Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday and Saturday, March 18-9

Eve and I took a week off to visit our daughter, Juliet, and her husband, Cem. They live in a charming neighborhood known as Cihangir.

We began the trip at midnight, Friday. I had just finished entering in the grades at 10 PM, went home, packed, and we got on the highway at midnight, arriving in LA at 3 AM. We flew to NYC, arriving at about 2 PM, then departed for Istanbul at 5:45 PM. The flight from NYC to Istanbul lasted 9 hours

We arrived at around 9 AM and met Cem right away. The taxi took about 45 minutes. We drove along the Marmor, a small sea that connects the Aegean with the Bosporus. We drove over a bridge into the section that has the Galata Tower and the Hagia Sophia. They live at the top of the hill in a very spacious apartment that would rend for $7000 per month or more in Manhattan.

Juliet wasn't there because she works from 8:30 AM to 8 PM. She had hoped to get off early to meet us, but she ended up coming home at around 7 PM. Eve and I freshened up and I took a long nap as I had not slept well on the plane.

We set out on a nice walk through the neighborhood.

Eve and Cem stand on the corner, waiting for me to move my left foot forward, then my right.

We walked along narrow streets and passed many food vendors.

In this picture taken in a store that specializes in pickles, I am consuming a mixture of pickles: beets, cabbage, cucumbers, and red carrots. I ate all the pickled vegetables, then drank the pickle juice. Very probiotic!

This is a common street food, Döner Chicken. In Greece, it's called Gyro, in Lebanon, Chawarma. Meat is impaled the lenght of a vertical skewer, then roasted slowly and rotated. Fat is placed at the top and melts, dribbling down the outside.
to the big shopping district, Istiklal, a large street dedicated to walking and to a tramway line. On the way, we stopped in a store devoted to pickles. We each enjoyed a glass full of pickle juice in addition to some sort of pickled vegetable. I chose pickled beets, pickled cabbage.

A large ex-pat community provides the market for European bakeries such as this one. Interesting cake--fluid.

One passes establishments such as this devoted to the gathering of men who play backgammon and card games while sipping tea.

A neighborhood mosque and minaret.

Fish display. Note the turbot in the upper right. Highly prized for its delicate, white flesh, the white side of this fish sports raised pink scabs--perhaps barnacles? The Black Sea fishing business catches turbot using gillnets.

Eggs kept secure using hay. A hundred years ago, the average American housewife kept her eggs in drawers, shielded from breaking by hay. When you opened the drawer, you saw just such a sight.

Birds for sale.

A cute little quail in a cute little cage. Long ago, in Texas, I used to raise quail and make 12 egg omelets in my restaurant.

We reached Istiklal Street, which has been completely converted to foot traffic. A tramway line runs down the middle.

Cem bought me a bag of roast chestnuts. Wonderfully smoky and faintly sweet!

A little farther, we passed this Kokorec vender. Kokorec comes in two versions. This one is made of chopped lamb intestines (preferably suckling lamb) cooked on a griddle with chopped tomatoes and herbs, then served in a pita.

The other version of Kokorec has sweetbreads or other offal speared, then wrapped with lamb intestines and then grilled over coals. This is sliced.

Midye dolmassi or stuffed mussels: a mild tasting but flavorful way to serve them. You stand there, drizzling each with lemon juice until satiated, then pay according to number consumed.

To counteract the kokorec aroma, perhaps you'd like a splash of perfume?

In the window of a large bakery are these pistachio birds nests. Soaked of course in syrup and both crunchy and moist.

Or, perhaps you'd prefer hazelnut birds' nests.

Or, almond birds' nests.

Or, pistachio baklava.

Borek: a stuffed bread made by stretching dough thin, then rolling various fillings in it and turning the spiraled bread around on itself. This was a pastry popular throughout the Ottoman empire. Its many variants include: bourekas (Israel), bourekis (Greece), byurek (Bulgaria), burek (Assyrian), boereg (Armenia), burek (Arab), byrek (Albania) and others...

We passed this musician...

