor session this afternoon on one of the city’s busy streets, so I decided to start there.  At the first bank, Halkbank (Public Bank), after I took my number and waited 15 minutes for a teller, they told me I could only pay bills in the morning at this branch, before 11 a.m.   That’s nearly impossible for me, since I’m in class until 1 p.m.  I asked about other branches’ policies, but the teller said there was no way for her to know.

At Bank #2, Iş Bank (Business Bank), after repeating the number-taking and waiting process, I learned that that branch never takes bill payments.  I received a similar response at Bank #3, Akbank (possibly Pure Bank, but there are countless political meanings as well).  Luckily this teller was helpful, and said I could always pay my bill at the Post Office!

So while cursing the Turkish banking system and all of its branch fiefdoms, I walked further up the street to PTT, which is Turkey’s postal, telecom (kind of), and money transfer service.  I took another number, waited my turn, handed the cashier the bill, and then paid.  It was so easy!  So from now on, if it’s possible, I’m going to pay all bills at the post office – who knew!

Although this entire process took just over an hour and just about all of my fortitude, I’m glad for it.  Overcoming the simple challenges of daily life, like paying the water bill, while speaking a foreign language in a foreign country, is why I fought not to live in embassy housing, where they pay all of your bills for you.   It’s also a valuable part of the experience as an Olmsted Scholar.

A much-needed weekend in Ankara

Can you travel too much? Before I started the Olmsted experience, I would have responded with a definitive “No way!”  Now I’m not so sure.  Since arriving in Turkey I’ve been away from home (Ankara) more often than I’ve been in town.  I think was so excited by the travel trifecta of time, money, and friends to see that I went wherever I could as often as I could.

When somebody asked me where I liked to hang out in Ankara, my first thought was the airport.  I realized that instead of the desire to return that I feel about most places I visit, Ankara is a city that I truly enjoy leaving!  On Thanksgiving morning, however, when I woke up four hours after my plane took off, I realized that maybe I had gone overboard with all the travel.  After a string of international trips in August, I resolved to limit myself to one international trip a month, which I thought was still being very generous with myself.  But things came up, and I ended up doubling down on big trips each month.  So on Thanksgiving, mostly because I had some kind of flu, but also because I think the flu was probably aided by exhaustion, (I did get the flu shot), I cancelled my highly anticipated trip to Paris.   And then this weekend, when some friends missed their flight to Istanbul, I decided not to go as well.  I was almost relieved to spend a healthy weekend at home!

Since I’ve barely moved into my place, and haven’t had a normal weekend in Ankara, I decided this would be the weekend to do all those normal weekend things, and maybe get to know my city a little better.  So I organized, cleaned, worked out, read, and shopped.

Yesterday I had plans to go to an art exhibit and holiday bazaar, but I was a little late getting going, got lost, and then got stuck in hellacious traffic and missed everything.  In the process of driving all over the city trying to find the museum I did discover some new neighborhoods and pretty streets, so it wasn’t a total loss.  I also learned that driving through the city’s main drag on a Saturday afternoon is no quick feat.

Ayranci Market

Ayranci Market

Today I managed to find the farmer’s market, which is also an antiques (but really just used stuff) market once a month.  Since I’m still trying to get the place together, I didn’t buy any stuff, but enjoyed browsing the tables and furniture stands.  After a really hilarious transvestite lectured me on what produce to buy from what vendor I did manage to buy some groceries.

I also hit up the hardware store to buy a fake Christmas tree.  Unfortunately, although they had trees on display, they’re only to show lights and ornaments – you can’t actually buy a fake tree.  Apparently I could have if I had come in November, but they sold out, and nobody was sure if they were going to order more this year or not.  They absolutely would not sell me a display.  Although I left with a sad “living room pine” asking about all the possibilities was a great chance to practice my Turkish.

Finally I got home and decided to try and cook ayva, a Turkish fruit that I eventually learned is quince.  We bought some in Goreme when we thought we were going to miss breakfast.  It’s a good thing the innkeeper fed us early, because after biting into one fruit as if it was an apple I threw it out!  The first flavor that came to mind was crabapple, which we used to eat on dares as kids.  It’s not sweet, pretty sour, and really fibrous.  Since I still had two pieces left, I found a Turkish recipe for ayva tatlısı, or Quince Sweet/Quince Dessert.  Turkish food names are sometimes really lame.  Basically, you peel and core the quince, throw some spices and sugar in the hollow, put them in a pan with a little water, and cook them all day on very low heat.  I used a 100C oven, which I think is like 220F.  The transformation is really amazing – they go from nearly inedible yellow orbs to something like apple pie filling, but less sweet.  I ate mine with vanilla ice cream, but traditionally they’re served with kaymak, which is clotted cream from raw buffalo milk and frequently used as whipped cream in Turkey.

Hopefully I get similar results with the other unidentified vegetables that I bought today.

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