44 odd things about me

44 Odd Things You Don’t Know About Me…why not!

I have to post some thing, and I don’t have much to say right now so… Tags it is!
1. Do you like blue cheese: yes!
2. Have you ever smoked: yes
3. Do you own a gun: no
4. What is your favorite ice cream : fresh made strawberry
5. Do you get nervous before going to the doctor: no
6. What do you think of hot dogs: love them! As long as they’re beef😉
7. Favorite Movie: changes with my mood, but right now I’d say Wall E
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning: coffee (which yall probably guessed based on my recent posts haha)
9. Do you do push ups: LOL right…
10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry: wedding ring
11. Favorite hobby: drawing (even though I’ve been inspiration-less for a while now)
12. Do you have A.D.D: no
13. Name something you dislike about yourself: I’m very Moody and short tempered
14. Middle name: My maiden name
15. Name two thoughts at this moment my neck hurts.  It’s hot
16. Name 3 drinks you can’t live without: coffee, water, juice
17. Current worry: living situation
18. Current annoyance right now: also living situation hah!
19. Favorite place to :…?
20. How do you feel: tired
21. Where would you like to go: home😦
22. Name three people who will complete this:
23. Do you own slippers: yes! This is Turkey. Come on now.
24. What color shirt are you wearing right now? White with navy stripes
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? I don’t know,  I’ve never tried it.
26. Can you whistle: yes
27. What are your favorite colors: turquoise and red
28. Would you ever be a pirate: probably not
29. What songs do you sing in the shower: I don’t sing in the shower
30. Favorite girls name: Melissa
31. Favorite boys name: Colton
32. What’s in your pocket right now: nothing haha I’m still in my Pjs!
33. Last thing that made you laugh: my husband being silly
34. Best toy as a child: my pirate ship with little pirate guys. My brother and I would play for the whole day with that!
35. Worst injury you have ever had: like, a Bruise? I’ve been blessed masallah
36. Where would you love to live: I love it here🙂
37. How many TV’s do you have: 0
38. Who is your loudest friend: I think that I’m the loud one…
39. How many dogs do you have: 0 here, 3 stateside (I claim my mom’s dogs)
40. Does someone trust you: yes
41. What book are you reading at the moment:   whatever I find on the Nook store for free…
42. What’s your favorite candy: gummy bears😀
43. What’s your favorite sports team: Clemson Tigers
44. Favorite Season: spring

Turkey 402: Tips from a Turkish Kitchen 

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Turkey lessons posts… So I thought I’d bring yall some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up since I’ve gotten here that you can use in the kitchen.  The kitchen is my second home, and often where I feel most comfortable.  Making the transition from the US to Turkey was actually really hard for me when it came to cooking, as you probably saw in past posts.  The salt wasn’t as salty.  Propane heats differently than electric.  Spices here taste a bit different.

But with the struggles came little “hacks” that can be used internationally!

I wish I knew these when I was still in the US…

Olive oil as an air-tight lid

Did you know that a thin layer of olive oil can make your pastes and cheeses (like ricotta) stretch for very near eternity? Since oil seals out air, it can keep mold and spoilage bacteria from growing at refrigerator temperatures.  However, that doesn’t mean you can leave a layer on and let it sit in your fridge untouched for a millenia.  Anaerobic (not needing air) organisms can still grow, meaning it’s important to still use your product and break that seal every now and again.

For example, I buy huge cans of tomato paste (that’s just how they come here… And they also have no salt here either!!) and it’ll grow mold in a few weeks.  Yeah,  I use it every two or three days, but there’s like 5 cups in that can and I use max 1tbsp at a time.  Using oil as a seal is great in this case.  Lor is another place I use this trick (check out my Turkish cheese post for details).

Putting spices and garlic last

Whenever I look at recipes I usually see people sautéing onion and garlic together at the beginning of a recipe.  But did you know if you throw in that garlic last, you get a much stronger flavor? The punch of garlic can cook out of your food, so what I’ve seen (and do) is to grate your garlic (or mash in a mortar) directly into the pan, turn off the heat,  and cover.  The residual heat will make the garlic cook to softness without losing the flavor.  Also add your spices towards the end so they keep their strength!

Sugar and tomatoes

Where you have tomatoes (particularly konserve or canned tomstoes), you have a bit of sourness.  Add a sprinkle of sugar to cut it down.  Also, as my mother in law says, wherever you see tomatoes and olive oil cooked together (without meat), and some sugar to bring the dish to the next level.

