Eating Turkish style
This is probably the most frustrating aspect of overseas life for me. The lack of familiar foods and spices has thrown me for a loop in multiple countries. I’ve spent countless hours wandering around supermarkets with foreign language dictionaries and/or my phone translator, just trying to figure out if they had an ingredient I needed, which in most cases they did not. Here in Turkey, I’ve bought collard greens thinking it was spinach, parsley that I had mistaken for cilantro, and don’t even get me started on the cheeses. Even when I don’t mistake ingredients, they just generally don’t have what I need. I’m often forced to make some interesting substitutions that Martha Stewart would surely not approve of.
I also run into problems because I don’t eat red meat or pork so dinner options are limited. There are only so many ways to make chicken or salmon without boring the kids to death. I find myself scouring the internet for new and interesting recipes or just throwing together dishes with whatever I can find that looks fresh that day. The kids will ask what’s for dinner and I’ll tell them it’s parmesan crusted chicken, chicken piccata, and chicken marsala all rolled into one and I see some very confused faces staring back at me! I’m just happy that I have a very hungry and easily pleased family because I was sure I’ve butchered recipes before, but they eat it up regardless. My daughter even says I should go on Master Chef. Oh how I love her!
Eating out presents its own challenges, as Turkish fare is heavy on the meat. I do eat chicken, though I don’t love it, so when we’re out I’m pretty much stuck eating chicken shish which is just grilled chicken on a stick. Boring! At home I prefer to eat vegetable or fish dishes, but If I do eat chicken it’ll most likely be buffalo wings from my favorite Manhattan wing spot, Blondies, and then I’m in heaven. Out here the options are limited to chicken shish or pide, which is a type of Turkish pizza. Most traditional Turkish restaurants do not offer fish dishes. When we lived in Izmir there were more options for fish because we were on the water, but where we live now we’re out of luck. I did hear that we’ll have more fish options in the winter so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that. Still pretty disappointing considering I absolutely love eating out. Even my daughter, who after making the choice a year and a half ago to eat only chicken and fish, actually came home from school yesterday and declared that she was going back to meat. She stated that she went hungry too often at school because they serve so much meat, and she was tired of eating chicken shish at restaurants. Yikes.
A few years ago in Izmir the team took the Americans out for Thanksgiving and tried to present a traditional meal. It wasn’t quite right, but they did serve a turkey and we were touched by the effort.