Burma Kadayif: a shredded wheat coating (yufka) with pistachios in the center. Soaked in syrup. The shredded wheat, called kanafeh, is made by drizzling a thin flour-water batter onto a turning hot plate, gathered into skeins, then fried slowly in butter.

Gozieme. Small balls of dough are rolled out using a dowel and lots of flour. The thin circle of dough is filled, usually with feta and spinach, then folded over and cooked on a griddle containing coals.

A stack of Burma Kadayf in the window of a store.

Different versions of pudding, one version of which is Sakizh Muhallebi, which is thickend with mastica, a resin harvested from the bark of the shrub, Masticha (Pistacia lentiscus). It was used as chewing gum by children during Roman times, as well as a breath freshener during Ottoman times.

Linnea arrived in the late evening.

Sunday, March 20

We started the day popping down to a local restaurant to eat breakfast. It was like so many establishments: 4-5 tables, one waiter. Cozy. We were flanked by English-speakers. At one table sat three generations. They looked Dutch but as soon as they opened their mouths, I knew they were not. Probably from New Zealand. Behind us sat an elderly couple discussing the multiple meltdowns of the Japanese reactors.

We enjoyed a typical Turkish breakfast. In the lower left are two typical breakfast rolls--faintly sweet, egg wash glazed and garnished with black sesame seeds. In the upper left are rectangular dishes of: strawberry jelly, cheese crumbles, and plum ejlly. The cheese is sharp and pungent. The plum jelly has a wonderful fragrance. Very plummy. In the upper right is butter in a pool of honey, a fruit salad of apple and banana cubes with persimmon seeds, and a dish of fabulous olives. In the lower right are triangles of feta plus sliced cheese and in the middle are: sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and herbs, of which dill is very important.

More breakfast items: a dish of sliced sausages resembling hot dogs, sautéed potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs.

After breakfast, we walked through a mini-antiques district. That is, the district is small, not the antiques.

Attractively painted antique seller.

Another antique store.

Young cat on an antique column.

We stopped at a music store to check out the Duduk/ These are like short oboes made solely of wood, preferably plum

Tom tries the Duduk (holding it quite incorrectly.)

Along the same street, I took this picture of a fruit juice maker/vender. They take great pride in how they display cut fruit, taking advantage of its colorfulness.

Restaurant Row. At the top, it says "Happy New Year"

Galata Tower. Built by the Emperor Anastasius in 507 of wood and called "Lighthouse Tower". Rebuilt by the Genoese in 1348 of stone and rechristened as "Christ Tower" and became part of their fortifications. Then after Sultan Mehmet chased out the Christians, it eventually was named after the local province of Galata. Interestingly, the Genoese and Venetians controlled trade with the Arabs, and that's how Europe got its sugar and spices. When the Ottomans pushed them back, they sought other venues to the Indies. Columbus, a Genoese, led the charge to establish European-controlled routes to the Indies and coincidentally colonizing Africa, South America and North America. The rest, as they say, is history.

We passed one of the state-run brothels. The pastries displayed here, called Tolumbo, are also called Kerhore Tatlisi and are eaten immediately after spending time with a prostitute.

We walked across the Galata Bridge. This is a view looking back to the Galata Tower. All along the top deck of the bridge are fishermen catching a variety of silvery fish.

Grilled fish served in a split bread and eaten either on the first level eateries of the bridge or in the park at the foot of the bridge.

The marvelous sandwich is complemented by a glass of pickles. In the background is the New Mosque or Yeni Camii, built in 1665.

And for dessert, how about freshly made donuts? Very similar to the Greek loukoumathes.

We walked toward the New Mosque, built in the early 17th century on land confiscated by the Sultan from the local Jewish merchants, who had developed substantial commercial power in this district, threatening to the Muslim majority.

Before we came to the New Mosque, we visited the Egyptian Bazaar, built on the site where Ottoman Jews had consolidated much of their commercial power. This was razed and replaced with an "Egyptian Bazaar".

