My Letter to Özgecan

I am adding this to Covey because the more people that see what has happened to this young lady here in Turkey the more hope that we have for change in this country.

janeyinmersin

I never had the pleasure of meeting you Özgecan.  I never had the chance to hear you laugh with your friends or sing along to your favorite tune.  No I did not know you at all but I know you now.  Your name will forever be etched into my heart and into the hearts of millions of others here in Turkey and around the world who woke on Valentine’s Day, the day of romance, to the sickening news of your death at the hands of a monster.  We are shocked beyond words hearing of your suffering and of knowing that the simple task of stepping on a bus is no longer safe here in Mersin.

Aslan

What happened to you happens to other women every day, all over the world.  Whether it is in New Delhi or Melbourne monsters can be found everywhere.  But with your death comes the news that tens of thousands…

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Romancing the Kebab

Having a bit of fun with the origin of the faithful kebab.

Originally posted on janeyinmersin:

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Saturday night.  You’ve been out clubbing until late and you’re hungry.  What do you want?  A kebab!  You race to the nearest kebab shop (and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world there is always a kebab shop) and you order your kebab “with the works”.

Within minutes you are holding your kebab, smothered in chilli sauce (or God forbid BBQ sauce) and you find your mouth filling with saliva in anticipation.  You’re excited.  You know it is going to be the best kebab you have ever had – and it is.

Fast forward to Turkey.  You have arrived in Istanbul, ready for adventure.  There are historical sites, amazing beaches, gorgeous people – and kebabs.  Yes Turkish kebabs.  The real thing.  You make your way to the first lokanta you come across ready to order your first genuine kebab.  With confidence you place your order.  They speak English!  A bonus.  Your table is laden with a basket of bread, a plate of lemon and pickled chilli and a small salad.  Am I going to have to pay for all this stuff?  Um?

Within minutes a plate is placed before you with a smile.  You look at it.  What is it?  It is not a kebab.  It is not what you were expecting.  You try to get the waiter’s attention but he is too busy with customers.

What just happened here?

Heads up folks.  There are a variety of kebabs available to you in Turkey and each one is unique.

sis kebab

You’ve got the Şiş kebab.  This was what I received the first time I ordered a kebab in Turkey.  Large cubes of meat threaded onto a skewer and grilled over charcoal.  Usually served with grilled domates and biber.  Just a warning for you though, keep your wits about you when ordering.  If you are not sure check because instead of siğir eti (beef) or piliç (chicken) you may just end up with offal as your meat of choice and nobody wants that to happen.

iskander kebab

Then there is the iskander kebab.  It’s got the shredded meat (beef or chicken) but the bread is also shredded.  What?  You might get a side dish of rice and a fresh salad but there will also be yogurt involved and a smothering of butter.  Delicious but again … what?

adana kebab

My absolute favourite is an Adana kebab.  I love this kebab because it is hellishly hot.  Minced meat on a skewer and with some crazy hot spices it is also grilled over the charcoal.  Definitely served with pita bread, salad and I suggest a cold glass of ayran to help you digest or you will be a puddle of sweat by the end of the dish.

But we are still trying to find that elusive kebab.  You know the one that you have after a night out at home.

“Help me Janey,” you cry fearful of your next meal.

“Fear not gentle traveller.  Go forth and get yourself a doner kebab.”

doner

Usually beef, lamb or chicken the doner kebab is slow roasted on a vertical rolling spit.  The Turkish doner kebab was invented in Bursa by a cook named Haci in the 19th century.  The man was quite obviously a genius but not so much of a genius that he put a copyright on his invention.  Nope.  He probably died a pauper.

Your doner kebab will consist of shredded pieces of meat wrapped in flat bread.  You will no doubt also find tomato, onion with sumac and a pickled chilli or two.

Just don’t ask them for BBQ sauce.

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Market Day

Originally posted Janey . . . in Mersin.

Driving with The Turk and my brother in law today I felt trapped in the truck between the two men.  There is no air con so I feel myself slowly melt into the seat wishing I was pretty much anywhere else than where I was.

It is Saturday and as such we are making a trip to the market to stock up on fruits and vegetables.  I love getting to the fresh markets in Mersin.  I used to go bydolmus (bus) but found that I was purchasing way too much and had difficulty getting everything home.  If I dared catch a taksi I would never hear the end of it so now I go with my brother in law – a much more sensible idea.

