'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

For Your Delectation

There are few things that give greater pleasure, in my opinion, than the feel and smell of a good book or the taste and smell of fine food. Especially Turkish food! Add to that pleasurable mix a fabulous volume of recipes from probably the finest exponent of bringing Turkish food, especially southern Turkish food, to the table and you have a truly palatable combination.

Archers does not, as a rule, do promotional stuff. I’m going to break that rule for the very best of reasons. Özlem Warren is an internationally reknowned culinary master of her craft. She is also one of the nicest people it’s been my pleasure to meet and know. If you are not already using her recipes from her superb blog  then you  really are missing out and should click the link and get acquainted asap.

Now she is presenting a cookery book in hardback of such oustanding quality that it deserves a place in every kitchen and, for the wonderful photographs alone, on every coffee table. This is a ‘must have’!

the lady herself – a great ambassador for Turkish cuisine

So, you lucky people, here’s your chance to get your copy of this volume of Turkish Delights. Act quickly and pre-order now for delivery in early April 2018 and you get a hefty 10% discount. Now that is just too good to miss! So, click this link right here!

Alan

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Moonshine!

Those who follow these witterings with any regularity will know that I enjoy a drop or two of rakı in the evenings. My taste-buds became attuned way back when we first migrated to Turkey. I still recall clearly the initiation process. There I was with a couple of local gentlemen who set out two glasses in front of me. One glass was half-filled with the colourless liquid then, as I watched, water filled the other glass before it was added to the rakı and the magic began. As the spirit mysteriously turned white my host turned to me, beat his chest and boomed ‘Aslan süt!’ – Lion’s milk! The die was cast!

Back then, 1997, the state-owned Tekel company produced the goods and the tax was non-existent. A bottle cost next-to-nothing! All that changed after Tekel was privatised and our government began to harden its attitude towards alcohol consumption. Taxes began to rise until today they represent an eye-watering 80% of the retail price. From pennies to 100+ lira in the space of a little over ten years for a litre of rakı is no laughing matter!

What is a chap to do? The answer is that ‘When in Rome . . ‘ Turks are amazingly inventive and creative, They know how to turn any situation to their advantage. You only have to think about how quickly the verges of a new by-pass are turned in to rows of stalls/restaurants/farm shops. ‘In every situation lies the seeds of an equal or greater benefit’ to quote some positive-thinking author or other.

And so it was that I was introduced by a friend to something many Turks have been doing for quite some time – making my own and saving a pretty penny or three. I’m not here to encourage anyone else to do this – if you too want to know how to turn out 2.25 litres of excellent rakı in the space of a couple of hours for just under 30 lira per litre then contact me individually. Here’re some photos of the ‘kit’.

spring water, aniseed oil, a little sugar, ethanol/ethyl alcohol, mixing jar

the end product – 2.25 litres of excellent tasting rakı

Cheers!

In case you are worried, I didn’t go blind from moonshine and here’s the sunshine to prove it!

Alan, wondering what to spend my tax rebate on!

ps With so many Turks going down this path, foreign tourism down, Turks taking holidays in Greece in ever increasing numbers, now the minister responsible for these taxes has said that they are far too high on booze, tobacco and cars. Is a reduction likely? Don’t hold your breath!

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

My Gineration

Although I was a British Army soldier in my youth – a ‘Pongo’ to those Ratings of the so-called Senior Service, I was, non-the-less initiated into the delights of the daily rum ration. It happened in the Persian Gulf back in the 1960s as a guest aboard the ‘Ton’ Class minesweeper HMS Kemerton for a week or ten days. Kemerton was hardly part of the ‘Wooden Walls of England’ but she was knocked up out of marine ply and had all the speed and manoeuvrability of a back yard hot-tub!

‘Ton’ Class minesweeper

That said, the crew were a cheery lot and keen to initiate us into the pleasures of the daily  ‘Pusser’s‘ rum ration, the issue of which was preceded by the jolly call of the bosun’s pipe and the bellowing of ‘Up Spirits!’ We Pongos learned about the value of favours done and the currency of rum. A little favour would earn you ‘sippers‘ and progressed through ‘gulpers‘ to ‘three fingers‘ to a full ‘tot‘ for those favours best not discussed here! That operating expensive machinery, as opposed to pulling on bits of rope, and dishing out 1/8th of a pint (admittedly watered down 2:1) of 109 degree proof spirit per man per day were not conducive to steering a straight course was not lost on their Lordships and the ration was discontinued in 1970.

The end of a Royal Navy tradition, as the daily ration of rum is abolished due to safety concerns, 31st July 1970. Cook Thomas McKenzie drains the last drop from the barrel at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. (Photo by Leonard Burt/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 We also got swung about in a bosun’s chair and learned that any old Arab dhow can out-run (and probably out-gun) the Royal Navy any old time.

‘Tally-Ho, chaps!’

So, why is someone of my gineration rambling on about this stuff? Don’t know really except there is a rather loose connection between oil, spirits and the biggest of favours!

All these years later my joints are showing signs of wear and tear and despite some expensive treatments they persist in being a pain in the arse. Recently I was introduced to Juniper oil and have been mixing it 4:1 with Calendula oil and rubbing it into my joints. It works! Psychosomatic or real, I don’t care, it works!