Dry your lemon rind.

Squeezed the hell out of your lemon? Wait,  don’t toss the rind! Leave it in the refrigerator or a cool dry place to let it dry out.  The beauty (and medicinal properties ) of a lemon is in the oil trapped in the rind.  Dried lemon is great to add to tea. If you don’t want to dry it, you can also use the leftover rind to shine your pots and remove those multi colored water stains.

Olive oil+lemon+garlic= God’s dressing

When you’re staring down the barrel of dinner and you have no idea what to do- you can boil/steam (or sometimes fry) ANY VEGETABLE and dress it with this combo and have a successful dish. Cauliflower? Yes.  Broccoli? Yes.  Celery? Yes. Whatever börülce is in English? Yes.  Squash? Fried, but still yes.  Potatoes? Yes.  Accommodate  your resident vegan/vegetarian when they show up for a visit (yes, you. You know who you are! ).  Plus, garlic.  Do you even need a reason?!

When in doubt, stew it out.

You saw this on my last recipe post.  Before I learned the great secret of sulu (stewed) everything, I would struggle to plan for dinner.  What do I need to buy? Oh no I forgot something! I don’t have time for that… Never fear.  Stewing suits all veggies and you have only a few ingredients.  Onions, peppers, oil, tomato paste, your veg and spices of choice.  I like a little tomato and carrot too, but if you’re hurting you don’t even have to do that.  Eggplant? Stew it.  Potatoes? Stew it.  Peas? Stew it.  Green beans? Stew it.  Okra? Do you even have to ask?… And if you are feeling fancy, add a little meat.  Never worry about dinner again.

Don’t dump the water!

Noodle water, dolma water, hell, even whey from making cheese or yogurt can ALL be used to make soup.  Never waste cups of water/juice again! You get the benefits from starch, oil, and/or flavorings (depending on what you’re using) to make a soup that recycles every bit of waste from your kitchen. And it tastes even better than using plain water in your soup recipe! While you are at it, recycle that leftover rice that no one is eating in soup as well!

Do you have any kitchen tips/tricks/hacks that you want to share? Leave them in the comments below!

Happy Turkey Anniversary to Me! (a.k.a 12 Things I Love and Hate About Turkey) 

Well well.  How time does fly. And what a busy week of celebrations!

As of right now, it has been exactly one year since we touched down in Turkey!

We came with so many expectations- none of which actually happened.  I’ve also improved my Turkish dramatically (I now know to say nasip değilmiş to my previous statement), and I think I’ve had about as many culture shocks as I’m going to have.  But that remains to be seen I suppose…

Am I home sick? Of course. When your past 25 years were spent (for the most part)   in one culture/on continent,  you’re going to miss what once was.  But I’m not losing any sleep over it/crying over it. Hell, even hubby is “homesick”  for America, and he only spent 8 years there. But after its been a bit longer, I’ll probably be missing Turkey whenever I go home to the states.

Anyway, here are 12 things I love and 12 things I hate about Turkey, now that I’ve had a year to let it all sink in.  I reserve the right to recycle concepts from my previous love/hate lists here and here, since it’s been a year! Keep in mind, some of these things may be unique to Izmir (but I wouldn’t know, since I’ve only lived there!)

I love…

1. The food/ food culture!  No matter where you are from, you can’t deny that Turkish food is on point.

2. Pazar.  We have something similar in the US (farmers markets and flea markets), but the Turkish Pazar is on a whole different level.  Check out my descriptions of pazars and pazar etiquette here.

3. Celebrations.  Ain’t no party like a Turkish party, ‘cuz a Turkish party don’t stop! The last Turkish celebration  I went to was a wedding, and I had an amazing time! The dancing, the singing, the laughing when my hubby tried to do some traditional Turkish dancing… It was great.

4.  The cost of living.  Compared to the US, the cost of living is quite low. But the standard of living is also lower. Food, clothes (from the pazar), and non – electric things tend to be pretty cheap.

5. Public transportation. This may vary in different cities, but the public transportation in Izmir is top notch. I can get anywhere without a car (which is good for me, since I never got my drivers license changed and I can’t drive stick anyway).

6. Turkish hospitality. Despite the drama, Turks are very nice.  They are always eager to give you something and provide you with lots of snacks and goodies. You will never be hungry or thirsty if a Turk is around!

