Saturday, January 14, 2012

Going out on Friday night

The Turkish women really pulled out the stops (idiom based on organ playing.) for Ellen and me on Friday night. A neighbor of one of my colleagues invited us to a traditional Turkish dinner. We arrived at 6:00 p.m., slipped out of our muddy boots and into some black men's Turkish slippers (Ellen and my feet are too big to fit into the cute sequin covered slippers that most women wear), and gave the traditional Turkish hugs and kisses to all the women present.

We were ushered into the living room where we chatted a bit until the tricky question was asked. "Are you hungry?" This question always throws me for a loop because here's what happens. If I say, 'yes' and it's not dinner time or tea time, they walk me into the kitchen and prepare some extra food for me to eat immediately and then, when the intended food is presented, I'm stuffed. If I say 'no', I'm not hungry and it is dinnertime, then they let the meal get cold until I say I'm hungry. So, on Friday night, I turned to my Turkish English teacher colleague and whispered, "What should I answer?" She laughed and said, "Say, you're hungry."

We all stood, and moved to the entryway where the meal was sitting on a table cloth on top of a Turkish carpet on the floor. The presentation was beautiful. The hostess pointed to seats for Ellen and me. Thank goodness I had been wearing my jeans for about a week and they were loose enough to not split when I lowered myself to sit "Indian style", I mean "Native American Style", I mean "like a pretzel." (See, I've been in Turkey so long I don't know how to be politically correct.)

The meal...I warned Ellen there would be a lot of food...was delicious. The problem is, the portions are huge and if we don't finished everything, the hostess thinks we don't like it. Ellen was a trooper. She plowed through her bowl of six kofte...I'm usually full after two but I managed to eat four and then asked to take the rest home. (There is a good luck coin in one of the kofte and I was afraid we were going to have to eat all of the kofte to find the it.) We all had bowls of thick, delicious lentil soup, carrot and yogurt salad, sarma (grape leaves wrapped around rice/bulgar), mixed salad (lettuce, red cabbage, onions, cucumber and tomatoes) and bread. We drank ayran (yogurt, water, and salt) and Pepsi.

After dinner, we went back to the living room, drank many cups of chai and nibbled on Turkish cookies. More women joined us. More hugs and kisses were passed around. Several of the older women were crocheting intricate lace. Everyone was laughing and talking across the room trying to be part of at least three different conversations. The issue of my age always comes up and they are always surprised that I'm 51. One of the women crocheting was 52, had married at age 14, had 5 children, and indicated that several of the children popping in and out were her grandchildren.

Several women were eager to present Ellen's picture to their sons or nephews. We discussed bride prices (I think they were pulling my leg but they said I could get a good price for her like 10,000 or 20,000 TL). One woman has a nice nephew studying law in Canada who wants to work in Alaska and he only speaks English now and has forgotten his Turkish so he would be a good match. Ellen and I got some good laughs out of this. Yes, we agree the Turkish men are very handsome, but....looks aren't everything....

The dinner concluded with a delicious Turkish coffee prepared by the hostess's daughter who was home from university for the weekend. I have a lot respect for a well-prepared cup because I can't do it. I either burn it or make it too watery. And, of course, the evening would not be complete without the "reading of the coffee grounds" by the evening's "expert fortune teller." Ellen, of course, will meet a nice, handsome Turkish man and have a good travels in Spain. I will meet my husband and have good travels in Turkey.

It was a beautiful, memorable evening and the hostess really out did herself!

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