The Turkish people are wonderful hosts who take pride in their food and produce. Any dinner with friends or for celebration seems to involve at least 10 dishes – 6 mezes, or starters, and about 4 mains. The mezes usually involve some kind of yogurt based dip, sometimes with eggplant, sometimes with dill, some kind of tomato based dip, sometimes with walnuts (this is still our favourite), 2 or three dishes made with legumes or beans, and the other two from whatever vegetable is fresh and available, plus pide (great bread!). It took us several days to figure out that this beginning feast is only the beginning, so we would set our plates for a lovely light salad dinner in keeping with the heat.
Then the main course would be announced: two kinds of kebabs, or eggplant with ground beef and sauce, or chicken and rice pilaf, or tiny Turkish raviolis, served in a broth with tomato on top, or cheese stuffed pasta with cream sauce and walnuts, AND accompanying vegetables and treats to appreciate. Luckily for us, the conversation was also lively and the meals often carried on over several hours…
We think of Turkish desserts as honey saturated baclava and other delights, but these are reserved for special occasions. Usually, dessert is fresh fruit and tea. The formal tea sets come without handles, forcing you to slow down and appreciate the beginnings of a new relationship as you gingerly touch the rim of the glass, waiting for the tea to cool.
Turkish feasts happily reflect the rest of what we have discovered in Turkey: there are so many things to enjoy in life – let’s just pick ALL of them!