7. Ice cream.  I don’t know why, but the ice cream here is better.  I think it has more vegetable oil in it, but I like it better.  Even the ice cream from Burger King or McDonalds is superior in my opinion. In the states, I could barely consume a small milkshake, but here?  Give me the large. Hell, give me two! Maybe they aren’t as sugary? I’m not sure…

8. Fruit juice options.  This may seem silly, but I am all about the fruit juice here.  There are so many (cheap!) options that are very good.  I remember trying to find a decent juice in the US that didn’t taste like the watered down version of whatever I bought.  Plus there were like, 100 orange juice options and almost nothing else.  Here? Peach juice, sour cherry juice, apricot juice, ATOM (the best mixed juice ever in LIFE), and then the standard orange, grape, apple… And I personally reach for the nektari (nectar/thick juice).

9. Snacks. Speaking of consumables, Turks know how to make a good cookie/biscuit/ snack.  The chip flavors here are so good!! Not to mention the dozens upon dozens of cookie/biscuit types that I consume like an addict.  Again, in the states cookies were just too sweet and I almost never bought them.  Here? Come at me with that Eti Cin, Yulafli biskuvi, bademli kurabiye…I’m waiting!

10. Rules don’t apply.  This can be good or bad, but for the most part it has benefited me since I’ve gotten here.  In Turkey, rules can be applied very unevenly, at the whim of whomever you are dealing with. This can make your life easier or harder, but so far it’s been easier for me.  I like how I know that no matter what rule comes my way, I know I can wiggle out of it if I try hard enough (yes, this even applies to the government).

11. Haggling.  Haggling here is a way of life.  You are expected to do it, be it at the pazar or at a job interview for a better salary.  I appreciate the fact that it isn’t taboo.

12. Majority Muslim population. I like how I blend in here as a hijabi.  With the majority of Turkey being Muslim, I don’t have to worry about being singled out like I do in America. If you’ve seen my previous posts, I’m not one to apply religion to politics and what not.  Hell, how I practice Islam is often pretty different from how people here do…but I do appreciate how I remain anonymous in a crowd.

I hate…

1. Nosey nosey nosey neighbors. Or should I say,  nosey everybody? It doesn’t matter if it’s the corner store owner down the street or the family friend of xyz years.  Every dang body thinks they need to know all about your business. To the point where you rethink leaving the house if someone is on the street.

2. Not using brand names. Ok, so I’m American. In America we call thinks by the brand name most of the time (honey, I need a Kleenex. Hey can you get some Fanta and Lays? We are running out of chlorox!). Not so in Turkey. Just the other day I asked for sarıkız (a soda), and the cornerstore owner had no idea what I was talking about.  I pointed to it and he said “oooo you mean soda”.  No,  I don’t mean soda! I mean sarıkız! I dont want Uludağ.  I don’t want sırma. I want sarıkız! Ugh! This leads to a lot of confusion, especially when I can’t remember the general term for something (like a cleaning product) but only remember it by the brand name!

3. Family-centric culture.  I’m about to sound like a terrible person, but I’m going to be real with yall. I love my family (Turkish and otherwise).  I like to be around them and do things with them… To an extent.  What I don’t like is when people get offended when you just want to do your own thing. Or when they think they have a right to make your life decisions for you. I miss the level of independence from family that is normal in America.

4. The cost of electronics.  In a world where computers and smartphones are considered a luxury.. You’re going to cry when you see the bill after purchasing something as small as a clothes iron or coffee machine. For example, a standard iron (like a sunbeam brand one) can cost upwards of 70₺. A basic coffee machine with nothing more than an on button can cost 100₺, let alone one with a timer.  Basically anything with a plug is prohibitively expensive.

5. Being unable to communicate. While I am perfectly capable of getting around, buying these at the shops, and haggling at the pazar, I still can’t fully communicate. There are some complex concepts (like emotions), and other topics that require a delicate tongue.  When I’m upset, I can’t explain why to someone who doesn’t speak English without sounding like an idiot. If I want to have a stimulating conversation, it certainly won’t be in Turkish.  I want to be able to express myself to those around me, beyond simple daily tasks! But sometimes it’s better that I don’t speak Turkish so well, since some things I’m thinking are better left unsaid….

