Günaydın students! (Goon-eye-dun) [Good morning]
I was glad to see so many of you enjoyed some of the more historical sights of Istanbul. I will be posting more sights as I find them so don’t worry!
But as promised this week we will be looking a bit more at some of the cuisine and customs of the country. I’m going to cover a few of the main and most noticeable ones as there is A LOT of amazing food here! Similar like the art and architecture, every group that has called Turkey home over the centuries has left its mark on the table so to speak!
But let’s start with the most important meal of the day: Breakfast. So we know that Portland is pretty well known for how it handles its B-fast, so I was especially curious to see how this would be in Istanbul; let’s just say it was not disappointing at all! Instead of having one or two main things to eat, typical Turkish breakfast is a meal of options and spreads; there is all kinds of jams, honey, cheeses, and sweets to choose from. I posted an interactive picture so you can scroll over some of the foods for descriptions here
But something that you will see all the time, all over the country is undoubtedly — çay – tea
Tea is served at almost all times of the day, but you will almost always see it being served with breakfast especially. It is a black loose leaf (similar to earl grey) that turns red when it is brewed and served with sugar usually. People will have a glass throughout the day, on their breaks, at work, or when guests come to visit.
Another popular food, especially on the streets, is kebab. These are really similar to Greek “Gyros” (in fact we have 2 turkish kebab foodcarts in Portland). Traditionally it is lamb or beef chunks that are put on giant spits, roasted, and then very thinly shaved off into sandwiches.
Last week I was invited to my friend Ali’s house. He was going to make us food typical for his area of Turkey, Antakya, very close to the Syrian border in Mesopotamia. Typically in this area, most of the cuisine is very spicy, which is great for me because I am a fiend for hot food! Here’s another interactive photo of this dinner here.
Customs and Superstitions
My first impressions of Turkey was how friendly the people were. It is very common for people in your neighborhood to greet you and I have been invited to tea several times. Most people are excited that foreigners are curious about their country and if you know a word or two of Turkish they are delighted that you are making an effort to speak their language.
In greetings, Turks are much more informal than Americans. A typical first greeting is to shake hands, but after your initially introduction, it is common to greet people with a kiss on both cheeks or even a hug, for both men and women, depending on how comfortably you know them. Men are much more touchy with each other, it is very natural to see man walking with their arms locked or even holding hands. This isn’t a sign of sexuality but rather how close of friends they may be.
Another interesting custom happens sometimes when you are drinking a cup of turkish coffee. As explained above, this coffee has the coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup, looking a little like sludge. But when someone has finished a cup, many times friends will “read the grounds”, similar to reading tarot cards. They will look for images and symbols to predict the persons future. This practice of reading ones future is called fal.. it can range from actual businesses predicting future to joking fun between friends. Reading palms is also apart of this.
Typically, Turks have many interesting customs that make them very distinct from other peoples. Traditionally, many of these are superstitious in nature. I was interested to find out many superstitions are shared between our culture: walking under a ladder is EXTREMELY unlucky, breaking a mirror, almost anything doing with a black cat, in fact there is a common phrase in turkish regarding this:
Aramızda bir kara kedi var – literally between us a black cat there is , meaning “there is some bad feelings between us, all isn’t well with us”
Similar to many other cultures in the world, some Turks believe in the notion of an “evil eye” (nazar). The concept is basically if someone is jealous of you or the things that you own, they may inadvertently put a “hex” or bad jinx on you, basically cursing you. Turks have an amulet that is supposed to protect them from the evil eye someone may put on them. It is a blue amulet with an eye on it… you can see people hanging this in their car, on jewelery, in their homes, etc. While often it is more a cultural expression than actual belief (think of some of the religious icons you see in daily life), it is seen everywhere here.
When a compliment is give to somebody (new baby is born, someone gets marriend) (How beautiful your baby is, may you be happy! etc) superstitious people will often add the phrase “Maşallah” (praise be!) afterwards because according to tradition otherwise you might accidentally put a jinx on them! These traditions are becoming less noticeable, usually among st the older population but you will still hear people giving greetings like this just out of habit.
So in looking at some of the things we discussed here, I’m curious to hear about your thoughts. For this week’s assignment:
1. What did you enjoy most about this post?
2. What is your favorite food and where (if you know) does it come from?
3. What’s a tradition/custom/superstition that you know of and what makes it unique?