DSC00210After making my way through the vegetables I was sweating bullets and pretty sure I was not going to make it through the fruit.  Akan ran off to purchase water for relief but honestly all I needed at this point was a seat and perhaps some chocolate (which always makes things better). 

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I soldiered on as I could see the colourful fruit in the distance calling me (so to speak).  I have always been a pretty simple girl when it comes to fruit after all an apple a day keeps the doctor away but  now I find I have so many options that I cannot decide what to purchase.  Daughter loves fruit so I can go a little crazy and know that everything will be eaten.

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As a child I lived in a house where my mum believed dinner was a meat and two vegetable meal ie sausages, potatoes and beans (usually burnt) or chops, potatoes and peas (usually burnt) with a roast dinner on a Sunday.  Living here I find it difficult to remove myself from what has been stamped in my mind.  In fact now it is rare that we eat meat and between you and me the weight has dropped off me since I slowed down my meat intake!

Arriving home I looked through my stash which was quite a haul including huge bags of kirmizi biber (capsicum) , patates (potatoes), soğan (onion) and domates(tomatoes) as well as şeftali (nectarine), elma (apples), portakal (oranges), üzüm(grapes), havuç (carrots) and was lucky to find some avokado (avocados) as well (quite a rarity).  Finally I grabbed some marul (lettuce) and salatalık (cucumber) to finish things off knowing that we will enjoy lots of salads for the next few days (after all its way too hot to cook).

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Incidentally I spent a total of 15TL (about AU$7.00) and came away with a huge stash.

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The List

Originally posted on Janey . . . in Mersin:

Sometimes living with The Turk can send me postal.  Have a laugh and maybe join in.  Do YOU have a list?  Let me know below.

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I questioned whether it would be appropriate to hand out little sticks of deodorant while riding a dolmuş this week in Mersin.  There is some major reeking going on at the moment and you just cannot escape from it.  I actually threw up a little bit in my mouth the stench was so foul! 

The Turk who really cannot tell when I am being facetious solemnly tells me that I am being rude but I kind of think I am doing everyone a favour.  I mean we do not want the dolmuş driver to faint from the odour do we?

The Turk and I then had a little bit of banter that went something like this:

Me:  “You know it’s not that hard to keep the B.O. at bay.  Look at Cameron Diaz.  She doesn’t wear deodorant.  True!  All these people have to do is wipe.  Like your ass but you do it under your arms.  It’s easy.”

Background information – The Turk is completely and utterly in love with Cameron Diaz.  I personally don’t get it but she is on The List.  What is The List?  The list is a free pass to sleep with that person if the opportunity ever arises.  I am pretty sure he will not have a hope in hell of ever sleeping with Cameron Diaz (frankly I think she would have better taste even without deodorant).  His list also includes Sharon Stone – again an unusual choice.  My List is even shorter.  It’s Brad Pitt.  Yep.  I think if he dumped Angelina and somehow found himself wandering down the street in Karaduvar and came knocking on my front door he would discover that I was his perfect match and we would live happily ever after.  Oh and I think he would make a great step-father for Daughter.  Daughter is happy with that arrangement too as it means she can go shopping all the time.

The List

Back to our banter:

Me:  Blah, blah, blah.  Cameron Diaz.

The Turk:  She does not smell.  Her scent would be like a flower or a ray of sunshine.  (No shit, that is what he said).

Me:  Dude.  Everyone stinks.  Feet stink, undies stink, breath stinks.  Cameron Diaz is no different.

The Turk:  You stink!  (Maturity level showing).

Me (voice slightly raised):  Yep and so does every other feking person on this dolmuş and IF Cameron Diaz was on this dolmuş she would be stinking it up too because she doesn’t wear deodorant!

It seems we are both pretty mature because I poked my tongue out at this point and he stuck his finger up at me.  If Cameron Diaz or Brad Pitt do ever turn up on our doorsteps they are both going to be in for a treat!

Let’s talk about Kunefe baby

Originally posted in Janey . . . in Mersin and re-posted here.  Enjoy.

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Let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be, let’s talk about Kunefe!