6. Still not being independent. It’s been a year and I still haven’t achieved the level of independence I had in the US. Some of it comes from culture, some comes from my inability to pass my plateau of Turkish language, and some comes from my own fear to continue to push my current the boundaries.  Certainly this will improve in time, but for now I hate it.

7. Being sweaty…all the time.  Being sweaty is basically a part of life in Turkey.  Even though I lived in Florida and South Carolina (both hot and humid states), AC/”klima” are a common fixture in my country.  Every house has central heat and air, the buses and other transportation are nearly refrigerated, and you need to carry a jacket in the summer for the rooms you will be in.  But in Turkey? Nah, man. I have never seen central air, only the window units (klima), and even those aren’t always available. With the massive amount of public transportation/ walking comes massive amounts of sweating.  You need to get used to it.

8. Lack of deodorant.  I think this is an issue more for the older generation, who uses “kolonya” (a scented alcohol rub thing.  Its not like cologne as we call it).  Combine being sweaty/hot with not using deodorant…and in most public places, there is a horrendous body odor.

9. The cost of meat.  It’s just…insane. Compared to the comparatively cheap cost of meat in the states.  Fortunately I’m a “zeytin yagli“(olive oil based food) kind of person😉 so it isn’t that big of a deal I guess…but I find it hard to make some of my favorite things.  On that note…

10. Lack of other culture’s foods.  Where’s my chinese? Japanese sushi? Italian? Mexican? When you do find foods that aren’t Turkish, they are crazy expensive!  All you can eat sushi for 60TL?  When I used to eat it for 12$? Are you insane?

11. Franchises are NOT the same. When I roll up to a Burger King, McDonalds, or Dominos, I expect the food to be as it was in the states (since these are American franchises). NOPE.  The menus aren’t even the same! So when I get that hankering for something familiar…tough luck.

12. Culture clashes.  As much as I try to adjust my expectations, there are just some cultural differences that I can’t get over yet.  For example, women are expected to take a (in my opinion, EXTREME) service role in the house, particularly for guests.  To a point where, in the US, it’s considered rude/degrading to be expected to do what you are doing. This wasn’t a problem at first, because I was foreign.  But after a year, I’m not foreign anymore…and these expectations are falling on me.  Maybe I’m just too prideful, but I very much struggle to meet the societal expectations here.  Fortunately, my husband doesn’t put them on me.  And when we get to move out, we will have more control.  But for now? ugh.

 

Happy Birthday To Me (2nd Turkey Birthday!) 

Hey yall! So, today is my birthday! 

I’m 26 (whaaaaat?!) 

If you follow me on Instagram (which by now, you should take a hint and follow me!) you know that we celebrated my birthday on Sunday.  I mean,  most grown folks celebrate their birthdays on the weekend right?  

As you see in the title I refer to this as my second birthday in Turkey.  That’s right! I spent my 21st birthday in the Istanbul airport, coming home from my first Turkey experience! This was definitely better. 

Because I’m such an unsocial creature, I opted for a night out with the hubster.  I mean,  since we came to Turkey last year that’s all I’ve wanted, a little alone time with my man.  Yall know what I’m saying. 

We had a very basic evening, starting with a late dinner. We picked up a bag of cig köfte and ayran from my favorite vendor, then went to the sea side to have a little picnic while the sun set. 


Afterward, we had a short stroll to browse for a few items I wanted to purchase.  I didn’t get anything yet though.  I go into phases of wanting to spend money, and then wanting to save it.  Sunday was a save it day! 


After that we hoped on the metro (free fare!) and headed for a nargile/hookah lounge!  There was one specific one we were headed to (we had gone before and it was appropriate.  If you live in Turkey you know that some nargile lounges can be too rowdy,  not mixed gender, or full of weirdos. So when you find one you like you should stick with it!). 

 Unfortunately, we couldn’t remember exactly where it was, so we got off on the wrong stop.  I was a little upset and said to just go home, since the place wasn’t easy to get to.  But hubby insisted we try the previous stop, and rushed me onto the next train. 

We got off at the station, expecting a good 8 to 10 minute walk to our desired lounge.  But lo and behold, three steps away from the station and I got a nose full of hookah smell.  A new lounge opened right beside the metro about 2 months ago (we hadn’t been out this way since February).  Very mixed crowd (women, men, young, old, children even *not smoking*, and hijabis too! ), low hum of conversation, and nice ambiance. Perfect! 