Are you spotting the connections here? Ships run on oil – knees run on oil! Rum gets mixed with water – Juniper with Calendula! The final connection – spirits! For generations rum solved every problem ‘Jack Tar’ ever encountered, made every job easier. For my gineration it is Mulberry Gin – Cheers!

Just remember, you drink the gin and rub the oil! And before you raise your eyes to the heavens at getting to this point and realising it was all a waste of time you need to know that up here in the mountains it is nearly June, it is piddling down and we are still lighting a fire to keep warm. What else am I supposed to do?

Alan Fenn. ‘. . talkin’ ’bout my gineration’

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'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Out Of My Skull

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. . not in the ‘pissed as a newt’ sense but as in ‘my brain has gone walk-about’! On a personal level the days drift gently by and my only worry is finding something to waffle on about.

It’s not that I’m unaware or uncaring about the crap that is being dished out by the monsters who lord it over the huddled masses of the world. I do know that I am able to live the life I have in the way I choose because of privilege. The privilege of being born where and when I was.

What if . . ? It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about.

A couple of days ago my dear neighbour Ramazan was spied up a tree at the bottom of our plot up here in the mountains. Curious, I picked up my camera and wandered down to see what was going on.

Ramazan is a retired policeman on a very small pension. He grows vegetables on his plot and keeps bees, not as some hobby but because he needs to subsist at a reasonable level. He’s very good at bee-keeping and has about 16 active hives! This is what he was after . .

His wife passed up a stick and a bucket on a rope . .

A quick tap and before you know it, ‘Ramazan’s your uncle’, and the swarm is in the bucket and transferred to its new home.

Now, my point about privilege is this; J and I are hobby gardeners, we do all this cleaning, weeding and planting because we enjoy it and because we can. Our neighbours do it because they have to! I know for a fact (because it happened last year) that some of Ramazan’s wonderful honey will come our way together with some cream from his goats and he would be mortally offended if we offered to pay for it. Privilege is a barrier to hide behind for those who choose to. Human kindness on the other hand . .

Privilege lets me have a vanity pond for no better reason than that I love the wildlife that it attracts. My neighbours need to channel their energy towards that which is productive. I, on the other hand, can sit on my arse, beer in hand and delight in the arrival of the first damselflies and dragonflies of the season . .

Libellula depressa – Broad-bodied Chaser (male)

Ischnura pumilio – Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly

Whilst I sat around and communed with nature J was hard at it planting tobacco seeds in the nursery bed . .

. . and proselytising to our gorgeous İsparta roses.

actually labels for Goditia and Forget-Me-Not.

Privilege has its privileges but I hope I never lose sight of our commonalities or lose touch with our neighbours – whoever and wherever they are.

Alan, in a privileged place

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Flushed!

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Yesterday, you may recall, ‘Shit Happened!‘ Today? Well, today is another day!

This morning we both felt a tad moribund. The need to go to the loo being counteracted by the chipped lip of the plastic paint bucket that was filling the toilet role (such a way with words). The garden beckoned but the prospect of no water for five days, and no rain forecast either, had us reluctant to plant seeds and, instead, wandering around the garden hacking viscously at baby thistles and the like!

Meanwhile, after the visit yesterday by the Forestry people and the Jandarma, all was quiet on the Western front. The monster was also moribund – but more so.

Five days was looking more like five months, five years or maybe never! The Forestry people were back in some force with much coming and going. Enveloped in our ever more dense cloud of pessimism a small miracle occurred. Our neighbour Sadık arrived in his battered old Tofaş (an old-style Lada by any other name) with a great coil of water pipe tied on the roof. Knowing our situation, and being our plumber, he had taken it upon himself to get us sorted one way or another. Within twenty minutes water was flowing!

Sadık, a true neighbour, a squire and a gentleman!

This wonderful fellow has sorted a temporary arrangement that will see us through until the situation at the source is finalised. And finalising it (to paraphrase Capt Oates) may be some time!

Once Sadık left, again refusing payment, ‘We can sort it all later.’ (you recall he repaired the ravages of winter on the watering system), the Big Nobs arrived in force. The Forestry Chief for our province arrived with various Deputy Chiefs in one of those very intimidating 4x4s. We haven’t seen him for over a year when he donated a wad of trees for our garden. It was great because he was so interested to see what we had achieved since his last visit. The pond was a smash hit as were all the trees and J’s garden and compost heaps got special attention. Then they were off to assess what our new neighbour had been up to with his hired digger. Such a site visit by such high-flyers does not auger well for him.

And so it proved. What he has ordered done is totally illegal and he must answer for it before a judge. The owner-driver of the digger machine has had his machine and low-loader impounded and it will be parked outside our village muhtar’s office until there is a resolution by the judge. I don’t know if the driver has been charged but the loss of income alone will be devastating. A clear warning to others to ensure that, before you half pull a mountain down and fill a ravine and water course, what you are doing is legal!

So, life is pretty much back to normal and our moribund has done a bunk!

Alan Fenn, flushed and showered too!

ps after 20 years and a lot of political upheaval folk still ask us what it is that binds us to Turkey – the answer is all around us – Turks!

pps the Forestry Dept has undertaken to gift us a bunch of lavender plants – special delivery expected some time soon.