Learn another language, become another person

There is an interesting Turkish saying: “One language, one person; two languages, two people.”

I think it’s true. I spend a lot of time speaking Turkish, and I’ve absorbed a host of common everyday phrases that oil the machinery of social intercourse in this country.

There’s the phrase you say to your fellow diners when you sit down to a meal, and when you rise from the table;

Tayyip from God

Follower of a 21st century prophet

There’s one you address to someone who’s been to the hairdresser, or is emerging squeaky clean from a bath or shower;

There’s a friendly wish you express when you enter an office or other workplace where others are working; a standard expression of condolence to people who have lost a loved one; an utterance of admiration for the beauty or handsomeness of a new baby; a polite phrase that passes responsibility for future uncertainty to the Almighty . . .

In Turkish, you need never be at a loss for the right phrase to employ in one of the many human interactions that transcend cultural boundaries – but which tax our creative conversational powers in English-speaking countries. When I go back to New Zealand I sometimes find myself tongue-tied, with a Turkish phrase dying on my lips.

And then there is the reverse situation. Turkish people are generally sociable, and especially keen to interrogate a new acquaintance. Questions like, “How old are you?” and “How much is your salary?” tend to crop up rather earlier in a relationship than we Westerners are accustomed to. I used to struggle with the well-meaning inquiry, “Why did you come to Turkey?” In fact, it’s a rather long story, as you can imagine – and not one I am ready to share with everyone on short acquaintance.

Recently I’ve come up with a brief formula that seems to work. “It was fate,” I say. “God took me by the hand and led me here.” In New Zealand, such an answer uttered with straight face would probably be considered an indication of borderline insanity. In Turkey, my new friend will very likely nod wisely and consider the matter satisfactorily explained.


In former times, a long white beard seems to have been a key indicator of prophet-hood – but times change

So I wasn’t at all surprised when I read in this morning’s newspaper that the chairperson of a local women’s branch of the AK Party in Ankara had said that Turkey’s controversial President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was sent by God. In fact, what she actually said (translating from the Turkish, of course) was something like, “Our president is a person so divine, he is a human being sent by Allah and a hope for the global Muslim community. Is there any way other than to follow him, to serve him on his path?”

Now, ok, I have friends in New Zealand (well, one friend, actually) who used to express great admiration for former Prime Minister and unabashed capitalist finance big shot, John Key; and clearly Donald Trump couldn’t have got himself elected president of the world’s greatest democracy if he didn’t have a few enthusiastic fans. Even Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe for thirty years, probably had a few sycophantic hangers-on willing to say nice things about him for the favours he might bestow.

But “sent by God”? “Divine”? “Serve him on his path”? I don’t think so. That’s a Turkish thing. Something definitely gets lost in translation when you try to say it in English. But the interesting thing is, a lot of people here will be nodding their heads in agreement.


Camel! A One in All Creatures

What a fascinating article! I will now view camels in an entirely new light!

Natural Health with the Camel Milk

One can imagine, how distinctive and special can be the gift of God. The Bedouin gives name Ata Allah (gift of God), hence considered as precious and matchless. Nevertheless, of its products, camels’ physiology, and behavior is specially designed to survive in harsh conditions of its habitat and sustain the livelihood of its keepers in climate change scenario. Camel has all the characteristics which are otherwise scattered in all the other known and useful animals. The following table shows the importance of camel if compared to other livestock species. Livestock vs camel. Every product of camel is useful, even urine (traditionally use for medicinal conditions like the ear infection, water belly and some kinds of dermatitis) and dung are valuable.Camels’ Manure~From Waste to a Worthwhile Farming Agent

camel picThe long bones of camel are very attractive for nomads’ women and use for making jewelry. The camel rearing communities have very firm links…

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Life is Strange!

DSCF0206We went to a concert on Friday evening. It was part of a programme presented by the organisers of the 2017 Gümüşlük Classical Music Festival. The venue is an ancient quarry said to be the source of the stone used in the construction of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It’s a spectacular and evocative setting, as you can imagine.

Top musicians from Turkey and Europe come to Gümüşlük every summer to run master classes for promising young musicians, and give a series of concerts for holidaymakers lucky enough to be around at the time.

IMG_2057We enjoyed a programme of music by Saint-Saens, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Fauré and Brahms played by cellist Dilbağ Tokay and pianist Eren Levendoğlu. It was marvellous – but that’s not actually what I want to tell you about.

