One of my favorite things to do is to go out for breakfast. I loved it in college when "breakfast" could mean anything from 2:00 a.m. at Denny's after an evening of drinking 3.2 beer at the local fraternities to 5:00 a.m. at Perkins after pulling an "all-nighter" studying for a business law exam and hoping to "pull out" a passing grade, to a gas-station-converted-diner in Boulder with the to-die-for giant, greasy omelets and homemade, hearty bread, to today, sitting in an outdoor cafe in Izmir, Turkey realizing I've finally adapted to, and currently love, what constitutes" breakfast" in Turkey. Although the name of the meal is the same, the food is really different, and those differences are symbolic of the changes in me that have occurred over the past two years.
Kavalti is big and filling, like brunch in America, but the focus is on very different things. Where we have large plates of bacon, eggs, pancakes or waffles, the foods here are served on little plates and small dishes like appetizers. They tend to be more protein-heavy although they do have an enjoyable share of carbohydrates. I do love bread! There is usually a plate of seasonal greens lightly flavored with local olive oil and fresh lemons. Today's "in-season" greens consisted of ripe-on-the-vine cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced Turkish cucumbers, a sliced light-green banana pepper with just the proper zing, and little parsley.
Today's center platter had samples of 3 kinds of cheeses: one hard, one medium soft and one feta sprinkled with chopped, fresh local walnuts and a hard-boiled egg. The plate also had tiny bowls of green and black olives, homemade spicy red pepper tomato paste with crushed walnuts, local honey, fresh, homemade cherry preserves, Nutella (I usually skip this), butter, and kaymak, a thick yogurt concoction that spreads like soft butter and tastes like thick whipped cream. I'm sure it has the calories to match but I don't care.
Last, but by no means least, is the basket of bread. The bread basket changes by regions of Turkey, and although they are all good, I really love Izmir's bread. They have thick slices of country white and hearty wheat, rolls covered with sunflower seeds, and simit, Turkish "bagels" covered with sesame seeds.
The secret to enjoying kavalti is the experimentation of mixing the different flavors together to see what taste is the most pleasing to you. Here's how I eat:
1. I start with the hard-boiled egg because by the time I usually get to the restaurant I'm starving. For example, today I woke up at 6:00 am and my family Skyped me for Mother's Day. Then I went for a fun, read some newspaper articles , and researched Swiss Army Knives for a possible EFL lesson. By the time I got to the restaurant, it was 10:00 am (typical) so I was famished. The egg takes care of the growling stomach almost immediately.
2. I eat some olives. This is the amazing part. As I've mentioned before, I used to hate olives and now I think they're delicious. I still prefer black to green and I think it's the salt that I crave/need with the exercise in the heat. In reality, I had to learn to like them because they are such a big part of this culture, and now I can't imagine not having ever liked them.
3. I dive into the cheese and vegetables. Here's where I get creative. I mix the cheeses with the red pepper tomato paste. Or I spread the paste on the vegetables. Or I spread the cheese on the vegetables. I decide which is the "flavor of the day" and eat a lot of that combination. (I should mention that I have a "go to" breakfast place because the quality and flavor of cheese is consistently delicious and pleasing to my pallet. More often than not, buy cheese I don't like, so I generally stick to this cafe for my calcium intake.) Today's delicious combination was spicy tomato paste on the hard white cheese with a walnut top.
4. I save the bread for my dessert. I vary the types of bread with the honey, kaymak, cherry preserves, maybe all three, maybe only one...and I eat until I'm stuffed. I usually skip the butter because, frankly, the kaymak is so delicious and I think we have better butter at home..(same with the beef but that's another post). Today, I used my bread to scrape the bowl of the cherry preserves so that was the "flavor of the day."
5. All this eating is washed down with never-ending glasses of tea. (another big change..I love coffee but it just doesn't go well with Turkish breakfast so I usually drink my coffee first thing in the morning to wake up and save the tea for breakfast.)
Flexibility and willingness to try new things are some of the many benefits I've gained by living in a new culture.