Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Shameful Dinner

The subject of Turkish class tonight was a favorite topic of Turkish visitors, expats and natives alike - FOOD! 

While Turkish food is a beloved subject for me, it was close to torture to sit through an hour and a half of pictures and descriptions of Turkey's most famous dishes with an empty stomach at 7pm!  I couldn't control my deep sighs and watery mouth.  I winced through the building stomach pains that my brain was sending to remind me it was dinner time.

Turkish food is one of the many highlights of Turkish culture, but perhaps because it is the most easily "digestible" element of the culture - it gets most of the attention when people report back home on their trip.  The savory, sizzling kebab, the melt in your mouth bulgar pilaf, the crisp börek, the creamy sütlaç…ahh, I'm torturing myself again!

Börek - just looking at this right now is painful. 
(Image from

Kebab - I'm not really a big fan of steak - but this still looks good to me. 
(Image: from

 The instructor asked "Açktın mı?" Are you hungry?   "Tabi!!!"  Of course!  I replied, almost hysterically.

When I left class, after all the discussion of delicacy after delicacy, I didn't know what to eat.  Do I go home and try to whip up a dinner at 7:15pm??  Do I go to a restaurant and get something quick?  I wanted Turkish food, but unfortunately - olmaz (impossible). 

So what did I do?

I did a very shameful thing.  I did a very typically American thing.  I drove to the nearest fast food restaurant and ordered a burger and fries.   Thankfully, the nearest place wasn't McDonalds - I went a little more upscale (or more realistically, a horizontal shift) to a lesser known chain.  As I waited and waited (at least it was somewhat fresh…) I started to feel worse and worse.  Why was I eating this junk?  This clogging arteries, diabetes inducing, flash-frozen and flash-fried, so-called food.

The greasy evidence
(Image, sadly, from Turklish)

(To my defense, I left my house at 7:30am to drive to an internship in another city and went directly to my Turkish class after commuting back into town.  So from 7:30am to 7:30pm I was away from home - a long day.)

After I grabbed a few handfuls of fries from the bag perched on the passenger seat and greedily shoved them in my mouth, the hunger hallucinations subsided, and I came to reason with myself a little.   This hamburger, these crispy shadows of french fries - this memory is for later…for those moments when I will be living in Turkey at some point in the future and perhaps wishing I could have a hamburger, when surrounded by cuisine perfected by hundreds of years of cultural experimentation.

 If I ever whine, "oh, I just want some American food," I'll come back and read this, and remember when I was dreaming of Turkish food, and then I'll go make some köfte.

Köfte - Turkish version of a hamburger 
(much better seasoned and without the bread and piles of toppings)
(Image from:

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