Sunday, December 12, 2010
There may be some changes coming up and some disruption to blogging ahead. I am having issues with Blogger. Well with Google and Turkey.
Google doesn’t pay taxes in Turkey and so the government has internally blocked some of Google’s ISPs. This means at the moment, my friends and readers in Turkey are unable to access my blog. I am looking to move over the site to another provider but it might take a bit of time and research. Hopefully this will be resolved soon. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Oh Thanksgiving! We celebrated it on Saturday because in Turkey we don’t get the day off. (It is an American holiday after all.) We had a fantastic holiday except for the fact I thought I was going to pass out from pain starting at 4 am Saturday morning. It was extremely fortuitous that I had prepared the majority of the food before Saturday because otherwise I would have had to cancel. Cooking a large dinner for 16 people while you are fighting the urge to throw up from the pain is less than ideal.
In case I have not mentioned it before, I am allergic to walnuts and hazelnuts. My reactions have become stronger and more severe since I moved to Turkey and have had more accidental ingestions. Allergies are not understood the same way here as they are in the US because people here rarely have allergies.
For example, last year someone in my husband’s family, at whose home we had eaten very regularly, cooked with hazelnut oil in the food for six months. They knew I was allergic and would even make me special desserts when the recipes called for hazelnut or walnuts. I was incredibly ill for those six months and had to be hospitalized. I thought my IBS had transformed into colitis. I only found out my nut allergy triggers colitis when I saw them use the oil from a labeled can and they admitted they had been cooking with the oil since I moved to the country. It turned out I do not have a chronic illness, and as soon as the oil was out of my system, I was absolutely fine.
Friday night, I was at a banquet dinner for work and apparently they used nut oil in one of the sauces. Cue incredible gastro-intestinal pain. It started Saturday and continued into Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and subsided Wednesday evening. Whew! Yesterday I was able to discontinue the exclusive kefir and low-fat yogurt diet and eat some rice.
While I feel lucky that my allergic reaction is not life threatening, it does affect my quality of life, as I was ill and miserable for at least five days. After the original illness it does take another few days for my system to go back to normal. It has been a full week as of today and I am fine as long as I eat lightly, and only low fat, easy to digest food.
I am pretty vigilant about food when I eat out and cannot control the ingredients myself. I have not actually had an accidental exposure to nuts since the original incident one a year ago. As a saftey precaution I do not think I will be attending large banquet dinners where I cannot control my food choices or talk to the chef about ingredients.
I do always try to look at the positive side of things. While the whole situation was horrific it has provided me with a perfect excuse to avoid work dinners!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
How to have a successful Thanksgiving…
Friends+ Laughter+ Love+ Food+ Wine= Fantasticness
When I first moved away from home I was far enough away that I was not really able to go home for Thanksgiving. I have to admit to a lower lip tremble over that. I am from a very close family and getting together for the holidays has always been very important to us. But since I was away, I decided to make the best of the holidays and to create my own holiday rituals and customs.
I have been very lucky in my Thanksgivings since I left home. The first year, I lived in San Diego, it was just Bulent and me. After the large chaotic extended family Thanksgivings it was a little hard emotionally. However, the high point of that year was that I successfully learned how to cook the entire meal by myself.
The second year in San Diego my BFF from New Hampshire came out with her husband and we had an amazing time. They had never been to California so it was a beach vacation rolled into the Thanksgiving holiday for them. Together we made the meal and had such a happy holiday. It really soothed my holiday homesickness.
The third year in San Diego my cousin had moved to LA and we had many more close friends. That year we hosted a Bad Ass Thanksgiving, complete with apple cider martinis and after Turkey clubbing downtown.
Last year we didn’t host but this year we really did it in style. This was our first “Married” holiday so it was pretty special that way. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. We hosted 16 people, there was food, conversation and general merriment. We had an amazing time.
In the short time I have been in Ankara I have been lucky enough to make some truly amazing friends. Now I have my family that I was born to and the family that I have made. Holidays are no longer a time of the lower lip trembling-- which is excitement in itself.
While Thanksgiving was a blast there was a lot to the preparation because of the amount of food to be cooked.
3 Kilos of green bean casserole
4 Kilos of mashed pumpkin
3 Kilos of cauliflower gratin
2 Kilos mashed potato
1 Pecan pie
1 Pumpkin pie
1 Apple pie
1 Crazy Allergic Reaction*
While I did cook most of the food myself, two of my amazing friends decided to deal with the kitchen afterwards. They did all of the pots and pans, put away the food and in general took care of 90% of the clean up. It was the best gift EVER!
