10 The Cook’s Cook | February/March 2016
weddings, celebrations, and even today in restaurants. The Turkish
flag was displayed in the open living room. After the kisses and
hellos, I couldn’t help but notice the aromas and large spread of
mezzes Jan had prepared.
Small dishes similar to appetizers and tapas, mezze make up
the first course of most Turkish meals. Jan, a skillful cook,
had used spices with moderation but to great effect. Many of
the ingredients, such as yogurt, that Americans have come to
rely on in everyday cooking
have originated in Turkey.
The spread on the dining
room table, in beautiful
antique copper dishes,
included olives, hummus,
roasted red peppers, yogurt,
dates, figs, pistachios from
Gaziantep, feta cheese, goat
cheese, lahmacun (Turkish
style pizza), and lavas (large
paper-thin bread). An array
of drinks on the bar included
raki – a traditional drink –
wine, sparkling water, and
Great food and aromas filled
the room, and after all the
friends had arrived, talked,
and mezzed we decided to
walk on the beach to prepare
our appetites for dinner.
The hostess had requested
we dress in Turkish attire. By evening, everyone was dressed in
Turkish clothes that had been purchased – in some cases, many
years ago – in the covered bazaars of Turkey. They included
classic head scarves, shava (baggy pants), an embroidered
antique Bedouin dress, and belly-dance costumes.
Candlelight and softly-playing classic Middle Eastern music
welcomed us to the large dining room table. Turks have always
eaten better than any other people in the Eastern Mediterranean.
And that night we remembered why.
Our cook and dear friend, Jan Desjardin, gave us well-balanced
meals that brought back memories from forty years ago of a
rich, historic land, white sandy beaches, majestic mountains
and extremely friendly, welcoming people. Our main course
was Patlican kebab (a lamb and eggplant dish), complemented
by rice pilaf with currants and pine nuts, yogurt, Adana salata
(similar to a Greek salad) and hot ekmek (crusty bread). It is a
common sight at Turkish feasts to serve rice separately spilling
over the platter for a dramatic effect.
Red and white wine, Pellegrino water, and raki were offered
as beverages of choice. Most commonly made from distilled
grapes and flavored with anise, raki is the national drink of
Turkey. It is served all along the Aegean coast, in mezze
restaurants in small carafes with some ice and water. It is a
clear liquid, but when you add ice it turns a milky color.
The ever classic dolmasi
(stuffed vine leaves) were
also served and devoured.
The fragrant spicy dishes left
us all sighing and wondering
what was next!
Dessert was a feast. The
classic lokum, also called
Turkish delight, came
freshly-made from Sevan in
a small bakery and grocer
with a treasure trove of
Middle Eastern treats. Jan
had made a large tray of
spectacular baklava, delicate
and honey soaked. Fresh
fruit, grapes, watermelon,
and an assortment of apples,
pineapple, and pears to
cleanse our palates were also
served with traditional small
glasses of sweetened cay (hot
The next morning we started with a classic Turkish breakfast
of olives, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, yogurt and cheeses, all
drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and spices
(cumin and sumak), and hot ekmek. Fresh, thick black coffee
was offered, and the special roasted beans made for a strong cup.
My very favorite dish was the spinach and eggs that is most
often eaten at breakfast. Jan used a recipe she learned from a
dear Turkish friend.
The time passed too quickly, and the joy from the company of
friends and family, the delectable, mouthwatering foods from
the long ago Ottoman empire, the mutual love of the culture
and people of Turkey will sustain us until our next reunion. ‘Til
we eat again!
The younger generation. Alicia and daughter Lucy on the beach.