Archive for April, 2013
Down a village alley, pumpkins stacked in a barrow. With bowed heads the wayfarers pass through the gate. They raise their faces to the shelter of a fig tree swelling with fruit which filters the last hot light of a dying day. The crunch of white gravel underfoot, the skitter of stones. A cat watches, superior, slanty-eyed from its vantage up on the surrounding stone walls. Blue chairs, baby tubs bursting with pink flowers. Candles being lit. They are greeted by a woman in black, her face as warm as the late day sun. Platters crowd the long table. Gleaming white counters. Pots hanging from hooks. A village woman works the stove. Another stands just back waiting to plate the wayfarer’s food. The day’s menu is displayed, artichokes with lentils, nettle salad, marinated beets, minced meat in vine leaves, stuffed courgette flowers … everything crisp, and vibrant as if the Aegean soil has just been brushed away. A young man, the son of the beaming woman, uncorks a Sultaniye, places it a vintage cooking pot crackling with ice. Back at the table the wayfarer’s clinking glasses catch the day’s final, glinting light. More guests duck under the gateway. A perfect evening has just begun.
Saturday morning. The sun burns white above, bleaches the earth below white. A man with a resplendent white moustache and an immaculately pressed shirt weighs and sorts piles of fresh catch under a covered structure. On the long glistening marble table hundreds of fish of numerous shapes and hues, lobsters, prawns, shimmer in numbered lots. Craggy faced men, and sunglass-wearing women crowd around the table and ready themselves for the first bid. Mustafa Kemal’s steely blue eyes overlook the gathering from a large wall hanging. It’s 11:00 AM. The man in the striped shirt, the auctioneer, now holds a metre stick with which taps the table immediately below his nose. The first bid is for over 100 TL for a pile of fish. It being the weekend, a woman who runs one of the local restaurants or hotels motions and no one challenges. The fish are immediately bagged and the sale recorded. Apparently the local men seldom, if ever, challenge a woman’s bid. During the next hour over a hundred lots will be auctioned off, the first, best lots going to the restaurant and hotel owners and local gentry, then gradually decreasing in price and quality for the less well healed among the crowd. A day before, before the weekend population surge, towards the end of the proceedings, a man storms off after a vociferous outburst which seemed to end and then abruptly resume at 10-metre intervals. “Yeter, Agabey!” (Enough, brother!) is shouted back at him several times. He doesn’t quiet so much as allow his increasing distance to swallow his uncontainable surges of annoyance. There is some laughter. Today there are no disputes, but there is plenty of excitement, some mild confusion, as the fish is snapped up. After about an hour and a half the lots that will sell have been sold. The morning’s excitement is over. Village life, the large bazaar, and the beach all beckon.
I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who looks forward to breakfast before I’ve started my supper. And for me the acid test of any hotel is its breakfast. Now I’ve had some pretty fine breakfasts in Alaçatı, but the last two mornings have been so good that I’m not sure I’m ever going to want to stay anywhere else. That’s if I can still get a reservation. Top marks to Morro. Think farm fresh eggs. An array of homemade jams. Tapenade and spicy pastes. Like cheese? Let’s just say, wow for now. Nutty good gevrek — what we less well fed Istanbullu call simit — all washed down with some black coffee. I’m seriously considering migration.
White washed walls bright as heaven. Air clean enough to drink in gulps. Slow midday streets. Olives glistening like jewels. The sky a deep kind of blue that the winter made you forget … I’m seriously busy escaping an Istanbul kind of mood for an Aegean kind of feelin’. More later on life with a different kind of texture.
It seems to me that taste is only one small part of what makes us decide on a favourite food. It can’t simply be flavour, but the rich associations it brings to mind every time we bite into something. What makes pizza really just delicious — the right tomatoes, cheese and crust and the right interplay between them, or is it those ingredient combine to summon just the right echoes of comfort, happiness and safety? Just what are we really experiencing every time we indulge in our favourite meal, dessert or drink? Perhaps it’s one of the few ways we can safely revisit a past that would otherwise be lost to us. What will your favourite meal of the future be, Sof? I really wonder.
Last night was the final late night of Printemps Des Artistes 2013 and offered some its most enjoyable moments. Opening night was so busy you could hardly move, let alone appreciate the art on the walls. A particular high moment was watching Takayoshi Sakabe perform his Butoh dance. It was truly dramatic — and not simply because I thought he was going to knock some of my work off the walls. The man not only knows how to produce the most delicate brush strokes as a painter, he knows how to convey a series of really powerful emotional movements. It’s impressive to see such motion/emotion in a gallery which can feel so otherwise restrained environment. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the exhibition there’s still this evening until 8pm and tomorrow until 8pm at Sainte Pulcherie Fransiz Lisesi. Thank you to everyone who came by. It was a great experience.
There’s not much I miss about living in the Nişantanşı area, except perhaps when it comes to the lunchtime value of an eatery like Kantin. What always impressed me about this lunchtime spot was the quality of its ingredients and its clean, flawless service. That same level of professionalism has now been brought to its take-out store opposite Bebek Park. The same thoughtful presentation, incredibly clean kitchen environment — and most importantly — delicious food are all available. As for seating … the park awaits, and if the weather ever decides to cooperate, there are few better places than the seaside Bebek Park to take an impromptu picnic. Don’t forget to sample the homemade ginger ale — it’s been added to my list of elixirs.
(Από τα Ποιήματα 1897-1933, Ίκαρος 1984)
Yesterday was one of many special days in Yeniköy when the Neo Hellenic poet C.P. Cavafy was commemorated by a huge crowd. Rather than write at length about the experience, I thought I’d post the poem Voices (translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard) from the official website of the poet’s estate.
Tonight from 18:30-22:00 the doors open on Printemps Des Artistes 2013 at Sainte Pulchérie Fransız Lisesi. The theme of the exhibition is Passages. And I’ve been anticipating it for months because I am one of the nine creative people included in the exhibition. Yesterday when I went to hang the pictures I got a firsthand preview of the eight other minds contributing to the show. It’s a really interesting international mix with some established talent and some newcomers (such as yours truly). If you can’t make it tonight, please drop by some time between tomorrow and the 20th — except Sunday, when the gallery is closed. There’s also going to be a party next Thursday from 18:30 to 22:00 (the 18th) where Takayoshi Sakabe, one of the painters, will perform a Japanese Butoh dance and Stephanie Westdal will provide some of her signature songs. Also on the afternoons of Tuesday and Friday between 13:00-15:00 there’s meet the artist sessions. Look forward to greeting you there.
DIRECTIONS: Towards the Taksim end of Istiklal Caddesi find Kuçük Parmakkapı Sokak (if you’re walking from the Square there’s a McDonald’s on the corner, on your left). Walk straight down the road about 75 metres until you come face-to-brick with Istanbul Atatürk Lisesi. Turn right, walk 15 metres and then turn left onto Çukurluçesme Sokak walk another 20 metres and ring the gate (if the door’s not open) at number 7 Sainte Pulcherie Fransız Lisesi. The gallery is downstairs.
Ever wander past a pay phone that started ringing? Did you stop, ponder the choice to pick it up and then walk on? Or did you pick it up, expecting some sort of portentous voice on the other end? I picked it up. Several times. Unfortunately I’m still waiting for the voice on the other end.