I think I mentioned my level of anxiety about being away from home for 5 days? It should all have melted away while I was in Istanbul, city of extraordinary beauty, history and heritage. I should have been focused uniquely on the gorgeous array of mezzes, or tapas-like appetizers that appeared before me every time I sat down for a meal. Or on the stunning view of the Bosphorous strait, separating the European continent and the Asian continent, with ships and yachts sailing lazily by under the bright skies. Or on the kindness of the people, something I had forgotten could exist between people, having been in Paris for so many months.
But rather than take it all in with stride, I was nervous, to say the least. Between these bursts of amazing landscape, people and food, I had pangs of worry for Mangus and how he was eating, sleeping and getting along with his friends at school as I was driven along the hilly streets, brought to sublime mosques and churches, introduced to pottery and carpet shops brimming with hand-crafted items and fed incredibly inspiring food and wine.
I think Turkey is a hidden secret for many people in the U.S. – many may think that there are security issues because of the Muslim majority, or that it would be very foreign and difficult to visit. They could not be more mistaken. Turkey is officially a secular country and not a Muslim State and the people are very proud of their secular position. It is open, expanding, growing, and the people, especially the young, are embracing cultures from all over the world. The country is studded with dozens and dozens of stunning landmarks, natural and man-made, worthy of the UNESCO World Heritage Site stamp, ranging from the place where the Trojan horse was concocted to the towering mosques – one in particular where flustered tourists come face to face with the world’s largest diamond and blinded by its shining might. And the Turkish hospitality is something akin to what used to exist in many Asian countries before – completely unabashed, forthcoming and caring. I find so many similarities with Japan in the customs of the people, like making sure visitors walk through a door first, or seeing that your guests are well-fed and provided for with utmost importance.
And the food – from the delicate appetizers consisting mainly of vegetables, like slow smoked aubergines,wheat grains with walnuts, grape leaves stuffed with cumin scented rice – to the main dishes of beef with mushroom gravy, mixed grilled meats, stuffed and roasted eggplants with lamb…it is always a surprise and always carefully cooked with vibrant colors and flavors.
After the days of making new friends, seeing the multiple facets of Istanbul, trying out the various cuisines and wines, I came home with a smile and a box of lokums -fruit jellies cooked with nuts, and a recipe of ‘chicken chest pudding’ – a subtile dessert make with milk, flour and strings of meat from chicken, served with chocolate and vanilla sauce.
For anyone contemplating a trip to Europe – try visiting Istanbul – a city of the future, connecting the East and the West, where the hilly capital will warm your spirits and help you open your sights to the unexpected.
And I had no need to worry – my husband – who really does not know how to make anything other than coffee and tea – managed to make four beautiful bentos for Magnus, and served him warm meals every night while I was away. With a little help from freezer packed side dishes, he was able to compose a diverse range of lunchbox bentos – pasta with cream, rice with salmon and nori, chicken meatballs with lemongrass, veal cutlets with sage, cheddar cheese cubes, fresh berries, melon and prosciutto, cured beef from Grison.
Next time, I will try to relax and take a bit of time for myself. After all, mothers deserve that once in a while, don’t you think?