So we sat down and ordered our favorite, apple/mint.  I think it’s my favorite? I’m not sure.  It’s his favorite and I’ve only tried a few flavors, but I really do like apple/mint so I usually go for it! Since I have a very low tolerance now (I used to smoke like a dang chimney in undergrad like 4 years ago, but since then I haven’t smoked much at all) we always share.  Even his tolerance has bottomed out haha. 


I insisted we play backgammon, even though I usually don’t like to play.  Playing anything with my love can be fun, since he is teaching me and getting excited when I make a good move.  

I ordered my favorite ice tea, smoked a bunch of yummy hookah, and played backgammon for 2 whole hours! 

Oh and I won the backgammon matches by one game😉. 

All in all it was exactly what I wanted! The whole way home I was gushing with joy.  Of course hubby was insisting that he should give me more and do more, but unfortunately we aren’t in a place to be able to do anything more fancy. That’s OK, because even if we had 1000₺ to spend on my birthday, I wouldn’t change a thing! 

Check  out my Instagram story later today to watch me make myself birthday baklava! I’m not much into cake,  and I haven’t made baklava in ages! Gotta get my practice in before the next bayram! 

Traditional Dry Beans and Lamb

 Hubby brought a whole sack of lamb home the other day; apparently someone he knows had a kurban (sacrifice) and some of the meat came to us!

What is this? An alien?!

At first I was pretty intimidated, I had no idea what to do with it!  it was roughly butchered (as in, whole large cuts of meat), and some parts I couldn’t identify. Some of it was very fatty too (as lamb is prone to be). But if I’ve learned anything, it’s :

When in doubt- stew it out!

So I decided to take some good old fashioned dry beans, and make it even more traditional by throwing in some cubed lamb, specifically the super fatty parts!

Between you and me (I would never admit this to anyone), I used to not be able to cook dry beans.  I wanted to be fancy and add too much to it.  But when you add, it just takes away from the flavor!

There’s nothing like a good ol’ dry beans.  Even in the dog days of summer, it’s always welcome on our table! When I make beans, I make A LOT! Plenty enough for five people or more (even though it’s just the two of us right now).

Ingredients

2c dry beans

2 onions (one whole, one diced)

4 peppers (spicy or not, as you like)

3tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp oil

2c lamb meat, for stew

water

salt to taste

pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Either soak the beans over night, or boil them hard (salted, I use 2 tsp salt) for an hour (after half an hour some may be floating, add water to the pot to knock them down, at that time add one whole onion).  I typically use 2:1 ration for water to beans.  But it is really up to you and how watery you want your beans to be.  I usually end up having to add more water down the line anyway…so don’t worry too much about it.
  2. Throw the stew lamb meat into the pot of water, beans, and onion.  If you soaked over night, then start cooking at this point, adding the onion and stew meat at the same time. Let the pot boil while you do step 3.
  3. Dice the remaining onion and pepper (I cut them to the size of my pinkie), and sautee in a pan with the olive oil* and a dash of salt. Add tomato paste and cook until everything melds together. Spoon water from the boiling pot into the tomato paste/veggies pan until the contents are a slurry.
  4. Pour the slurry into the boiling pot and mix well.  Cover and let boil on low for up to 6hrs (depending on how tough your lamb is.  Don’t be afraid to go back and check every hour or so!). Add salt and pepper as needed, towards the end.
  5. Turn off the heat and let sit for half an hour.

 

Serve with pickles and fresh bread.

Afiyet olsun!

Beach-less Week at the Beach 

If you follow my Instagram,  you’ll know I just got back from a week at the beach! 


 But I never actually got to… You know… Go to the beach. 


The struggle of being a not-fully-functioning adult is that you are at the whim of your caretakers. For the weekdays, they were my in laws.  Love them to death, but there’s only so much old folks can do before they get tuckered out. I got to look at the water but not actually put my feet in the sand. 


Hubby joined us on the weekend, but he slept the majority of the day so we couldn’t go to the beach then either. We did spend the entire night (until 3am) out on the town, but still no beach! We went back Sunday in the afternoon to beat the traffic. 

It was still a lot of fun! 

But hopefully we will get another chance soon. The summer is still young! 

What a Difference Coffee Makes

I want to take a second to really focus on something that may sound dumb.  Something I said before, but may have sounded like an off-the-cuff kind of thing.  Like a joke. But it wasn’t a joke. It isn’t.  It’s very, very real.

