Catchy slogan, isn’t it?
Our first full meal in Istanbul followed traditional Turkish custom. We were seated at a long table at Mekan, a restaurant down the street from our hotel, that was already brimming with delicious cold appetizers. A basket of warm bread sat between every four people and we dove right in because the food smelled and looked SO good.
– Cold flaked fish with herbs and a little olive oil. This was the only non-vegetarian cold appetizer, and the seafood was fresh and very tender.
– Sundried whole tomatoes with seasoning and olive oil.
– Baba ganoush. Our end of the table ended up ordering more of this dish, and it was definitely one of Jerry’s favorites since the man absolutely cleaned his plate.
– Eggplant salad.
– Turkish yogurt with herbs.
– Red bell peppers in a yogurt and herb dressing. The red bell peppers tasted as if they had been cooked just a little before being mixed with the dressing.
– Red lentil balls.
– An Armenian specialty that isn’t normally served with the appetizers. In fact, our TA mentioned that sweet food and savory food are not typically mixed together in the opening courses. This dish looked like a cake and it was made out of chickpeas and lentils and cinnamon. You squeezed a fresh lemon slice over it to sweeten the dish.
– Mushroom, olive, corn, and herb salad.
– Fresh Turkish feta cheese.
– Couscous salad.
We spent probably an hour and a half consuming everything on the table. By the time the wait staff started to clear our plates, we were all stuffed and ready to head back to the hotel for a night of rest and relaxation. However, that was just 1/3 of the meal. Next came our hot appetizers and our entrees.
– Grape leaves stuffed with delicious seasoned meat.
– Mashed chickpea patty also stuffed with delicious seasoned meat.
– “Turkish spring roll” stuffed with melted cheese
– Beef and mushrooms served with creamy gravy and rice with corn.
– Vegetarians received an eggplant dish with a melted layer of cheese on top.
– One of our group members is lactose intolerant, and the restaurant generously brought out a massive salad for him to eat. It was a bowl loaded with fresh lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, chicken, and more vegetables.
– Chocolate biscuit cake.
The meal, from beginning to end, took between 3 and 4 hours. We spent the downtime laughing and talking, because a Turkish meal is focused less on the food and more on the company. Eating, whether it’s lunch or dinner, is an experience to be shared with friends or strangers over conversation and raki. I’m gathering food pictures from people on the Turkey IRP so you all can share our eating adventures (read: so you all can be insanely jealous, Mr. Adam Gerber).
Otherwise known as meyhane, which I mentioned in a previous post, this meal is something we’ve only read about in Crescent & Star or heard our professor speak of during class. The experience was something we were familiar with, but at the same time, it was something unexpected and traditional and nothing like what we read about. Even now, I’m having difficulty finding the right words to describe meyhane. It’s like sitting down with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, and talking as if no time has passed. You don’t remember how much you ate or drank, or even everything you talked about. What you do remember is just why you guys have been friends for so long. It’s a great feeling.