We arrived at the venue some 40 minutes early, so we popped over to a restaurant across the road for a coffee to pass the time. As I was waiting to pay the bill, the gentleman ahead of me said “Hello”. Well, I’m accustomed to being identified as a foreigner by Turks wanting to practise their English. “Hello,” I replied. “What’s your name?” The gentleman looked a little taken aback. “My name is Gilles,” he replied. “Ah, are you French?” I asked. Yes he was. We exchanged a few pleasantries during which I told him I’m from New Zealand but I live in Istanbul, and he told me he lives in California. “Nice to meet you, etc etc.”

So we showed our tickets, found our seats in the quarry, and I began leafing through the programme. It soon emerged that my new French acquaintance was actually one of the stars of the festival, a world famous violinist, Gilles Apap! His brief bio informed me that Yehudi Menuhin himself had identified M. Apap as a virtuoso for the 21st century. Sad to say we had missed his one-and-only concert a few days earlier – and I hadn’t even got his autograph.

Well, I checked him out online when we got home. You can visit Gilles Apap’s website here. Not only is he an accomplished classical violinist, his repertoire extends to gypsy music and American folk. As small compensation for my ignorance, I purchased an album from iTunes, Gypsy Tunes. You can listen to a sample here:

Life is strange!

Peel me a(n) grape/orange

Orange Peel – the Cinderella of Foodstuffs

. . . with thanks to my good friend and ally in the political struggle, Andreas Schmidt.

Just like Cinderella, orange peel is one of those things that, once you’ve discovered their true worth, you won’t be able to live without. Orange peel is a food superstar that came from the shadows, overlooked and underappreciated. But no more!

Dried-Oranges_-27-1024x683What do the Turkish Rivera, German Christmas food, an aromatic scent in your kitchen, your next BBQ, as well as ways to brighten your skin and, maybe, even to lower bad cholesterol and fight depression have in common? You guessed it, orange peel! Orange peel, a food by-product really; because, after all, we usually just peel our oranges or tangerines, eat the flesh of our grapefruits, squeeze the juice out of our lemons and discard the skins without second thought. Well, this has to stop! Orange peel is a treasure, and not something for the trash can.

A sun-soaked little helper


Orange trees in Antalya

When you think of citrus fruits, you inevitably think of the sun, the sea and holiday. Because, after all, where do most of these little delicacies come from? Sun-soaked places, of course: Spain, Italy, Greece Florida and Turkey to name but a few! Turkey, in fact, is not only one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, but also one of the global players in the citrus fruit market. Grapefruits and, now even, Kiwis from the Mersin and Adana regions. Oranges from Antalya and the world-famous Bodrum tangerines. All of them chock-full with the energy of the Mediterranean sun that kisses the shores of Asia Minor for over 300 days per year. And it’s this sun which powers up our little friends with vitamins, and minerals, gives them taste and makes them an unmissable addition to any healthy diet.

But after we’ve let our palates savour the sweet aroma of that plum and juicy orange or have added zest to our salads by sprinkling them wish freshly squeezed lemon juice, what do we do with the skin protecting our little helpers? One thing, we certainly shouldn’t do, is to throw them out. And here is why:

Combine them with other things to create an explosion of flavours.

What is German Christmas famous for? Well, snow, fairy tales, the Christmas tree, markets, gingerbread and that weird but wonderful hot mulled wine they drink while standing around outside tables in sub-zero temperatures. But did you know that the last two things wouldn’t be half as tasty without the help of orange peel? The age-old recipe for German gingerbread, known as ‘Lebkuchen’, doesn’t contain even a trace of ginger but lots of candied orange peel. It’s added to offset the pungent flavour of the cocktail of spices that is used to make these delicacies with a zesty, yet sweet note. And the same is true for the hot mulled wine, aka ‘Glühwein’ – literally ‘glowing wine’ – which is drunk by Germans around Christmas time: a variety of choice red wines is reinforced with spices ranging from cinnamon and cloves to ginger. Then this mixture is heated slowly with the addition of lemon or orange zest. Some like the taste of it, others disagree, but one thing is for sure: it smells like heaven! And smells lead us to yet another use of orange peel.

The smell of a citrus grove in your home

Sometimes that kitchen or bathroom just has this weird, unidentifiable smell which doesn’t go away however much we scrub the floor and wipe down the kitchen cabinets with our supermarket-bought cleaning products. But help is at hand, and it’s completely organic: vinegar infused with orange peel! It’s true vinegar by itself often has an uncomfortable smell, even though it is a potent cleaning and anti-bacterial agent. Infusing orange peel with vinegar makes the unwanted smelliness of it vanish in a heartbeat and what is left, is an organic cleaning product that smells like a citrus grove in Tuscany, Italy, or Bodrum, Turkey. By the way, the same is true if you add orange or any other citrus peel to

your trash can or rubbish chute. No more embarrassing odours, just the sweet scent of oranges, tangerines and lemons!