Coffee (finding the Holy Grail) has changed my life.

 To many people, that probably sounds really really dumb.  Like, come on girl, it’s just coffee.

But is it?

Is it just coffee?

Is it just coffee, or is it reclaiming something from a previous culture that I thought I lost?  Is it one small comfort that had been a routine in my life for over 10 years, that I had to give up during one of the most difficult challenges I have had to face?  Is it, perhaps, a little piece of home that has brought me a little more sanity?

 It’s all of those things, and so much more.

For people who have had to make a huge life adjustment, like moving to a new (and very different) country (or maybe town), you know what I’m talking about.  There’s little things that you may or may not have known were important to you in your old life, that you suddenly don’t have anymore.  Maybe it’s that specific brand of cookie, a lotion that you love, or a special place you liked to go during your free time. But now, it’s not there. On top of the struggle of giving up the life you knew, and shaped, for the last (however many) years you’ve been on this earth… you lost your security blanket too.  That thing that helped keep you grounded, regardless of what you’d been going through.  Something that was always there.

 After  while, you get used to its absence. You’ve gotten past it.  That was part of your old life, and you don’t need it now.

But then…then it’s back.

You have it again!

And you realize you didn’t really get used to it. You hadn’t gotten past it at all.

And slowly, things start feeling more normal.  You start to own the life you have now, instead of just getting through it on a daily basis.  You look forward to the next morning again, because, even if you don’t have anything to do (for now)- you have a cup of coffee to enjoy in the morning.

And for me, that’s enough.

Next on the list? Getting our own apartment, maybe learning how to drive stick, putting myself out there (friend wise)…

But I’ll do all that after my first cup.

With coffee to start my day, I can do anything.

Yayla Corbasi

Sometimes, regardless of the weather, you crave something.

Today, it was yayla corbasi for me!  Despite the hot weather, I was dying for some soup!  This one happens to be a favorite of mine, featuring egg and yogurt (of all things)!  Also, it was a good way to make use of that leftover water I strained out of the pasta I boiled earlier.

Yeah, that’s a thing!

As is true to form, I don’t measure anything…so this is just an approximation😉

Ingredients

~7c water

1c orzo (arpa sehriye)

1 chicken buillion cube

1 heaping tbsp butter

2 c yogurt

1 egg

2 tbsp flour

Drizzle of olive oil

salt (to taste)

dried mint (to taste)

 Preparation

1. Put approximately 6c water in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Cook orzo noodles in the water with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.  If available, use whatever leftover water you have from boiling noodles too, nixing the added salt and oil. Cook until the orzo is soft.

2. Add butter and bullion to the boiling water, making sure it is thoroughly dissolved.

3. Temper flour with 0.5c cold water, or enough to make a slurry. Mix water slowly into the flour, making sure to eliminate clumps.  Once the slurry is prepared, add spoonfuls of the hot soup water slowly to the slurry, bringing up the temperature.  After 2 or 3 spoonfuls/stirs, slowly pour the mixture into the pot, stirring well as you do (this also prevents clumps).  Let it boil for a few minutes.

4. Whisk together yogurt and egg very well.  Add approximately 0.5c of cold water to the yogurt and egg, diluting to a slurry. Again, make sure that everything is homogenous! Add spoonfuls of the hot soup water to the yogurt mixture, stirring well (I use the big mixing spoon for this).  After 3 or 4 (large) spoonfuls, pour the mixture into the pot, stirring well. Let it boil again.  This time, it should produce foam.  Boil for only a few minutes.

5. Turn off the heat, and add salt and dried mint to taste.

Afiyet olsun!

 

The Hunt For the Holy Grail- FILTERED

Yes, FINALLY.  Finally I’m writing the last installment of a series I started a million years ago.  I didn’t even get to try the last filtered coffee brand I had on my list.  Why? Because I am CONTENT.  I have found THE ONE.

(and because it’s been so long, I can’t find the pictures of each coffee brand on my computer… You’ll have to look at Instagram screenshots instead. Sorry!) 

But first, lets look at a few others.

For filtered coffee, I utilized the french press method for brewing. Because I like a strong cup, I steeped the grinds for 7-8 minutes instead of the suggested 5 minutes.  Also, due to the fact I kept letting milk spoil in the fridge, I’ve switched to powdered creamer (nestle brand). I know, the scandal! But I can’t stand wasting milk, and I simply don’t use it for much else besides the occasional dessert and coffee!