Throughout the Egyptian Bazaar one finds stands selling Lokum. Dubbed "Turkish Delight" by an enterprising Briton centuries ago, it became marketed throughout Europe under that sobriquet. Lokum is a confectionery based on the gelatinization of starch in the presence of sugar to form a paste containing flavors, colors, and nuts.

Store selling lights. Sorely tempted to replace that piece of crapola in our vestibule!

Spices and teas. This is what powered the European move across the Atlantic and the post-Renaissance colonization of much of the world. It was to obtain just these things at the source rather than trading with the Arabs, who until then controlled distribution of tea, spices, and sugar.

In the courtyard of the New Mosque, a view of one of the two minarets.

Vault inside the New Mosque. Islam forbids pictures of animal or plant life. That's why the phenomenal development of the "Arabesque" or geometric shape. The entire field of geometry, trigonometry and algebra were developed by the Arabs, first in Bagdad and later in Grenada and other parts of Andalusian Spain. When you look at these mathematical designs, you are looking at the early history of mathematics which, after all, is itself an Arab word

Long before mozzarella, the Turks were making Tel Peyneri, also a string type cheese (Pasta Filata en Italiano) The Turks call cheese "Peynir", very similar to the Persian "Paneer", the word used to denote cheese in most Indian restaurants. The cheese man is separating the cheesy strings. They tasted very much like Provolone, which is a slightly aged form of Mozzarella. The Turks make a great variety of cheeses.

Beyaz Peynir. The typical Turkish breakfast cheese. Slabs are served with sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and a mixture of fresh herbs.

Ayran. Cem bought me a glass of Ayran, which is yogurt mixed with water and salt. They shoot the mixture through a tube, which causes a very stable foam to form on top, and this is scooped onto the beverage. The result is really a marvelous beverage, and I drank it down quite happily, knowing that the lactobacilli are very good for proper gut function.

Cay (pronounced chai). Turkish tea. The Turks have the highest per-capita consumption of tea in the world. They also grow over 6% of the world's tea--along their coast with the Black Sea. They brew it differently than anyone else, soaking it first in cold water, then slowly raising the temperature by adding boiling water. It is commonly served in a tulip-shaped glass because it represents culture, peace, and the arts. The tulip is native to Turkey and was developed by the Turks long before the Dutch started to cultivate it. The word, Tulip, is Turkish. It means "turban".

We finished the day by watching a performance of the Whirling Dervishes.

Monday, March 21st

We started the day by taking a cab to visit the Blue Mosque, started in 1609 and finished in 1617. At the time it was built, it was the second mosque to sport six minarets. It derives its name from the blue tiles adorning the interior, many of which have faded or changed color because the Sultan set the price and the tile producers cheapened the glaze because the price could not change. This mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors. It also sits partly atop the old hippodrome where the Byzantines used to gamble on horses (no longer permitted under Islamic law).

Exterior view. Not that blue because the name was assigned to tiles in the interior.

One of six minarets. It was a tradition for sultans to build mosques from the proceeds of a great military victory. This particular Sultan, Achmed I, had signed a peace treaty and therefore hand no profits to show. So, he dipped into the treasury, which was a deeply unpopular move among the ulema or Muslim scholars.

Blue tiles for which the mosque earned its name.

Graceful arches that contribute to making this building one of the world's greatest monuments.

More blue tiles.

Just plain wonderful to behold.

We visited the very famous Grand Bazaar. Juliet was looking for a purse.

Not much interested in "stuff", I took this picture of a Kebab grill. I was particularly interested in the grillmeister, who worked marvelously efficiently, with the smoothest of movements. True art.

We sat for tea at the end of the bizarre, I mean bazaar, experience. Linnea enjoys Turkish tea.

That evening, we enjoyed Turkish custards (Kazandivi which means bottom of the pot and is browned with caramelization) and Sakiz muhallevi, which is flavored and thickened with mastic. We also enjoyed this fabulous dessert, which is called Noah's custard, probably because the multiple fruits represent the multiple animals on the ark.