Which might also be an interesting addition to your meat at your next BBQ. 

A citric fire starter


Just look at that! You can probably smoke them too, I wouldn’t be surprised.

You want to preserve those trees (you might even live in one of those country where trees are usually only found in shopping malls), but still want to get a real BBQ – and not one of those electric or gas- fired ones – going? No problems, simply buy some traditional charcoal and dry that orange peel you have left over from your last attempts to live a healthy lifestyle. Dried orange or any other citric peel works perfectly as a fire starter for your BBQ – no petrochemicals needed – and they add that special aroma to the smoke that marinates your meat. And, hey, you’re burning the peel of citrus fruits. That must mean you are adding vitamins to your greasy fix – who says, you aren’t living healthily!

Speaking of health…

Orange peel has been shown to have some serious health benefits

More than one serious scientific study has shown that using orange peel in cosmetic or medical products can bring significant benefits. Cleopatra is believed not only to have bathed in donkey milk, but to also have used orange peel as a skin scrub. And who would argue with the Queen of Egypt? Traditional Chinese medicine has also long since used orange peel as a drug of choice to fight off viral infections and to combat digestive problems. More recent experiences have shown orange peel to aid the lowering of bad cholesterol. And therapist rely on the scent of citric fruit in the treatment of their patients with depression, especially those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

All in all, not a bad performance for a mere food by-product. A Cinderella-food if ever there was one. And I am certain that you will look differently at orange peel from now on!

Happy News – The cherry season is here!

Don’t we need some happy news from time to time? I’m passing this on from Hurriyet Daily News, with acknowledgments and thanks to Aylin Öney Tan:

Who does not like cherries? Luscious and lush, the cherry is undoubtedly the most attractive of all the fruits. Everywhere in the world, cherry-picking time is a joy, a true manifestation of summer. Cherries belong to June and its appearance is always an early celebration of a bountiful summer. 

arome-cerise-noire-pa-black-cherry-flavorThe cherry is native to Anatolia and has many secrets attached to it. The rumor is that the Roman King Lucullus is responsible for diffusing the cherry to the world. When he set foot on the north Anatolian town of Giresun on the Black Sea coast, he was soon to discover his favorite fruit. When one views old engravings of the city, one clearly sees that the hills backing the settlement resemble a pair of horns. When one looks down towards the sea from the same hills, the city crawls into the sea like an arching horn. Ancient Romans must have seen this and accordingly named the city Kerasus, after the Latin word “Kerason” or horn. So when Lucullus tasted the cherry, he probably did not hesitate a moment to name it after the town he encountered it for the first time. The Cerasus or Kerasus became the root word for the cherry, (English: cherry; French: cerise; Italian: Ciliegia; German: Kirsch; Hungarian: cseresznye; Greek: kerasia; Assyrian: karasya; Arabic: kerez, and last but not least the Turkish kiraz). 

Of course, this is a nice story, one of the culinary myths we like to believe in. But though considered native to Anatolia, long before Lucullus the cherry tree had already made its way in Europe. Prehistoric lake sites in Switzerland reveal cherry pits, and there are several Roman period cherries recorded before Lucullus’ time. While the history of the cherry remains an unsolved mystery, it also has a wild secret. One wild or ancestral variety of the cherry tree, known as St. Lucie (astonishingly similar to Lucullus’ name) is mostly praised not for its fruit, but for its tiny almond-like kernels inside the fruit’s pit. That bitter almond tasting kernel makes an ideal spice, much loved in Turkey, the Balkans, and the Middle East. 

The spice is called mahlep in Turkish, the Latin name of the tree being, Prunus mahaleb, coming from both Arabic and Hebrew mahaleb. The root of the word probably comes from the Semitic root h.l.b meaning milk, one wonders whether it has a linkage with another city known for its formidable cherries, Aleppo. The relation of Aleppo with the root halab, or milk is attributed to the milky white stone the city was built from. Aleppo has wonderful cherry-based kebabs and dishes; one small town close to Aleppo has cherry as its symbol. When I used to visit Syria in the good old days I always searched to find a tea I liked very much, which had nothing to do with cherries but was branded with a cherry logo. It was actually a tea from Sri Lanka, but the cheerful cherry trademark was attractive and the Cherry Brand tea had a really good taste. I don’t know if it was true, but somebody told me that the owner of the brand was from that cherry-town near Aleppo. I’d really like to find more out the Aleppo-Mahaleb link and see if it has the potential to create a new culinary myth that relates the cherry to a city. 

Actually, there is one secret to a cherry that everyone knows: Bursting with life, cherry is the most cheerful of all fruits!