Eat’n Out! Turkey, The Place!

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, August 19, 2023

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Column written by Robert Duke

This past Christmas, my daughter gave me a great gift. She knows I really enjoy trying new foods and snacks and I especially enjoy learning about and experiencing other cultures. She gave me a subscription for one year to receive a package from a surprise country each month containing snacks, cookies, chips, chocolates, and many other goodies from the “country of the month”. The package also contains interesting pictures, maps, games, recipes, sightseeing suggestions, cultural points-of-interest, and much more. You may be tired of hearing it by now, but I always preface with this explanation so new readers know what I am talking about.

This month’s country is Turkey. Or “Turkiye” as they spell it. Some interesting fact:
1) Tavuk gogsu, a popular Turkish dessert is made with shredded chicken. They save some steps and combine dinner and dessert with this one. It is a meaty, milky pudding made by boiling shredded chicken breast and mixing it with milk, sugar, rice, and cinnamon. The result is a super thick, sweet and creamy pudding with a subtle chicken flavor. It might sound weird, but it is good and was once reserved for only Sultans in their Istanbul palaces.

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2) Istanbul is the only major city on earth that lies on two different continents. It falls right on the border between Europe and Asia.

3) Per Capita, Turkey is the largest consumer of Tea.

4) Turkey is the sight of the world’s first Temple. It was built 12,000 years ago in the Anatolia region. It predates pottery, writing, the wheel, and even farming. It is known as “Gobekli Tepe”. If you watch much cable channel TV, you probably have heard of it.

5) After saying goodbye to some Turkish friends don’t be surprised if they throw some water out their door. It may be a little concerning but it actually means they want you to return. While no one knows the exact origin of this custom, it is associated with an old saying “go smooth like water and come back as it is”. So, if you get a little splashed, don’t be mad. It only means you have made some new friends.

There is so much history in Turkey. In fact, it is home to 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites. These special locations are historically significant and help us understand nature and history. Examples are places like Troy, Ephesus, Nemrut Dag, and the City of Safranbolu. These sites, and others, are very important to the origin and history of the world. I could write volumes on these sites but not today. I do suggest that you Google those if you are interested though.

The treats I received in this package this month are:

– Street Corn Pretzel Pieces (Freshly picked corn poached in milk with butter, sugar, and spices. The result is sweet-corn flavored pretzel pieces that are really out-of-this-world delicious.)

– Coffee Coconut Cake (Turkish coffee in cake form)

– Cola Marshmallows (marshmallow treats with cola flavor)

– Date Cookie Bar (a tasty Ramadan tradition with dates, butter, and sugar.)

– Honey Mustard and Onion Rice Cakes (sweet, zesty, and extra crunchy)

– Cocoa Hazelnut Mosaic Cookies (made with Turkish tahini, hazelnut, and cocoa. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds)

– Sugar Coated Chickpeas (a very sweet street food)

– Assorted Turkish Delight (This was interesting. It is about 300 years old when a candy maker was asked to make a delight for the Sultan to give to his wives. The result was a sweet jelly candy scented with rose petals. Nowadays you can get multiple flavors. Included in my box was rose, orange, and lemon.)

– Orange Jelly Tartlets (Lots of citrus grown on the Mediterranean. These are cocoa-sprinkled, orange-filled tartlets.)

– Turkish Coffee (Rich, thick, aromatic. Its so rich it is creamy without even having to add milk. I made it in our espresso machine.)

– Coco Banana Cake (Fluffy cake with a creamy banana filling.)

So much history comes from Turkey. I only visited the country once years ago. I experienced everyday life in the city of Izmir and found it rich with culture, history, and hospitality. My first cup of coffee was so strong I felt like I needed to paint the house or something before I could go to sleep. Their tea was just as strong, and I loved both of them.

This package from Turkey also contained a recipe for a national dish called “Doner Kebabs”. This recipe looks great and contains yogurt, tomato paste, lemon zest, garlic cloves, cayenne pepper, Baharat spice, and boneless, skinless, chicken thighs. I am going to try it and if it is good, I will tell you about it for when you want to go Eat’n Out!