Bounty from Land to Sea

2 May

color photo of three yellow lemons

Cirali, Turkey –

Since this is going to be my first post really dedicated to food I need to give you some background on what exactly food represents to me.  Well it means a lot of things and to me at the essence of life – food is the heart.   I love the sense of community around food and the ceremony of eating.  I love family dinner.  I love brunch and lunch with friends.  I love the good conversations that manifests between my husband and I over a good dinner.  Even more, I love cooking good food, and I love it when I can share my food with other people.  Food is a really simple way to bring people together.  All this does not have to come from gourmet shops or five star restaurants – but sure those are good every now and then.  If anything those gourmet places somehow make you so much more conscious of what you are eating and how you are eating, which is a practice that should be a part of our daily life anyways.  These feelings, and passions, I have for food – well they can kind of be related to a love story.  And I realize that I am not the first person to have such a love for food, it’s been a part of who we are as humans for thousands of years.  I guess I am just fessing up to my love affair with food.  While most people attempt to tame their feelings, I guess I am just putting my feelings on the table for you. (No pun intended!)

Enough of my love for food for a few moments… Let’s talk about my deepest passion in life.  Farming.  Yes, I am a Washingtonian, living in a cement jungle and I love farming.  Nothing is better to me than the cathartic feeling that one experiences when working with the Earth.  The dirty sweat that pours down my face and into my eyes, and the salty taste when it hits my lips.  It’s the best feeling of truly hard & good work.  I feel such a deep sense of worthiness when I plant seeds in a vegetable garden, care for the mango trees, turn the stinky compost, give the ducks grain & love, harvest the tomatoes, and milk the goats.  I’ve always held the connection between the farm, the Earth, and my food.  I like to know that there is someone with an equal love for God’s bounty nurturing the food on my table – which is probably why I’ve been a champion for “organic agriculture” since I was 13-14 years old.  Yes, I did know what organic was then and I even (however ‘annoying’ it was) insisted on educating my parents about organic agriculture, mad cow disease before the outbreak occurred, health implications of persistent organic compounds found in conventionally grown produce, and everything related in-between.  I guess this whole farming thing – working the land, connecting with the earth, living sustainably for future generation – is just a big part of who I am.

So, what does all this have to do with Turkey and traveling?  Well it’s the preface for how I will share with you my foodie experiences in this blog.  And the past few days in Turkey have served as a prime opportunity to give you my initial Turkey Food Panorama.

Color photo of greenhouse filled with veggies

I’ve been so impressed by the Turkish customs & culture around food and farming.  In every restaurant there are many dishes prepared only with fresh vegetables and many options perfectly suited for flexible vegetarians (I’m not talking about Vegans here).  I’m also astounded at how ‘victory’ gardens are a de facto cultural norm here.  Everyone with a piece of land has a vegetable garden.  I see baby aubergine (eggplants) growing on little strips of Earth near parking lots.  I see large pots (often old buckets & milk cartons reused) filled with soil where tomatoes, cucumbers & mint explode with life.  And in the country side, nearly everyone has a small greenhouses filled with an abundance of fresh veggies – some greenhouses are made with clear plastic sheeting while others are glass structures.  Many people also have a few goats or a cow for milk production – yogurt & fresh cheese are staples in the Turkish diet.  On my journey so far, I’ve explored this custom quite a bit in talking with locals – in my very broken Turkish and all!  They’ve shared with me that they too love fresh food.  And that organic agriculture is simply just “how it is done” in Turkey.  They don’t want to dirty their streams, rivers, & ocean with pesticides and the like.  They know the implications of such contamination, and so they are organic.  They didn’t have to become organic.  Now I don’t want to give you a false impression here – I am simply talking about the same household gardens, I am not talking about any commercial agriculture in Turkey.

