• Places

    mistanbul returns

    I like the way mist isolates objects, and shrouds the city in an atmosphere of mystery — it becomes kind of minimalist, like a Danish mystery. I’m suddenly imagining a co-production: From the North Sea to the Black Sea … a body floats past a Turkish socialite’s tea party, still clutching a diplomatic pouch in her pulse-free fingers. Murder most foul. One victim, two passports. A diplomat or a spy? Chief Inspector Sigurd Ericcson and Kaptan Mehmet-Ali Osman are on the case. How will the differing investigative styles of this unlikely duo lead to an arrest? A cross cultural clash is inevitable as a pan-continental pursuit leads the two from the water’s edge to the razor’s edge. From steam-soaked hamams to sweltering saunas, from Taksim Square’s wig-wearing, gender-bending transvestites to a sado-masochistic European Parliamentarian, a bizarre array of locations, witnesses and suspects will lead our Nordic-Turkic crime-fighting heroes on a harrowing journey to uncover…

  • Food & Drink

    turpentine latté: menengiç kahvesi

    Last weekend in Urfa, at the Gümrük Han, I experienced a new type of hot drink that is far tastier — and probably far healthier — than many a high street chain store latté, known as menengiç kahvesi. Made from the dried and roasted wild fruit of Pistacia Terebinthus or the Turpentine Tree, I’d like to dub it the Turpentine Latté in English! Sounds appetizing, no? Okay, maybe not. In any case, the first sip was something quite unexpected and quite delicious, and I felt compelled to sample a second, which was not as enjoyable because it was overly sweet. However, since trying it at home, unsweetened, as I normally take my black coffee, I’ve discovered this is a welcome alternative to an evening coffee, when you have no desire to go to bed with caffeine-induced heart palpitations, or stay up all night pondering the meaning of the universe. Despite my…

  • Places

    fire and water: urfa

    Şanlıurfa, El Ruha, Edessa, Riha or perhaps just plain old Urfa (as it’s most commonly referred to) is a welcome surprise. The drive in from the airport, however, is not encouraging.. An imposing and ugly housing boom has left much of the outer fringe of modern Urfa looking like a victim of its own success. Then, however, you penetrate that encircling ugliness and find an ancient land associated with the prophet Abraham/Ibrahim and the local traditions of its Kurdish population as well as a very large Arabic minority and you begin to sense that you’re in for something different and possibly wonderful. Make no mistake: this is the East of Turkey, close to the Syrian border. Yet despite its proximity to that troubled land, it did not seem at my first, and very cursory glance, especially affected by the troubles on the other side of the border, nor too interested in…

  • Food & Drink

    gnarly nutrition

    If Dirty Harry Callahan were turned into flower, he’d be an artichoke. No doubt. Tough and weathered on the outside but on the whole a force for good. He’d be a thistle in the side — I know, the expression is ‘thorn’ but artichokes are a type of thistle not rose — of any bad-ass interlopers who thought they could muscle in on his vegetable patch. Feeling lucky, punk? Eat an artichoke.

  • People

    cherry-coloured thanks

    Picked these branches up after a visit to Cup of Joy in Bebek today. My taxi driver asked if they were for him — Hadi Canim! Anyway these branches are kind of reminiscent of calligraphy to me, rather like a floral love note from a Geisha, or at the very least a dog-eared postcard from a long lost girlfriend in Japan in spring when the streets are carpeted with petals.  Ahh … spring. Wish I could take you all there. In any case, think of this as an early Valentine to all of MYPHILOSOFIA’s faithful followers. Thank you for sticking with me over the last two years. You’re every bit as beautiful to me.

  • Food & Drink

    edible sunshine?

    Ever get the feeling that nature speaks in codes? This won’t come as a surprise to those who know me, but … I do. Especially when it comes to foods. That’s why I think our dietary needs are colour coded to tell us in which season they’d be most useful. Take yellow for instance. During flu season, I think of nature’s golden gifts. Whether it’s a lush, saturated orange-yellow as in Turmeric (both the dry, powdered form or fresh root) lemon, honey, ginger, all of which have powerful healing and health-preserving properties. It’s almost as if these naturally occurring colours provide the kind of stored-up sunshine we miss during the wan winter months when the light turns pale and washed out. Notice how the turmeric roots stain the wood? Call me crazy but the alchemist in me thinks of that as edible sunshine, my friends. Eat it up.

  • Places

    old city, new door

    Don’t know about you, but I like a good door. This one was particularly appealing as I passed it by in a Sultanahmet han today. I like the patina of rust over the chipped green paint. I like the way it’s ramshackle and yet still locked up. I like the fact it’s all gone slightly off kilter with age (I can relate). And I really like the way the cats seemed to keep a lookout from it, slipping through the narrow gap at the bottom with their semi-liquid bodies. This unpretentious entrance is kind of grand.

  • Places

    the wonder of the pinewood

    In Istanbul it’s increasingly difficult to remember that our world isn’t comprised entirely of concrete and glass. Luckily this city has a few surprises left in store. One of which is only a few hundred meters from Haci Osman Metro station. Rough and unkept, unlike Emirgan Park or Belgrad Forest, is a large, and largely unused, pine wood. Although it’s open to the public, it’s not open to cars — although, unfortunately, it did seem to be open to the  odd motorcycle. A few hundred meters from the entrance, you begin to lose sight of anything but the stands of pine. A blue sky looms overhead, and sunlight filters through the branches. Soon the city disappears, and aside from the wail of the occasional siren, you hear little more than the wind through the trees. Stray a little from the beaten paths and you’ll soon feel the soft springy carpet…

  • Food & Drink

    the ultimate grain

    Perhaps I’m biased, being descended from Scottish stock, but I think the humble wee oat is a champion among grains. I wonder if Robbie Burns ever made an ode to an oat? He certainly did an Address To A Haggis, and would haggis be the same beast without oats? Oats seem to have a special affinity for fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and thus make nice chewy cookies, or if you’re feeling like ramping up the fruit factor further, contribute magnificently to a spot of crumble. Perhaps even more intriguingly (for some of us, at least) they also wash down nicely when brewed into a fantastic kind of stout that finishes with an even more chocolatey silk finish than that possessed by a Guinness. God, I’d really love a pint now. I hope Brewmaster Hall at the Bosphorus Brewing Company is reading this. If you prefer to keep your oat…

  • Food & Drink

    new year, new breakfast

    The morning paper said that coffee helped ward off the most common form of liver cancer, and so he poured himself a fresh cup, confident in this latest research. One item on the breakfast menu, at least, was safe. No milk, no sugar, though. No, thank you. They said dairy was bad. They said sugar was more addictive to the system than heroin. It was a new year. He was going to eat only healthy choices from now on. Excise the bread from his meals. He ate three crunchy cucumbers. A mouthful of freshly washed, organic (he hoped) spinach. He could almost imagine all the toxins being chased from within. He felt relieved. He felt enlivened. He felt a little hungry still. Stone oven baked simit didn’t really count as bread, did it? And if it did, well he’d make sure none appeared on the table tomorrow. It had sesame seeds,…