Next year I will re-introduce the apple cider martinis and the dinner may be potluck. It will still be fantastic though, no matter what! All the trappings and trimmings Thanksgiving just disguise the real point of the holiday. A time for our “Framily” (friends+family) to spend time together.
*One of the reasons this post is so late and also will be the subject of the next post.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
This week is Kurban Bayram or Eid al-Adha, the second religious holiday after Ramadan. It is a festival of sacrifice, and charity. Animals, usually sheep and cows, are sacrificed to represent Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. After the sacrifice a certain percentage of the meat is donated to the poor. The rest is divided among the family. Usually during this time your time is spent doing family visits and memorial visits. Usually the first or second day of Bayram the family visits the cemetery and pays respect to their dead.
The visits start out at the oldest relatives home, and progress down the line. At the visits tea and snacks are served, usually one salty and one sweet. You can not refuse. So Bayram becomes a time of visiting and eating, and eating and visiting. And then later feeling slightly ill due to the amount of sugar and tea you have consumed.
But not this year!!! This year the calendar aligned so Bayram started Monday at 12pm and ended Friday. The government decided to give us all of Monday off which means we have the whole week off! YAY!
We decided to drive down to Marmaris, a 10 hour drive and spend the week at the summer house. It has been great. It is cool, about 60 and a little rainy but incredibly gorgeous. During the summer it is usually about 100 degrees so it is so nice to take walks along the sea or in the mountain without seriously worrying about heat stroke and death.
As I write this I am sitting in the garden, under a lush canopy of green, smelling the jasmine in the air moist and rich from the rain. I can even hear the crickets and frogs. A vast difference from sitting here in the sweltering heat listening to the loud techno music from the bar down the streets and the drunk tourists swearing while they stumble on the road behind me after a night of clubbing.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
A few weeks ago we took a trip to Niğde, where my husband’s mother is from. Niğde is know for its apple production, and his family owns a small apple orchard down there. We were going to watch the harvest. We drove down Saturday and were greeted by chilly weather and rain. We did manage to see Kapadokya’s most intact and well preserved Byzantine Monastery, Gümüşler Monastery. After trudging around in the freezing rain seeing the historical site for several hours, we had a lovely dinner with some extended family.
When wewere there we were supposed to go to the apple orchards and watch the harvest, but we ran into some trouble. We spent the afternoon in a small village looking for a mechanic, then for a tow truck.
While we were waiting I took a look around the village.
We saw puppies…we always do.
Plums drying in the sun.
Farmers harvesting cabbage.
That last photo was taken from inside the car on the top of the tow truck. We needed a new radiator and by the time it was fixed it was time to head back to Ankara. It was a whirlwind trip. While we did have some fun we have since decided that we will save trips of five hours of driving or more for long weekends only.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Before the wedding, when my parents were in Turkey we took the opportunity to see as many parts of Turkey as possible. We went to Cappadocia and saw the fairy chimneys. Then we started on our Black Sea tour. The first stop was Safranbolu, and the next was Amasra.
Amasra is a small town on the Black Sea,. The industry is primarily fishing and tourism. The trip there is pretty amazing. You have to drive through the mountains, there are one lane bridges and high passes through the mountains when the road ends six inches from a hundred foot sheet drop with no guardrail. While the driver has to have their eyes glued to the road the passengers can enjoy the troop. The drive is incredibly scenic. From the last mountain you drive up and over there is an amazing view of the town of Amasra. It is on a protected cove with two small peninsulas shielding it from the main sea. Amasra is best known for its delicious fish and the “Amasra Salad”
A mix of lettuce, arugula, green onions, green garlic shoots, dill, radishes, parsley, pickled beets, carrots and some other delicious and spicy additions.
We were there in the off season so it was nice and quiet. We were just there to enjoy the sights and the fish. What was interesting was that people were trying to pick us up. There were some older women waiting on the streets, and when we parked the car they raced up to us, competing over offering us rooms at their pensions or homes.
We ended up staying in a hotel right on the water. The pensions offered by the women who were cruising us were well priced and safe, but not on the water. We were only there for one night and so we wanted to be able to appreciate the sea.
We had a fantastic time and it was a lovely trip with my parents. We headed back to Ankara the next day to see some of the local sites and get ready for the Turkish wedding.