Turkish Coffee (ground for filtered)

Very simply put…Turkish coffee without the sludge.
Taste: 2/10

How is it possible that the taste got worse when I used the same beans as the traditional Turkish coffee, but with a filter?  Maybe because I hold my filtered coffee to a higher standard?  For more information on the flavor of Turkish coffee, check out my Hunt post here.

Texture: 7/10

Not having that nasty sludge was a huge improvement to this coffee.

Aroma: 7/10

One of the benefits of Turkish coffee is that it has a very strong aroma.  You can tell coffee is in my cup from across the room!

Too bad the taste dragged down the score.

Total: 5/10

Sorry Turkish coffee, you will never be my holy grail!

 

Starbucks House Blend

The standard Starbucks flavor we all know and (some people) love! (22TL for 200g)
Taste: 6/10

Like I’ve said on several occasions- I’m not a hardcore Starbucks fan.  But what I do praise them for is their consistency.  The taste of Starbucks here is the same as what I am accustomed to in the states.  So if you are a Starbucks fan, you can buy a bag of Starbucks coffee beans in Turkey and feel completely at ease. It was a welcome taste to have back on my buds, but at the same time, I always added syrups to the Starbucks I drank back home.  Because, while the flavor is a standard filtered coffee type, it doesn’t exactly wow me.  The complexity is there, but there is a bit of a sour note going on as well.

Texture: 8/10

No grits! No grains! This does a happy girl make!  Paired with the powdered creamer, the texture of this coffee has been bumped up to the slightly creamy category I’ve been looking for!

Aroma: 8/10

Everyone knows the smell of Starbucks.  These coffee beans are poignant in a very good way!  I can smell the coffee when I walk into the kitchen. mmm!

Total: 7/10

A solid choice, but still a “nothing to write home about” experience. If you are craving filtered coffee, this is not a bad option.  Plus, like I said before, the familiarity is nice when you feel a little home sick.

Tchibo (Guatemala Grande and African Blue)

Tchibo is a German company that sells a lot of random stuff.  One of their products is coffee. Guatemala Grande (GG) is their medium roast, while African Blue (AB) is their dark.  They have a few other roasts as well, but these are the ones I’ve been refilling over and over again.  I first tried the GG on it’s own…then I tried the AB…and I said to myself “these are both good. But what if I put them TOGETHER?”. (23 TL for two 250g bags)

Then the sky opened up.

Light shined down.

And the angels sang.

Taste: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 9/10

GG is a lovely, if not standard, medium roast.  It has a mild complexity, not overwhelming, but also lacks the sourness of Starbucks.

While I am typically not a fan of dark roast, AB has me hooked!  It is a notch or two bolder than GG, without smacking you in the face with bitterness. It still has a mild complexity, but where GG is solidly in the “medium” category, AB floats softly in the “dark” category, with some of the notes found in the medium. When using the nestle powdered creamer, the bitterness is completely masked*.

But when you bring GG and AB together, it is a taste of heaven.  Even without any added flavors (hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla, etc), this coffee is a dream.  The GG and AB are just different enough that you can tell the difference when you drink them separately, but when you bring them together the flavors meld beautifully without having too much of one particular note.  I like a good 1:1 ratio of GG and AB, and if I am feeling light, I go 3:1.

Texture: (all) 8/10

I think I need to chock the texture up to the great nestle powdered creamer I’ve been using…

Aroma: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 8/10

As is the norm, the dark roasted AB has a slightly stronger scent than GG.  However, when blended, the poignancy of the AB comes out in the scent. In my experience, you need to let this coffee steep a little longer (8 minutes) to get the full effect.

Total: (GG) 7/10, 8/10(AB), 8/10(blend)

Because the texture and aroma don’t change too much with the blend, the blend ended up tying with the AB dark roast…but everything was weighted equally in my assessment.  Because I hate statistics. And I am not about to pull out analysis software to do math on a blog post.  But in real life, the taste is obviously the most important thing.  So, numbers aside, I would say that the blend of GG+AB is the best filtered coffee I’ve had in Turkey.

I’d go so far as to say it’s the best coffee period (so far).

I’d even say…

I HAVE FOUND MY HOLY GRAIL!