What have all these fresh veggies and little gardens meant for me?  Well I’ve wanted to taste and savor them all!  Through this food journey in Turkey, I’ve reunited with the vegetarian in me.  I don’t know if I’ll ever revert to being a loyal and stubborn vegetarian again, but I’m thinking I just may work to focus on living a largely vegetarian lifestyle that still allows for cultural flexibility.  I love the ripe plump juicy tomatoes I eat 3 times a day here.  I love the fresh mint & arugula in my salad.  I love the stuffed eggplant.  And did I mention how amazing the cheeses are?  And the apricot preserves. And the fresh pomegranate juice.  Then there are the lemon groves that dotted the coastline in Cirali.  Well they are magnificent.  And their blossoms are intoxicating.  I also loved the fresh plentiful fresh lemon wedges served with all of my salads and fish.  They are all divine! These are the foods of the ancient Greek & Roman Gods for sure!  Now, I don’t want to turn off my meat loving friend vis-à-vis this blog, so as a fair heads-up I will talk about the meat dishes in a future blog.  Bet let’s stick with my food experience thus far.

I love fresh fish.  And it’s the only “meat”, besides eggs, that I have eaten here.  Then today, I experienced something almost magical, but really it was just daily life in Turkey.  I was relaxing on the beach, taking in my last few hours bathing in the Mediterranean and sunshine.  An older woman, maybe in her early to late 70s, came down to the edge of the water about 8 feet away from me.  She was wearing sandals, long pants, a flowery head scarf, and had a plastic bag in-hand.  She kneeled down into the pebbly shoreline and unpacked her bag – 2 fishing poles and a sealed container with her bait.  She carefully set-up her fishing poles, baited the hooks, and with great finesse cast them into the sea.  She (and I from a distance) keenly watched the tip of the poles for any indication of a fish making move.  It was really beautiful watching her fish.  I hoped that the fish I had eaten had been caught with such care and love.  After about 20 minutes, a man and woman with their two young children came down to the sea.  They all sat down around the old woman and were talking.  The woman, I believed it was her daughter, was talking to the old woman with kindness and sincerity.  I saw sadness come over the old woman’s face, and two tears fell from her left eye.  The younger woman gently touched the side of the old woman’s face and her thumb rolled over the crevice under her eye lightly drying the tears.  It was a very endearing and powerful moment.  It reminded me of how similar life is no matter how different our cultures and history may be.  I don’t know what happened exactly but they all continued to talk while the old woman fished.  The conversation got more spirited and light; the young girl (about 2 years old) was laughing and throwing pebbles into the sea.  I think the little girl’s young & vibrant spirit somehow reminded the old woman that everything would be okay, and gave her a purpose to keep on fishing.

woman fishing on the edge of the sea

Later on in the evening I enjoyed a delicious dinner of grilled Sea Bream.  When I inquired to the waiter about what type of fresh fish they have, he insisted that they have many.  And that led to me getting invited to go to the kitchen.  The waiter showed me the chilled box of fish and I got to choose my own fish for dinner.  And to top it off I got to see ‘inside’ a traditional Turkish kitchen which is very cool.  Now choosing my fish is not as good as eating the fish that you catch, but it was close and just a fun part of this foodie experience.  The chef rubbed some spices and sea salt on the body of the Sea Bream and laid him out on a hot grill.  Just 5 minutes on each side and he was perfection.  My Sea Bream was served up with a fresh salad doused with typical Turkish herbs, a few cips, 2 juicy lemon wedges, and a fresh pillowing pita hot out of the wood fired oven.   And I can’t forget the glass of red wine.  This was dinner fit for a King!  And there it was before me.  The perfect balance of all the things I love about food and farming – under the Turkey sun!

Color photo of a whole grilled fish - Sea Bream - dinner.

Now tell me, do you love food?

5 Responses to “Bounty from Land to Sea”

  1. rainworks May 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Oh yea, now that looks like the food of the Gods. How lucky you are to know life as it can be and should be.
    Pura Vida

  2. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide May 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    Great post. With food like this, I can understand why you feel so passionately. We have a friend from Turkey and just hearing him talk about it makes us want to go.

  3. Mummy May 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    I loved the food in Turkey. Aromatic and delightful.

  4. gerry brouillette May 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    I just love reading all the articles you have been writing. I’ve enjoyed everyone. I feel like I’m right there in Turkey. Nanna

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  1. Growth, Growing, and Community « Vive Vivir Project - September 10, 2011

    […] is the point of this glazed-over monologue of a few years of my life?  There are a bazillion incredible little stories in there that really reveal the essence of life.  This “big picture” gives a reminder […]

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