I was thinking we would talk about Kunefe.  What is Kunefe you ask?  Kunefe is a crazy ass desert served here in Mersin and throughout Turkey made of cooked cheese, syrup and icecream.  “Wwhhaaattttt?” you cry.

kunefe

Yes I know.  Separately these three food items are sensational.  Cheese?  Legendary.  Sugary syrup?  Amazing.  Icecream?  Anytime.

But incorporated into one meal?  Maybe not.

As you will no doubt recall I recently became a rock star, letting my hair down and singing at the top of my over endowed lungs at a karaoke bar in Pozcu, Mersin.  After spending a few hours singing, dancing, drinking and generally embarrassing Daughter to the point that she wanted to disown me Prince William (previously known as Capt. Awesome) decided that we should finish the evening with some dessert.  Dessert?  By 2 am I was starting to lose my groove so the idea of dessert (and its subsequent sugar rush) perked me up considerably and I was ready to go and check out our next destination.

A couple of minutes drive through the back streets of Mersin brought us to an amazing little pastanesi (cake shop) just west of Carsi (near our new amazing dentist).  Even though it was very late the place was packed but when we arrived it was clear that they knew Prince William (aka Capt Awesome) and a table magically appeared.  There were no menus, there were no options.  We sat and dessert was supplied – Kunefe.

Kunefe is well known throughout the provinces of Icel, Gazienterp, Hatay, Kilis and Adana although it is served in many Arabic countries.  Downstairs you could watch them make the dessert and, honestly, it seemed like a lot of work.  The pastry chef was very generous letting me behind the counter (obviously a friend of Prince William’s as well) and explaining to me in limited English the process.  The process is long and drawn out and I will not bother explaining it – to be honest it was all a bit fuzzy.  There was a lot of work involving tel kadayif (stringy filo pastry), a butt load of cheese, huge pans and the largest wood oven I have ever seen!  If you do want to make an attempt of this amazing dessert I suggest you go check out Ozlem’s recipe.  She is, as usual, my go-to person when attempting Turkish food but this one looks a little out of my league.

If you ever find yourself at 2 am needing a pick me up and a kebab just isn’t going to do it for you try and find a pastanesi who serves this amazing dish.  Now thatKunefe has been brought to my attention I find that just about every pastanesi in Mersin serves it.  It might be a little more difficult to track down on the west coast but it is definitely well worth the search.  Your tastebuds will thank you for it.

Remembering Dad

I just posted this on my personal blog – janeyinmersin – but reading it is putting a smile on my face.  I hope you all have a smile when you finish.

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I was not going to do this today.  I was going to keep today just for me.  Hold it in.  Put it in my box where all my feelings live.  But he would not want me to that.  He would have told me a (rather blue) joke.  He would have told me to get over myself; to pull my head in.  But I woke up this morning and I knew straight away.  I knew the date.  I thought about ignoring it but then my sister in law posted something on her FB page.  I miss him too.

I am not going to cry tears of sadness today.  Today will be a beautiful day.  Today will be a day of happiness and good memories not traces of sadness from years before.

I will introduce you to my Dad – with a happy story.  Maybe two happy stories.  Maybe more.

He was a great guy.  He was a smart ass.  He used to make me laugh.  When I told him I was pregnant his reply was, “Well that’s what happens when you have sex.”  When he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day he whispered, “Good job staying a virgin.”  I laughed out loud at that one as Daughter was carried down the aisle two minutes earlier.

He was not my biological Dad but blood does not make you a father.  Love makes you a father and he was the best one that a girl could ever hope for.  Sure he would get angry too, really angry.  He would yell.  He would punish my brother and I.  He had a belt and it didn’t just hold up his pants, it kept us kids in line too.  Once he threw the cheese knife at me – boy I would bring that incident up whenever I could.  “You tried to kill me,” I would cry.  “Next time I will try harder!”  Excellent smart ass reply.

In 2003 Daughter and I spent a week with Dad in Rome.  We visited all the usual tourist spots, did museums, galleries, went to Capri for a few days.  We ate delicious food and built wonderful memories together – father, daughter and granddaughter.  This is one of my favourite photos of Dad.  We had sat down for an early dinner as my flight back to Turkey was later that night and he ordered a beer.  When this pool sized beer arrived he laughed.  “A challenge!” he said.

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He blitzed that challenge.

Today will be a beautiful day.  A day of happiness.