Across all types of coffee, and brands, I believe the Tchibo Guatemala Grande mixed with the African Blue is my holy grail of coffee in Turkey.  Sure, there are other brands I haven’t tried.  There are flavored syrups I haven’t used.  But with my GG+AB, I have consistently made good (neigh, GREAT) cups of coffee that have started my morning right.  I’ve even gotten back in the habit of drinking coffee every morning. And that price point though!! (5.75TL for 100g. That’s 12~TL compared to 22TL for Starbucks!!)

 Thanks to Tchibo, Turkey is feeling a little more like home.  And in the end, I think that’s what I was really looking for.

Expat problem? Solved.

 

*Here’s some science for you:  The bitterness in coffee is caused by a chemical compound known as tannins, which also gives the coffee color we are all familiar with. They are also found in coffee and some wines. In order to cut bitterness, we must bind the tannins with protein (commonly milk protein).  Hence the use of milk/cream in coffee! The higher the protein content (like creamer/ powdered creamer vs regular milk vs low fat), the more effective the binding power and the less bitterness you end up with.

Here Comes The Groom, Dancing To The Tune! 

I don’t know about ya’ll, but my family isn’t very close.  I barely speak to my own aunts and uncles, let alone cousins and whatnot.

So imagine my surprise when a wedding came up (on the Turkish side!) a little like this:

So and so is having her wedding and we are invited!

Who?

So and so, you know, your husband’s grandmother’s sister’s granddaughter’s child!

…right.  So, family.

But it was amazing!!! Unfortunately I missed the kina gecesi because I was dead on my feet after traveling back from the beach all in a hurry for the festivities.  But the wedding was fantastic!

Fantastic, and very different.  Let me run you through the events to show you just how different a wedding in Turkey is from an American one! Honestly, I think the only thing in common is the white dress, the throwing of the bouquet, cake, and signing a piece of paper!

Let me start by saying that we were related to the bride, so everything I witnessed is from the bride’s side.

First off, the close (ish) family met at the bride’s mother’s house while the bride was getting ready at the salon.  Both men and women from the bride’s side were present, and dressed. We were fed pide and ayran (I guess you could be fed anything?) while family members trickled in as they finished getting ready. The last to show up was the bride, in her full gown and makeup/hair.  She was ready to go! She sat in a chair in the middle of the room and tried to eat a bit while we waited.

What were we waiting for? THE GROOM! (check out my instagram for the video).  Lo and behold, I hear drums and some kind of woodwind instrument.  I was rushed to the balcony to see the wedding party (grooms side) and the groom in his full suit coming with musical accompaniment.  

He entered the house and the bride’s uncle (because her father is no longer with us) tied a red ribbon around the brides waist.  They both gave him the respectful kiss of the hand and pressed his hand to their foreheads, as is tradition. Then the bride dropped her veil and was led from the house.  Before getting into a car decked out in wedding goodies (much like the car our couples drive away in, but at the end) they danced together in Turkish fashion (instagram video).  As the bridal procession started to drive away, an auntie on the bride’s side splashed a gallon of water after them, and another threw coins.

Then we piled into a rental bus and off to the wedding salon we went!

After the huge salon was filled, the bride and groom made their entrance. 

 Everyone danced- A LOT. Sometimes it was brides side, sometimes grooms side, but everyone danced! My favorite part of the dancing is that there is a guy with a big drum that gets in there. I wish I had a picture.  It was great.  Sometimes he would be on the ground banging the hell out of the drum.  People would throw paper money (some real, some fake) over the bride and groom, which was collected for the MC who was managing the music (and the very lively drummer!).

After some dancing (slow dancing and also Turkish style), a pause in the festivities was taken for the legal bit.  The couple were sat at a table, and asked if they wanted to be married (like vows, but it didnt sound like our kind of vows?). They both said yes, music played, and they signed their marriage booklet.  Then they cut a cake (like we do), and some more dancing happened.

Eventually the bride and groom stood wearing sashes for money and gold to be pinned on them.  The guests lined up and pinned money, hung gold bracelets and jewelry, etc. on the couple. 

More dancing, woohoo! Including cultural dances that I didn’t know how to do… 

Finally, at the very very end, after dancing for around 3hrs straight, the couple held a large Turkish flag, and everyone sang the Turkish anthem (except me! GOD BLESS AMERICA! :P)

My ears rang all night, and into the next day!

But…now I kind of want one too.