Turkish Food

Turkish Cuisine. It’s Memorably Tastys

Photographs by Mike Vickers

Feature photo above: Sunshine on a plate! A colourful and delicious Turkish breakfast

Anyone who’s visited Turkey will tell you the cuisine is fabulous. This is one of the primary reasons Jan and I decided to retire to Fethiye. The Turks have a long and distinguished gastronomic history and as such will just not tolerate dodgy food. In all our years here, we’ve never had a bad meal, but if we occasionally do find ourselves straying into unfamiliar territory we’ve always applied one fundamental rule – search out where the locals eat. You can’t go wrong. We’ve stuck forks into some amazing dishes over the years and plan to continue doing so for as long as possible.

Although photography is a predominantly visual medium, the culinary arts engage an entirely different range of senses – taste, smell and texture. That said, it is generally acknowledged that we do eat with our eyes before picking up our cutlery, but an album comprising photos of a series of plates of food, however colourful or enticing, would be repetitious to say the least. Yes, I’m fully aware cook books are stuffed full of such photos but I’m pretty sure they’re only included to demonstrate just how far us amateurs have deviated from their recipes!

So, in an effort to mitigate that conundrum, I’ve expanded my parameters to include absolutely anything to do with food, from crops in the field to those who sell produce, and anything and everything in between, plus the weird and wonderful which appeals to me personally but only has the most tenuous connections to gastronomy. Be warned!

Some years ago, Jan and I went a road trip to Cappadocia and one of our party took a picture of every meal she ate. This quickly became a running joke with us all, but she so loved the food that she wanted to capture the delight and variety of Turkish cuisine to show all her family and friends back home in the UK. Even now, years later, if I pull out my camera at the table, Jan’s response is always the same: ‘Who do you think you are – Julie?’

So, Julie, my lovely, these are all for you.

Afiyet Olsun.

Let’s start with one of the many local produce markets. We’ve always found this one up at Elmali very welcoming. These two lovely gentlemen were very happy to pause from their shopping for a moment and pose with big smiles.
Not to be outdone, we’re always made most welcome at Fethiye market as well. That’s a fine display of olives and cheese. I’ve a suspicion the sword sticking out of the tub of butter came straight from Game Of Thrones.
A lovely display of Red Mullet seen in Migros, imaginatively choreographed by Busby Berkley’s great-great-great nephew. He would have been so proud.
Has anyone else discovered kunefe yet? It looks like Shredded Wheat, but it most certainly is not. This is shredded filo pastry layered with baked cheese, drenched in sweet syrup and liberally dusted with pistachios. If anything on this good planet of ours can be described as a heart attack on a plate, it is kunefe. We both absolutely adore it! In the time it took me to get my camera out, Jan had already mounted a determined attack on this portion.
Screens of dried chillies hanging in a spice shop in Fethiye’s Paspatur. Not only will they contribute mightily to a wicked, no-hold-barred, bum-burning curry, but also keep flies at bay if draped across a doorway.
Coronavirus has shut virtually all theatres and cinemas, throwing many performers out of work. With too much time on his hands, Mickey now drinks to forget those heady bygone days, holding court from his own table at this lonely beachfront restaurant. His gesture indicates exactly what he thinks of the pandemic to anyone who’s interested.
We love living in a country where a lemon can be substantially bigger than an apple. This monster came from Sherlock (‘A lemon tree, my dear Watson’) who guards our front door.
By no stretch of the imagination can I ever be described as a fisherman, but I actually caught this big blue-armed bad boy. The crabs of the Dalyan delta are a real delicacy and their meat is the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. Sorry, mate…
And while we’re on a maritime theme, this enterprising couple row from gulet to gulet offering freshly cooked gözleme and ice cream from their freezers. This is how Uber Eats started.
Not a blacksmith’s furnace, but the flames are roaring up at Cin Bal in Kaya. The primary feature of a mangal restaurant is that you get to cook the meat you’ve ordered on a charcoal grill wheeled to your table. Here, a big old blower out back is used to get the charcoal all hot and bothered and ready to receive whatever you’ve decided to eat.
Here’s the reason why any pastanesi worth its salt employs a specialist cleaner to wipe the dribble marks from its front window on an hourly basis. Turkey is a country that greatly enjoys an exuberant dessert or two.
Big fat winter cabbages. This was taken on the way to Karaçulha. Get away from the main roads leading out of Fethiye and you soon find yourself surrounded by fields full of amazing vegetables. I also saw strawberries still growing outdoors nearby. In January!
Here’s one from the archives. Our chefs at Yakamoz delighted in creating the most amazingly decorative and delicious mezes. They never disappointed.
This stoical lady braved some horribly rainy weather to sell her home-produced olives and pickled vegetables up at the Uzumlu Mushroom Festival some years ago. Stalls just like this can pop up just about anywhere – we have one around the corner from our house which sells freshly-picked local strawberries.
And when you’ve finally gorged yourself into immobility on all these wonderful dishes, keep your teeth in tip-top condition with Splat Special Stress Off Toothpaste. It’s SPECIALLY for inner harmony, so that’s alright, then.
And finally, menus in Fethiye now often include English translations. Please understand I’m not criticizing as their English is better than my rudimentary Turkish by a country mile, but there can be some lovely linguistic idiosyncrasies and this particular one did make me smile. Yes, for those who have had the pleasure to experience it, Turkish cuisine is most certainly Memorably Tastys.

First published for Fethiye Times 2 February 2021

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