A family restaurant

Some of our most memorable meals in Turkey were in family-run restaurants. In the village of Şirince (pronounced Shirin-je), not far from Ephesus, we walked through a large door, up some stairs, and into a courtyard with a verandah running around it. Tables were set out on the verandah, and we chose one looking out on the trees in the courtyard.

The restaurant was run by a young couple. One part of the house was given over to the restaurant, and they seemed to live in a part with a separate entrance, but looking over the same courtyard. My translator app was not needed very often because the lady spoke some English, and I’d managed to pick up enough words to make rough sense of the menu.

They had wonderful salads, with flavourful carrots and greens (that’s one nice thing about eating in a place with its own kitchen garden). I’d been missing salads, so I ordered another one made of pumpkin and walnut. For the mains we had ribs. We’d grown fond of gözleme (pronounced goez-li-may), which is something like a stuffed paratha. The Family adventurously ordered one with eggplant. This was surprisingly good.

The couple didn’t mind us watching them at work in the kitchen. The division of labour was interesting: the lady made the gözleme while the man frenched and grilled the ribs. There are hundreds of questions which rise in my mind, about methods and material, when I watch people cook. While we ate, a group of women, from a town, going by their looks, came in to eat. Listening to their easy chatter with the couple, I wished I’d known enough Turkish to be able to ask the questions which had come to mind while I’d watched the couple in the kitchen.

The day had started sunny but clouds gathered as we ate. There were even a few drops of rain. Our table got windy and cold, so for coffee we moved to a corner which was better protected. This part of the verandah had a bunch of photos on the wall: all of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Was this a family of staunch republicans? A hundred years of history has made everyone a republican. The lady was sharing work with the man, talking to customers, head uncovered.

Walking through Şirince

Şirince is a beautiful village, and walking through it was a wonderful experience. I’ll let my photos of it speak for themselves.

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Fruit juice and gözleme

The food writer, Diana Henry, writes “The path of the conquering forces of Islam, as they swept their way across to North Africa and up into Spain and Sicily, is marked in citrus groves.” But did the Arabs have oranges before the Turks came to the Mediterranean from the western plains of China? I wondered as I drank gallons of fresh pressed orange juice every day. I branched out into the sweet red pomegranate juice later, but the sour and sweet taste of the Turkish oranges remained my favourite. This is something I’ve enjoyed in every country which borders on the north of the Mediterranean. In Turkey I could find a little stall in every market corner of a village.

The other wonderful thing I discovered was the gözleme (pronounced goez-li-may). I first saw it being rolled when we walked along the Ihlara valley. In a little pavilion by the side of a restaurant which sprawled along the banks of the river, two ladies were hard at work rolling out these things which are like a paratha. The ladies were busy, and did not look like they would take kindly to interruption. Talking to others I figures that the dough is unleavened, just like paratha dough, and fillings can be as varied than typical parathas.

I ate gözleme fairly often later, but every time I ate them I remembered these two ladies rolling them out like a factory. I’ve had paratha adventures in Old Delhi’s streets, where potato, spinach, and meat are common, and chocolate parathas have been invented recently. Gözleme seems to have undergone a similar evolution.